Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"The Mysteries of Life - Step One"

As we get older, there are certain life mysteries we feel an increasing urgency to comprehend. With time winding down, there’s a pressing drive to understand.

I’ll begin with a small, nagging perplexity, in hopes that clarifying this slight but troubling puzzlement will provide me with the impetus to confront life’s more enduring questions, like, “Where do we go after we die?” That one’s down the line. We’re starting easy.


We’re driving through Chicago and some towns in Indiana. We notice this chain of banks. Each of the branches has a sign hanging outside it. The sign reads:

Fifth Third Bank.

Question One on our extended journey towards Ultimate Wisdom:

What the heck does that mean?

I’m not used to funny names for banks. Having grown up in Canada, I’m more comfortable with bank names I can understand. The Bank of Montreal is called that because the bank’s headquarters are in Montreal. The Toronto Dominion Bank is centered, not surprisingly, in Toronto. The “Dominion” part’s been added to puff the operation up. (Montreal banks don’t need puffing up, because their city has a better hockey team.)

We also have the Bank of Nova Scotia. Fort Knox (theoretically) backs up our currency with gold? The Bank of Nova Scotia guarantees its assets with codfish. You can’t go near those vaults.

So that’s what I’m familiar with. Banks with names that make sense. The Fifth Third Bank? I have no idea what they’re talking about.

We (Dr. M and I) become curious as to how a name of this nature could have evolved. We drive around, looking for banks of a lesser denomination – The First Third Bank, or The Second Fourth Bank. Our investigation yields no such entities.

Nor do any banks appear to have built on the Fifth Third Bank. There is no Eighth Twelfth Bank. There’s only that one thing.

Out of nowhere, it appears, someone decided to leap into the middle of the numbering system and call their bank The Fifth Third Bank. Apparently, this is not illegal. Nor does there seem any oversight on bank naming. It looks like you can name your bank anything you want.

The question is,


The Fifth Third Bank?

My experience has taught me that there’s always an answer. Once, when visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico, we noticed an ad for a restaurant called, Dave’s Not Here. We drove a considerable distance to eat at Dave’s Not Here, primarily because we liked the name. Once, we were there, of course, we felt compelled to ask the inevitable question:

“Where is Dave?”

To which we received the simple yet satisfying response:

“He’s in jail.”

(Once he completes his sentence, I imagine the restaurant will re-christen itself, Dave’s Back Out.)

As with that question, I’m counting on some reader from the Midwest, or somebody in banking, or maybe a person who specializes in bank naming, to illuminate me concerning this bizarre seeming institutional moniker.

I simply don’t get it.

Every journey begins with a first step. So with the journey towards complete human understanding. Let this be our Step One: Solving the perplexitude of The Fifth Third Bank. Fueled by the momentum of that mystery’s resolution, we can then proceed with humility and baby-step incrementalism to our Second Question:

“Who put the bomp in the bomp-ba-bomp-ba-bomp?

Who put the ram in the rama-lama-ding-dong?”

The journey is long.

But the rewards are immeasurable.


Julian said...

Do you really want an answer to this mystery? Would you rather it remained unknown?

If you really do want an answer, Wikipedia will give it to you.

Dimension Skipper said...

I was going to wiki-refer you as well, but I see it's been taken care of...

You and the Mrs. aren't the only folks to ever wonder about the name, though. In recent years I've visited Ohio and began head scratching the first time I saw it too. Relatives there informed me as to the derivation of it.

And I might have sought out "Dave's Not Here" for the same reason too. Just wondering... How was the food? Also, do you think (or did anyone there offer any opinions whether) Dave's absence might be a good or bad thing?

Daryl said...

"Dave's not here" was also the punchline for an old Cheech & Chong routine.

Anonymous said...

I had occasion to deal with Fifth Third Bank several years ago when making a loan payoff for a customer. Based only on my experience, their customer service is as confusing as their name.

Lord Lillis said...

Not to spoil your posting but the Bank of Montreal is really based in Toronto .

benson said...

I know this is way past the post date, but FWIW, my ex wife always referred to them as One and two thirds Bank.