This is part 2 of a remembrance. Part 1 can be found here.
The idea of going to a psychic was like a dozen Christmases! This was my most wonderful time of the year, Andy Williams! And this wasn’t just any pretend psychic like on a 1-900 line, but one that my boss (the person who kept me employed and paid me) swore up and down was completely legit. I was giddy, giggling throughout the week up to my appointment like a kid on Christmas Eve.
Yes, I had to make an appointment, this psychic didn’t meet with just anyone. She also wanted to talk to me on the phone for ten minutes before agreeing to the meeting. It was an awkward conversation (which I did in the branch office with my manager looking on), almost feeling like I was attending a job interview. Of course here my soul, not my resume, was under review. Finally, she said that I was okay and she would meet with me.
This, by the way, is not to say that I really believed any of this kind of stuff. But… But… But if this was an actual, real psychic like in a movie and I was about to have an experience like that? Well, just imagine that!
Quests have begun with lesser moments than that! By the way, that is the problem with having my imagination, it can carry me away just like a bear with a picnic basket. And at this point, it was a very wonderful picnic basket, full of magic and possible future joy and success. I couldn’t help but get excited by the fantastical possibility of it all.
Yes, I am in many ways a cynic and a realist, but a part of me has always wanted to believe in more than what I can see in front of me. I want to believe in a destiny and purpose, even though in my heart I know it is all a bunch of baloney.
The first sign that this might be a disappointment was the location of the psychic’s office. It was in an old abandoned office building in a part of the town even worse than our grocery store bank. I had to call her from a pay phone nearby so she would come down to the door and let me in.
Debbie did not look like a traveling gypsy. She looked more like a member of a small town’s PTA. She greeted me with a very weak handshake and then led me back to her office, which once was the home of an insurance company. The cubicles of the former office workers were still up and covered with dust. She had me sit at an old table over on the side.
The lack of mysticism was very disappointing. The table didn’t have a crystal ball and was wobbly. There weren’t even any candles, just stale office lighting. The only thing sitting on the plastic table was a tape deck, which she explained was for me. She was going to make me a tape of our meeting. She also explained that when she was in her trance, she would not have any memory of what she said or did, so I would need to refer to the tape later if I had any questions.
It was then she closed her eyes and lowered her head.
I only remember bits and pieces of our session. For example, she told me my grandfather (who died when I was a baby) was following me. She talked to me as him, and named him by name. She also said I was going to move to Los Angeles. The rest is a blur in many ways.
My boss was right, I did leave feeling great! Destiny was mine!
A few years later I found that old tape from the session. It consisted of her mumbling things to me which only felt like parts of sentences and me saying “wow” a lot. Obviously, I read a lot into what little she was actually saying to me. Many of the things said honestly could have related to anyone. Still you could hear in the tape that I was really into it.
Our branch was always having problems. We all knew it because we were getting our numbers every week, with the numbers as well of the other branches. We were always in last place for opening new accounts. We were the banking equivalent of Charlie Brown’s baseball team.
Our manager tried every gimmicky idea possible. We had Hawaiian parties at the branch that no one came too; Halloween costume contests with no entries; sweepstakes, etc.
It was pretty sad in many ways, especially, when you had to walk down the grocery store aisles in an ugly Hawaiian shirt and tell a tired shopper that over there at the branch we are have a luau. We were going to be doing a limbo later. Did they want to try? How low can they go? Not lower than out interest rates! Did they want to stop by?
Of course not.
For one memorable month we were terrified we were going to be robbed. A gang of female bank robbers were hitting banks all over the region. This may sound like something from a bad comic book story (and who knows, maybe they were inspired by one), but they were known for all wearing the same long purple wigs. It sounds funny now, but then it wasn’t and I knew tellers that had been robbed at gunpoint by them (and a few quit afterwards).
I was never too concerned about being robbed. “Who would rob a bank in a grocery store?” I would argue, but the others in the office were more worried.
It was a Thursday and I was working only with the other part-time teller (the one again that found me annoying). While we would barely talk to each other on these evenings when it was just the two of us, we also took this as an opportunity to do our homework. Seriously, the branch was that slow. I was in the back office writing something for a class, and she was at the front, a textbook hidden under the counter.
It began with a whisper. “Scott.”
I looked up from the computer, a little annoyed to be interrupted (I’m never a fan of being interrupted when I am writing). “Yeah?”
“I saw a wig.” No one in the history of the world had ever uttered that sentence with as much terror.
“Maybe a circus is in town,” I sarcastically replied and returned to my computer.
“No Scott, I swear, she was right over there.” Her voice was shaking. Suddenly, she spoke more frantically. “There is another one.”
I quickly joined her at the counter. This almost felt like the beginning of a horror movie, the killer just hiding in the shadows, and she was not lying.
One… two… Each taking turns to peep around the corner of aisles to look at us. “Are they the same ones you saw before? I count two.”
“No, she is different, there are at least three,” she replied. “What do we do?”
I looked around the store and realized only then what a great mark we were. The store was basically empty being a Thursday evening (why else would you leave your branch in the hands of two part-time college workers?). And being situated on the back side of the store, we were almost alone, not near any of the front doors.
“What do we do?” the teller asked me again, and I realized based on her very shaking voice that this was all on me.
Suddenly, it dawned on me. “We get loud.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Make noise,” I said quickly. “Laugh.”
“Pretend you think I’m funny.”
“I don’t think you are funny.” Her honesty was sneaking out.
She tried laughing.
“Laugh louder.” I said.
She did. “Good,” I said and joined in with loud fake laughter. “Talk loudly to me. Tell me a story. Did you go to a party last weekend?”
As she loudly told me a very boring story involving drinking and people I don’t know or care about. I went to the store pager. I waved for her to continue talking loudly, and made an announcement over the pager which was an old red phone. Like walking the aisles supporting our bank services, we were also required to make announcements over the pager every thirty minutes or so. Typically, we would have a script (I wrote many of them, which taught me the valuable lesson of being careful who you tell that you are a writer), but this time I just winged it. I offered everything in our arsenal of swag. What you need, we have. I also then, after putting down the phone for a second, picked it back up and paged for the store manager… and then for the assistant store manager… and then other people who worked in the store.
Now I never would’ve imagined for a second the store manager coming to visit the branch (he tolerated us, but only barely; we were nagging his customers), but I wanted people around us.
Customers were starting to visit the branch. And we handed out everything we had. People were walking away with piles of notepads and pens. And we would try to get the people to stay by the counter for as long as possible.
This felt like it was going on for an eternity, but we were keeping a small crowd around us (even the assistant store manager grumpily came over to find out what the trouble was). Then to my relief I saw a group of five women in purple wigs leave out the front door. Two glared back at me as they left.
I didn’t sleep at all that night.
When it was announced that the bank was closing, no one seemed surprised or really sad about it. Our manager quickly found another job at another branch (clearly not blamed for our failure), and Susan was given the role as Acting Branch Manager. I became her number two (the Igor to her Dr. Frankenstein), and for about three months it was only our bank.
Without the mess of the old manager around, things were a lot more fun. Especially since no one cared about marketing to shoppers anymore. So our evil games began to grow. We sometimes even pretended to put curses on the people who walked past our office, trying to call them back with our minds. I’m sure everyone else in the store thought we were ridiculous with all of our jokes and giggling.
Around this time, I finally decided to just ask Bambi for a date. She said no, and after that she made a point of not getting in my line at the counter. A few of the times even someone else came by from her office. They would make a point to say she was too busy as if they were assigned to say it.
Strangely, the strippers were really sad to see us go and gave me a lot of free passes to their work establishment, many of the free passes had notes about free dances. I used to carry those passes around and show them to my friends on campus. They were all very impressed.
The last time I saw Susan we met up for lunch when I was back in town (I had decided to transfer out of the MA program and head out to LA, so the psychic was right about that). She gave me updates on each of the people we worked with and complained about how the branch really never had a chance.
It was nice seeing her but it felt different. We had both moved on in our lives. “So I need to ask,” she said hesitantly, “Bambi?”
“What about Bambi?”
“Did the two of you… you know?”
I blushed. “No, I asked her out once but she said no.”
Susan looked really disappointed. “Well, there I am, out twenty dollars.”
“The manager and I had a bet.”
I laughed awkwardly at that. It felt weird to think of people gossiping about me, but not surprising considering how tight our surroundings were at that branch. It felt a little like roommates at camp because of the space sometimes.
“I thought for sure at least something happened once based on how she would look at you.”
I liked hearing that, but it didn’t change the fact that she obviously really had no interest beyond looking. I was beginning to think more on her and her dimples when she would laugh, when Susan blurted out to my surprise, “Strippers.”
That woke me up from my thoughts. “What about them?”
“Did you and any of them…”
“No.” I shook my head too quickly.
“Well, there goes forty dollars,” Susan replied with a shrug.
When we were leaving the lunch, and I was certain I would not see Susan again, she gave me a present. It was her copy of The Satanic Bible. Strangely, it was published by Avon, which made me think of a whole bunch of heavy-set, middle-age women with perfect makeup performing some elaborate sacrifice. Susan even included a note in the book and some outrageously cute pictures of pitchforks, devils, and flames.
I can’t imagine that anyone else in the entire world, and in the entire expanse of time, had ever gotten such a heartwarming gift of that book before… or ever would.
For a while it was kind of fun to have The Satanic Bible in my bookshelf. All English majors and writers like to explore each other’s bookshelves and I would randomly put it by other books to see if new visitors would notice it. It was the library equivalent of one of those prank cans filled with snakes. It always made people jump.
When someone would find The Satanic Bible, they always would pick it up and thumb through it. Everyone was curious, of course, how could they not be? They were like me with the psychic. Usually, people would laugh as they grab it, but I did have a few people react quite negatively, as if a dead animal was found in the room.
The fact is The Satanic Bible is not well written. A point I kind of find surprising when you consider all of the good work Satan did for rock-and-roll.
I have no idea where my copy of that book is now. It could be in the basement in some random box (I have a lot of boxes filled with books), or it could have been thrown away between one of my many moves.
Obviously, Satan doesn’t have any hold over me. And neither does banking.
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