[about the author]
i actually like speaking in front of large crowds. freakish,
i work crossword puzzles in ink.
i am the american nigella lawson. or maybe the american eddie
izzard. can't decide, really.
i would be a really good mom, but i'm cool with being a really
i am sometimes more perceptive than i would like to be.
i am fiercely loyal. sometimes, stupidly so.
i never play dumb. never.
i am way too hard on myself.
i am a change agent.
i sometimes cross that fine line between assertive and aggressive.
i am not afraid to tell people that i love them.
i am militantly pro-choice.
i am pro-adoption.
i know a little bit about alot of things.
i typically enjoy the company of men more than women.
i am capable of being really mean and nasty, but i fight it.
i am a lifelong cubs fan. do not laugh.
i have been known to hold a grudge.
i have hips.
i am not my sister.
i am lousy at forgiving myself.
i am an indoor kind of gal.
i am a bargain shopper. to the point of obsession.
i am 32 flavors. and then some.
open mouth. insert leg. repeat.
“i’m going to run across the street – i have a few quick banking-type things to do. shouldn’t take long.”
shouldn’t take long.
shouldn’t. take. long.
all i need is this: to find out the balance on my loan and to withdraw some money from a cd that has matured.
no foreign currency involved.
no bearer bonds.
so, i walk in and go to the teller, even though i know the teller will tell me that i have to see a personal banker. or a relationship manager. or whatever it is that they’re calling the not-tellers these days.
“you’ll need to wait right over there for one of our account representatives.”
so, i take my seat in one of the cushy chairs in the center of the lobby, and wait. and, as i’m waiting, i look over at the account representative area and i see…nothing. no one. not a soul. just empty desks.
a few moments later, a well-dressed older gentleman comes into the bank. suddenly, the lobby is abuzz. it’s like norm just walked into cheers.
“oh, mr. important guy! how are you today?”
“mr. important guy! how nice to see you! someone will be right with you!”
so, mr. important guy comes over and sits down with me. then, magically, the account representatives appear. in multiples.
“mr. important guy, what can i do for you today?”
and, as i’m about to open my mouth and say something like, “am i wearing my invisibility cloak again today?” mr. important guy does something you just don’t see that often anymore: the right thing.
“actually, i believe she was here before i was.”
and, en masse, they turn to look at me. and i feel really poor. and badly dressed. and maybe even smelly.
after a moment, one of them says, “did you need something?”
no. no, i’m fine. didn’t need anything. i was just walking by and noticed these chairs in your lobby. thought they looked comfortable. thought i’d stroll on in and give them a test drive. ordered a pizza to be delivered here. just waiting on it. i often spend my afternoons sitting in bank lobbies for no reason at all. that’s just me.
do i need something?
“yes, thank you. i need to inquire as to my loan balance, and i need to withdraw some funds from a cd that has matured.”
the representatives look at each other. i’m waiting for someone to pull out a coin to toss, or some straws to draw. the loser of course, would have to take care of me, leaving everyone else to fawn over mr. important guy.
“i see. let me go get a.j. to help you. you can wait right over there,” she says, pointing to a desk in the back corner.
a.j. well, all right then, a.j.. visions of the cute preppy one from simon & simon are dancing through my head as i make my way to a.j.’s desk.
moments later, all simon & simon-related visions are gone.
you remember how, on bewitched, samantha had that bad cousin, serena? well, if jeanie from i dream of jeanie had a bad cousin, apparently, she would be named a.j. and she would be an account representative at my bank.
this woman is wearing her long dark hair in an i dream of jeanie ponytail on the top of her head. complete with a gold ponytail-holder-thingie. and also: go-go boots. and a mini skirt. and thumb rings. plural.
it’s not fair to judge based on looks, but i can’t shake the feeling that my bank does not see me as a “high end” customer.
so, a.j. sits down, and i explain what i need. she tells me we’ll look at the loan balance first.
“i only have two payments left,” i say. “so, i thought i’d check the balance, maybe go ahead and pay it off now.”
“what do you mean, ‘no’? that’s what it says right here on the computer,” a.j. says, turning the monitor around and pointing to a box that says $3000.00.
“but that can’t be right. i only have two payments left.”
“well, you know the last payment is usually a different amount.”
“but my payment is only $400.”
“so…are you saying that my regular payment is $400, but, for some reason, my final payment would be…$2600.00?”
“i don’t know.”
“ok. wait...you don’t know? doesn’t it seem like my balance should be more like…well, $800? i’d even understand $1000…but $3000? that doesn’t make any sense.”
“maybe you missed some payments.”
“does it say i missed payments? i, mean, i haven’t missed any payments, but, if i had, wouldn’t it say that? on the computer?”
“so…does it say that i missed payments?”
“okay. does it say i have a past due amount or something?”
“so. okay. i don’t understand this.”
“okay, so maybe i’ll just…um…call someone then?”
“yeah. you should definitely call someone.”
“okay, well, i guess let’s just get the cd done then.”
a.j. proceeds to chew gum and type. i say “type.” but, really, she’s literally pounding on the keyboard. it’s frighteningly loud. i wonder if she can hear it, or if the sound of her snapping gum and her jangling earrings drowns it out.
suddenly, she stops typing. a.j. stands up and leans over her desk, craning her neck.
“aha,” she says.
and then, she pushes her long dark i dream of jeanie ponytail to the side, and spits her gum into the wastebasket beside me.
she reaches into her desk drawer, pulls out a pack of gum, and puts two sticks into her mouth. she glances at me.
“uh. i’m fine, thanks.”
again, i cannot shake the feeling that mr. important guy never deals with a.j.
more pounding ensues, and then a.j. stops, reading the screen and furrowing her brow.
“ohhh. i see. well…hmmm.”
suddenly, i’m sweating. it’s like when you swipe your debit card and it seems to be taking a really long time to approve. you know you have the money. but, still, there’s always that feeling of “oh my god, my card is going to magically be declined in front of all of these people and i’ll try to explain that i really honestly have the money and it must be some sort of crazy bank error, and they'll laugh at me and point and i'll have to put box that box of tampons and that bag of oreos back.”
“uh…is there a problem with my cd?”
“well, here’s the thing. there’s a hold on it for some reason. like, you know...a hold.”
“you mean i can’t withdraw my funds?”
“well, here’s the thing. i’m sure it’s just a mistake. see, we bought this podunk bank over in west virginia, and that’s where your cd was opened. and when we transferred their stuff to our system, a lot of weird codes and stuff got put on things.”
and i’m wondering how a.j., being a banker and all, doesn’t put two and two together. how she doesn’t figure out that, in light of the fact that my cd was opened at the first national bank of podunk, maybe she shouldn’t refer to it as such. i mean, obviously, i was a customer there. i mean…obviously to me…and to other sentient beings walking the planet.
“i mean, seriously, i don’t even think those people were using computers. i think they were still using pencils, paper and desktop calculators! seriously, they were so hillbilly.”
“i’ll have to call over there and get one of them to tell me there shouldn’t be a hold on your money. let me see if i can find the number to that branch.”
i rattle off the number from memory. and then i give her the name of the person who opened my account. “he’s the manager. a really nice guy. i’m sure he’ll be happy to help out.”
let’s call this clue #2.
but, a.j. soldiers on. undaunted. unaware.
“seriously, you should hear the accents on these people! it’s a riot. if i get a really good one, i’ll put it on speaker phone so you can hear it. it's unbelievable.”
a.j. dials the number, rolling her eyes and pointing at the receiver.
“i’m calling about a cd that was opened at your branch. there’s a hold showing on the account, but i’m sure it’s just a system glitch from the transfer. can you confirm for me?”
more eye rolling.
“i’m on hold.”
the suspense is killing me. this has the potential to turn into the most beautiful thing. the highlight of my day.
“did you get the name of the person you’re speaking with?”
i sit back in my chair, trying not to clap my hands with glee.
“ok. here’s the name on the account…”
“what? no. no, she doesn’t live in west virginia,” a.j. says, rolling her eyes yet again. for a moment, i remember to give thanks that there are people who have no clue.
“i’m looking at her address on the screen…she doesn’t live in west virginia.” a.j. turns to me with an incredulous look on her face, shaking her head as if to say, “can you believe this?”
and i just think, “no. i really can’t.”
“you want me to ask her what?”
and with a look that says “please say no,” a.j. turns to me and says:
“she wants to know if you’re the same person who used to work at the bank’s headquarters in charleston.”
and there it is. three mississippi.
i smile and say, “yes, i am. and please tell nancy i said ‘hello.’”
she stares at me. i imagine that she might be replaying the conversation in her head, inwardly wincing.
after a moment, she recovers.
“nancy? it’s her. she says ‘hello.’ yes. okay. i will. thank you very much.”
a.j. hangs up the phone.
“she, uh…she said ‘hello’ and to tell you that everyone misses you. and that you were the best computer trainer they ever had.”
“well, that’s nice of her to say. it was a hard job, teaching them computers. what without any electricity and all.”
“so, uh…there isn’t any hold on your cd.”
“i’ll just get you a check.”
“actually, could i get paper money? i like keepin’ it in the shoebox under my bed. i been savin’ up to buy me a new fork.”
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