Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Six storeys underground in a bank

So, one day I went to the Federal Reserve. I mean, I lived across the street from its hulking stone mass and its armed guards and its barricaded entrances for an entire year. And then one day, much more recently, I went on a tour of the inside. The tour was utterly bizarre. This is, of course, post-2008 financial collapse, which gives the cheerful, educational colouring books and filmstrips boasting about our financial system a rather uncanny glint. The highlight is when they take you six storeys down to the gold vault, and you get to walk through a 6-foot thick steel door and peer through the metal mesh fence at the stacks of ingots. The individual vaults all belong to foreign governments or private holders, but they won't tell you whom! Fun fact: all official weighings are still done with mechanical, and not electronic, scales. When the tour ends, you are treated to a bag of shredded dollar bills.

And then, a few weeks later, I accompanied a friend to the very same depths underground in Chase Manhattan Plaza, directly opposite the Fed. He had to retrieve something from a safety deposit box. This requires being escorted by a bank official, through turnstiles, into a service elevator, through vault doors and into a reinforced room. You sign a ledger. The official takes you into the maze of safety deposit boxes. Some are big, some small, some have spinning locks like an old safe, some just have keys, as did my friend's. Two key holes, in fact, which you and the bank official have to unlock simultaneously. The metal sleeve comes out, still concealing its contents, and you take it to a private booth to deal with its contents. When you are finished, you repeat the process in reverse.


Christian said...

I'd love to go through all that security in the most serious and dire manner possible. Then, right after we open the latch, in the presence of the bank official, bust open and eat the pop-tart I retrieve from the box.

M said...


love. said...

invite me
ps. pretty

rsctt said...

cool, and fun to know about