Check: (n) a written order signed by its maker directing a bank to pay a specified sum

I opened my first checking account when I was nineteen years old. Although I listened to a bank officer explain the system and process, the idea never fully integrated into my brain.

He was trying to clarify that their institution was there as a clearing house for my money, so that when I wanted to purchase something, I could write down the amount for the object on this piece of paper called a “check,” and therefore would be able to walk out of the store with the product.

What I heard was, “as long as the store will take a check” I could walk out with the product–whether I had the money in the bank or not.

Thus began a very ragged, nervous and frustrated journey for me, as I learned the ways of the real world.

I was always calling to check my balance, hoping if I put my ATM card in the machine, money would suddenly appear so I could withdraw twenty dollars.

And unfortunately, I bounced some checks because I thought that maybe there might be enough pennies falling from heaven before Monday morning, that I could gather them, make a deposit and cover my presumption.

Like every young imbecile who has ever walked the face of the Earth, I unfortunately decided to be defensive and antagonistic about my mistake.

I was talking on the phone to a customer representative for the bank, about my latest failing to cover a check, and I spoke with total confidence, piping off, “Well, after all, everyone bounces checks.”

I remember it well.

The middle-aged lady speaking with me on the phone quietly, tenderly, but purposely countered, “No, sir. Everyone does not bounce checks.”

A chill went down my spine. Deep in my heart I realized she was right.

I was not only odd–unique for a wrong reason–and bizarre, I was also doing something illegal.

It just bothered the hell out of me.

So I decided to go back to the original conversation and remember the basic rule shared with me by the teller:

“If you have money in the bank, the check will clear.”

Amazingly, over the years, this premise has remained true.