Bright ideas very often don’t work out well

Sharon M. Kennedy

The Soo Co-op Credit Union is a fine institution. The tellers are always friendly and helpful and up until a few weeks ago, Speedy Line was a fast, efficient, and simple way to check your balances and record the transactions that had cleared. It only took a couple minutes to set your mind at rest that you really did have enough money available in your checking account to buy a tank of gasoline or a bag of groceries.

But as with many things in life, the old version of Speedy Line recently met its doom. It was too friendly, too easy for users to navigate. It wasn’t challenging enough for our modern day world where non-human prompts get more complicated by the second. So as an unexpected and unwanted New Year’s present to its members, someone decided a new system was needed. Now we have a voice directing us here and there and an inefficient process that may or may not tell us what transitions have cleared.

Maybe I lost my common sense now that I’m out of my 60s, but I’m not stupid. My frustration increased as I listened to the prompts and punched the right keys only to be told there were no transactions when I knew perfectly well there were. Finally, I admitted defeat and requested to speak to a “real” person. I gave up trying to navigate all the gibberish. To save myself a whole lot of unnecessary aggravation, that’s what I’ll do the next time I call for my checking balance and other transactions.

I know things are rapidly changing, and I know I should go with the flow instead of trying to buck the current. I’m one of those gals who has no fear of swimming as long as I can touch the bottom of the pool with my tootsies or reach out and touch the side with my hand. I would never brave a lake. It’s too vast and unpredictable, just like the credit union’s new system. In a lake, I wouldn’t know the depth or what fish might decide to nibble on my knee. With the new Speedy Line, I’m adrift in unfamiliar waters with a monotone digital female voice telling me where to go. I miss the digital fellow who was friendly but not condescending.

It’s not only banks that get bright ideas, it’s all of us. At one time or another I imagine we’ve all thought about something that would improve our life or increase our fortune. Folks take a chunk of change and head for the casino hoping they’ll parlay their $100 into thousands. Very few do. Even when we win, we’re so excited we usually end up putting the winnings back into the machine and lose it all. So much for striking it rich at a slot machine or card table.

Then there’s the fellow I knew who bought a crate of waterless car cleaner. He planned on starting a new business selling bottles to his friends and neighbors. When he described the product and showed them how it worked, they laughed.

Most of us oldsters have accepted the fact we’re not going to get every bug or gnat off the front of our car. And we have more pressing concerns than a spotless vehicle exterior. Concerns like health problems, high heat bills, and what to do with all the junk we’ve accumulated throughout the years. So now the fellow’s stuck with dozens of bottles of his miracle cleaner that is no more a miracle than I am an astronaut.

And let’s not forget ladies, like myself, who took a cake decorating class. We bought all the necessary supplies, paid our enrollment fee, and couldn’t wait to begin our new adventure as cake decorating entrepreneurs. For six weeks, I faithfully attended the class. Every week I baked a cake and learned new skills using various decorating tips. I struggled to make roses. I squeezed the icing bag until my hands were weak with pain. I was determined to outwit and conquer all the pitfalls involved in creating a beautifully decorated cake.

Needless to say, my grand endeavor lasted only as long as the class. I couldn’t bear the thought of making icing with Crisco, and butter icing was too tricky to work with. My hands never adjusted to the throbbing pain resulting from squeezing the bag, so I stuffed all my tools in a kitchen drawer and turned to selling Avon. That business venture lasted quite a bit longer, but ten years later I’m still giving away bottles of Avon’s famous mosquito repellant.

For about five minutes, I thought about selling kindling. I’m surrounded by trees, I know how to operate a splitter, and my firewood would be priced cheaper than any competitor. Then my common sense kicked in. I live two miles from the main thoroughfares. Sound reasoning told me nobody was going to drive down my sideroad for cheaper kindling when there’s an abundance of it all along the major highways. Again, another bright idea that went nowhere.

I’m sure you have plenty of ideas that also went the way of the wind. I suppose, in time, I’ll learn to navigate Speedy Line. It’s either that or throw in the towel and wait for checks to bounce. Adjusting to life in the 21st century is a fairly complex business.

Editor’s note: Sharon M. Kennedy of Brimley is a humorist who infuses her musings with a hardy dose of matriarchal common sense. She writes about everyday experiences most of us have encountered at one time or another on our journey through life. Her articles are a combination of present day observations and nostalgic glances of the past. She can be reached via email at In addition, Sharon has compiled a collection of stories from her various newspaper columns. The title of her book is “Life in a Tin Can.” Copies are available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle format.