Let me begin by pointing out that this was not a normal bank. For some reason, the higher-ups in the banking world (who I always like to imagine as fat pigs in suits with cigars) thought it would be a good idea to have a bank in a grocery store. Really? Okay, sure. This grocery store was also in the heart of a more struggling community, so the idea of a bank being in that store in that area made the entire experience that much odder. Sometimes it would leave me feeling like we were taunting the more struggling citizens (those shopping with food stamps). Not for you…
No one that knows me would have argued that banking is the best career choice for me. Yes, I enjoy interacting with people and customer service to a certain extent, but numbers are not my thing. The one time I had ever (ever!) needed a tutor was for a beginning college course in Accounting. I remember the tutor having a hard time explaining something to me and so she would talk slower and slower as if it was the speed of her explanation that was the problem. For all I know that tutor is still sitting someplace trying to finish that sentence.
I was in grad school at the time (working towards a master’s in English Literature), and the job worked around my busy classroom schedule, so I couldn’t say no, no matter how off this position was for me. It almost made me feel like I had a secret identity. At school I was in cool t-shirts and hoodies, talking about Virginia Woolf and William Shakespeare; at work, I was a business professional talking about mortgages. I was the English major’s version of Clark Kent.
Being in a grocery store, the bank looked more like a pharmacy, with one back office and a long counter. But instead of pills we were pushing financial obligations and long-term debt. We were there to open accounts, sell the services of the bank. We were the front line of a financial war, and the shoppers walking around were the targets. Our weapons were free rulers and pens and other minor office supplies with our logo on them. It was also my job every thirty minutes or so to wander around those grocery aisles, interrupting strangers who were in the middle of shopping. Honestly, it all felt so very rude and I hated it.
“Hi, I noticed you are buying groceries. Would you like a free notepad for your grocery list? No… Okay… Well, I’m with the bank over there and we are offering a new special on an equity loan… And… I’m sorry for bothering you.”
I said sorry a lot when I was on that job.
I was one of two tellers that started on my first week, but the second teller lost her job after three days. Yes, after only three freaking days!
The dress code for the bank was business casual. The manager liked to think of it as friendly but professional; in other words, no tie or jeans. The other teller was not a student but young and aggressive and right from the start butted heads with the manager. I had not seen anything like it before on a job. Anyway, on her third day, this other teller decided to show up in a jersey for a football team.
The rest of us that day could sense that something was about to happen, and tried our best not to get too near her but that was difficult in such a small little bank. She was a time bomb. She knew it, we knew it. Why she felt she had to be a clothing bomb is anyone’s guess. When the manager came in her face went pale, and before even entering our little station she leaned over the counter like a customer and asked the teller to go home and change.
The teller said no.
The manager (trying very hard to stay calm) explained that the jersey did not meet the standards of the dress code.
The teller’s face went red (if she was a bomb this is when there would have been numbers counting down on her forehead) and replied, “This jersey cost me 80 dollars, how much did you pay for your dress?”
The mean (and now fired) teller was the least of that manager’s problems. When I think back to her I always think of her sitting back in that little office, whispering frantically on her phone or with her head on her desk. Many times she would be crying.
She was in the process of going through a divorce when I started and her ex-husband was an emotional disaster with a drinking problem. He would, on occasional, show up at the branch drunk. This was not as out of sorts as you would imagine at a branch in that part of town. We would have drunk people come to our counter all of the time! Usually, they would make a joke about how they wanted to make a withdraw and ask for a sum that wouldn’t make sense: “I’m here to take out a million and thousand dollars! Get to it, my man!”
Whenever, the manager’s ex would show up, she would usher him into the back office, and they would get into heated conversations. On two occasions, the manger didn’t show up to work because he had attempted suicide.
Other than me (part-time) and the manager with the bad divorce, there was one other part-time worker (hired after the fired one, she was a college student who found me annoying and would roll her eyes a lot), and the assistant branch manager. The assistant’s name was Susan and Susan was awesome. I was a big fan of Susan.
Susan was like a character in a sitcom (a good one), and when she was in charge of the office time would fly by. She wore thick glasses, mostly black clothing and she had wild uncontrollable black curly hair. I like to think that I am witty, but Susan would just floor me with the stuff she could come up with. She would come up with outrageously elaborate scenes that would get more and more ridiculous. Sometimes we couldn’t look at each other without laughing.
The other thing that really impressed me about Susan is that she could handle any situation. She could convince any drunk person to walk away, usually laughing; she could calm the manager down when she was crying; and she always had the most sales from walking in the aisles. Basically, she could do anything, and well.
The first time I asked how she was so good at this marketing thing, she explained it was because she was evil and she was using mind control.
“Mind control?” I laughed.
“Yes, I am a Satanist.” She joked.
“No, they wouldn’t take me. I’m too evil,” she replied in a very fake sad kind of way. “But I do have a copy of The Satanic Bible. He is my lord and master, you know.”
That is Susan and Satan would be lucky.
Because of the small staff and location, we would have guest tellers in all the time to keep, in the very least, two people on duty. This usually worked out okay, but sometimes it would be interesting, especially when the guest would have no idea of the “environment” around the store. For example, I was working a late Friday afternoon when one of the guest tellers came running to get me in the back office. I was having my dinner then, sitting at the desk (it was the only private place we really had in the branch). “I need you to do this transaction.”
I looked up from my sandwich, assuming it was something she was not used to. “What is it?”
The teller moved closer to me, she looked in an almost panic. “It’s against my religious views. The idea of touching that money makes me sick and it smells.”
Now this was something new and intriguing, I almost wondered if I would need to call my manager or Susan at their respective homes. Was this about to get dicey? “What are you talking about?”
The teller leaned forward to me over the desk and whispered something that she thought was a dirty word: “Strippers.”
I jumped like any 23-year old single man would and ran past her to the counter!
There were three strippers at my counter! Actual strippers!
They were attired in long coats (badly covering up their work attire), with piles of bills in rubber bands. They suspiciously eyed the teller behind me as they handed me the funds to deposit in their accounts.
Now I didn’t try to flirt with any of them, because it was obvious the three were very tired. But I was definitely much friendlier than the other teller was to them and they appreciated it. Of course, the guest teller was right, the money did have an odor to it. And many of the dollars had names and phone numbers on them. The first time I saw it, I asked the stripper if she wanted the bill back and she laughed with a snort.
“I’m going to just assume that is a no for all desperate man money?” I joked in reply. The three strippers laughed at that and at that moment, right there, I became the bank teller all of the local strippers went to! I would deposit their funds and I even would trade their piles of ones in for higher currency (something my manager might have frowned about if she was there). For you, she may have been a dancer with the name Victoria Love, for me she was Cheryl.
While other guys would have been thrilled to have a connection with strippers I was more interested in someone else; ironically her name was more like a strippers’ than the actual strippers. Her name was Bambi (yes, her parents named her Bambi), very pretty, and she handled the finances for a local car dealer. I would see her every Monday, bringing in the deposits for the office. The other tellers learned quickly that I was the only one to handle those transactions. And I tried every move I had in the book to get Bambi’s interest from her current boyfriend towards me.
Man, I was funny! I would have dated me! I could have been a lead in a romantic-comedy film with this material. For example, the first day I met her, she asked me not to tease her about her name, explaining that it happens all of the time.
I replied that I understood why since Bambi was a boy’s name.
She laughed for five minutes about that. Because Bambi IS a boy’s name.
While Susan’s evil side would become a running gag for the two of us, our manager had her own connection to the “other realm.” After a few months her mood began to improve. When Susan asked her what was going on (which I happened to hear), the manager replied that she had started going to a local psychic. A medium, a clairvoyant. She did it all!
Susan and I quickly exchanged glances. This was something we were going to have to discuss later.
The manager didn’t notice the glance, and began telling us that it gave her focus, made her realize that her life had a path. It gave her a feeling of destiny. And before we could interrupt she offered to pay for both Susan and I to go to the psychic as well. Her treat!
Susan said no (she later explained to me that because of her evilness she already knew all and I should be careful crossing the street in two week). I, on the other hand, could not turn away such an opportunity
“Yes, of course,” I screamed a little too energetically. “I would love to go to your psychic!”
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