WASHINGTON, D.C. A liquidity crisis in the nation's financial system is making credit harder to find for both businesses and consumers, and economists predict that Federal Reserve Chairman Benjamin Bernanke will soon cut short-term interest rates for the fourth time this year. But that won't come soon enough for Wanda Jean Embree, a long-time customer of the Sterling Bank in suburban McLean, Virginia.
The liquidity crisis hits home.
"Excuse me," she says politely to a busy teller behind a glass window. "I can't get this pen to work."
"How am I supposed to take my money out when your stupid pens don't work?"
The problem faced by Peters is being replicated across the country as pens in bank lobbies fail to write in growing numbers. "It's like the banks don't want you to get at your money," says Liz Pulitzer, a financial advice columnist for money.com. "If the pen sticks when you're endorsing your paycheck you could rip it, bounce a check, default on a car loan and end up homeless in half an hour."
"Uncle Billy, can't you bring in some pencils, or maybe a crayon or two?"
During the Great Depression pens in banks failed across the country, setting off an international economic disaster from which the world did not recover until the Andrews Sisters sold a million copies of the novelty song "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon", a Yiddish phrase that means "What's With the Fershluggin' Pen?"
The Andrews Sisters
The song's whimsical humor lifted the nation's spirits, setting off a period of economic expansion that continued until children's television star Soupy Sales told his underage viewers to remove $5 bills from their fathers' wallets and mail them to him.
Soupy Sales: "And remember to put a stamp on the envelope."
Increased liquidity from the Federal Reserve is expected to make pens in the nation's banks roll more smoothly, but critics say a bailout will reward bad customers who don't carry pens with them for fear of staining their shirts and blouses.
Pretty cool pocket protector!
"Americans have been conditioned to view pocket protectors as 'nerdy'," says Milton Fleishman of the United Pen Company, Utica, New York. "A collection of brightly-colored roller-balls and highlighters in your pocket will add a dash of panache to your humdrum business-casual attire."