Charlie Walsh just didn’t have any luck.
The only good thing about his last job — a messenger on Wall Street — was that it lasted long enough for him to be able to collect an unemployment check; but that had run out. Middle-aged, all prospect of fortune seemed to have eluded him.
Jersey City in the winter of 1978 was a frightening place. Commerce and Industry fled their former sanctuary. Jobs were not to be had. You could put up a for sale sign — many did — but there weren’t any buyers. The price of heating oil went up with each delivery. With every gust of wind the loose panes of glass rattled in the windows, just to let you know that they were no longer able to keep in the warmth.
Charlie Walsh once had a coin collection. In fact, when he had opened up his savings account he listed his profession as “coin collector.” But by now every piece was sold. The bank account was down to a few dollars and change.
On the first business day of January, Charlie Walsh went out into the cold, narrow street filled with small, old houses — all just like his. He made his way to Central Avenue. A few years ago there would have been something of a crowd of shoppers. With most of the stores gone, the only crowd was at the bank — cashing welfare and social security checks.
Charlie Walsh just didn’t have any luck. The bank was where he was headed. Even though his bank book was virtually empty, he wanted to have the interest posted on the account just to keep it active.
For what seemed an eternity he stood in line listening to people sniffle. Finally, finally, his turn came and he reached the teller. She typed a few keys on the terminal and stuck the book into another device that printed a row of figures.
Scrutinizing the entry, it just didn’t look right. He rubbed his eyes and looked again. No interest was there. And that was not the only mistake. A deposit of $100,000 dollars had been credited to his account.
“Uh, uhm, Miss, I don’t think that this is right.”
“Listen Mister, this is a busy day. I don’t have time for NO nonsense. Go talk to a bank officer.”
Charlie Walsh dutifully walked over to a section of the bank separated from the rest of the palatial structure by a low marble wall. He asked to speak to somebody about an error… Again, he had to wait before being escorted to a desk.
“Sir, I wanted to have the interest posted in my bank book, but it seems that the machine made a mistake.”
Without even glancing at the document, “Our computers don’t make mistakes. You go home and think about. You’ll see that we’re right and you’re wrong.”
Charlie did go home and think about it. The more he thought about it, the more the bank officer seemed right.
The next day he went to the bank and withdrew $50,000 dollars. The day after that he took out another $50,000.
It was a while before the bank realized the error. When the police went looking, Charlie Walsh was gone.
Charlie lived it up for about a year. He was caught when a police officer out West somewhere stopped him for a routine traffic check — and called his driver’s license number into the computer.
The bank got around $80,000 dollars back. Charlie Walsh had been lucky in Las Vegas.
After being treated like royalty in the Hudson County jail by guards and inmates alike, Charlie Walsh was released in what was called pre-trial intervention. He did have to promise that he would never do anything like that again.