Sunday, July 26, 2015

does february really have 45 days?

Remember those story problems we had in fourth grade arithmetic?  Well, I have one for you.

Joyce wanted to take advantage of the high interest rates available for time deposit savings account at one of Mexico's bank.  Azteca to be exact. 

The terms were clear.  The money could be withdraw only on the anniversary of opening the account.  A withdrawal on any other day would forfeit all of the interest earned.

The date of deposit was 24 July 2013.

Joyce did not withdraw the money in 2014.  Instead, she wanted to withdraw the money on the second anniversary of opening the account.

When should Joyce have returned to Azteca to withdraw the principal and interest?
A. 24 July 2015 -- the anniversary date of the account
B. 23 July 2015 -- the date a full two years following the opening of the account

C. 8 July 2015

If you chose A or B, Azteca would deny you the payment of any interest on the account.  And that is exactly what happened to Joyce.

As you may have guessed, unlike most story problems ("If a train leaves New York City at 1:00 AM ..."), this one is factual.  Even though it sounds as if it could be the storyline for an André Breton novel.

When she attempted to withdraw her money, the young woman at the cashier window told her she had missed the authorized date.  I was prepared to hear that the withdrawal window was open only on the last day of the anniversary year. 

After all, that would be a full year.  I have encountered similar calculations before here in Mexico.  Such as, "two weeks" translating into 15 days.  Or "noon" being 2 PM.

But the story was better than that.  The anniversary date for a 24 July opening was 8 July.  The reason?  Some months have more days in them than others.  And sometimes February has 28 days, even though it usually has 29.

I would have concluded that Joyce misunderstood what she had been told in Spanish.  But she took one of her business managers with her.  He speaks perfect Spanish.  After all, he is Mexican.

He repeated the story exactly as she did.  He added the fact that three clerks were required to convey the information as they gazed intently at the computer screen that should have easily shown the deposit date.  Once again repeating the mysterious truth of February's missing day during a leap year.

Of course, there was no leap year in 2013, 2014, or 2015 -- as any schoolboy can recite.  The last one was 2012; the next one is 2016.  And all three of the banking geniuses could not come to the logical conclusion that 64 years would have had to pass to shave off the 16 day difference between 8 and 24 July.

And you know the result.  Joyce left without her money.  There was nothing more to be done.  Azteca had taken refuge across the border in Surrealandia.  No matter of blustering would change the fact that the computer had the final say.

I played with the idea that Joyce had deposited in a 360 day account.  But that would still leave 6 days unaccounted for.  Well, except for February's regular 29 days.  I am surprised Joyce's eyes did not roll back so far on that factual monstrosity that she was mistaken for Little Orphan Annie.

This reminder of customer service comes at the same time I am considering shifting from my current banking arrangement to a Mexican bank.

Azteca is certainly off of the list.  But I should think about that.  Maybe I could be credited additional interest for those chimeric extra days each February.

My Dad had a little poem for circumstances like this:

Thirty days has September
All the rest I can't remember

But if you must know them all,
There's a  calendar on the wall.
As good-natured as he was, he would most likely have joined Joyce in walking away from the bank shaking his head, talking about the possibility that the next anniversary date will inevitably move to a mysterious day in mid-May.

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