We're now almost a week into the IndyMac bank collapse. But at the branch in Santa Monica, the panic that buzzed through long lines of customers earlier in the week has passed. KPCC's Brian Watt stopped by there today to discover panic has been replaced by confusion and frustration.
Brian Watt: At midmorning, 10 people waited outside the branch where on Monday a line had stretched into the alleyway. There were more chairs than people to sit in them. But it was still banking by numbers.
Pearl: I have 363.
Pearl: Have they called yet?
Security: No, no. You'll be next when a spot opens up unless someone with a lower number comes.
Pearl: Oh. Great. My timing was good. (laughs)
Watt: The woman with good timing is Pearl. The numbered ticket she held was from her first visit to IndyMac on Monday. So, within a half hour, Pearl was walking out of the branch looking pretty relieved.
Pearl: They were very pleasant. I feel sorry for them. But who knows if they're gonna lose their job or not? You know, they wrote me a check. It's supposedly a cashier's check, so I'll go deposit it in my other account now. (chuckles)
Watt: Like others at the IndyMac branch, Pearl had heard reports that some banks would place a hold on IndyMac checks, or placing the funds on hold for as long as a couple of months, or wouldn't take 'em at all. For retired set designer Woody McBreairty, those reports were the latest in a series of mixed signals driving him crazy. He wasn't panicking, but he was confused, and he was leaving IndyMac in Santa Monica for the third time this week without the money he'd come to get.
Woody McBreairty: You know, one guy from the FDIC, he said it's not gonna be any safer in another bank than it is here, and then you get the L.A. Times and read that, you know, you either get your money or you're gonna lose it. (laughs)
Watt: By noon, just three people were waiting outside the IndyMac Santa Monica branch; a man in his 40s who'd only identify himself as Jeff decided he still didn't feel like standing around. And he didn't believe he was risking anything by coming back another day.
Jeff: This is now the most secure bank in the United States, 'cause it's backed by the Fed. It will not fail. If it was bank number 3,000 that was under the Fed, it would fail. There's enough money to cover this bank until the next 2,000 banks fail.
Watt: Jeff compared waiting in line to withdraw money from IndyMac to waiting in line for a lottery ticket. Whether you're first or last in line, he said, your luck won't change.