Sunday, August 28, 2011

Life Lessons from Mary the (Slow) Banker

Maybe not everybody should get to live their dream of being a bank teller, I thought, watching Mary.

Mary finally gave up on what I can only assume is a "control, alt, delete" function to re-start her machines so that I could swipe my debit card, and instead slowly typed my bank account and ID into her computer. I watched every, single, slow, deliberate keystroke, worried that my paycheck might not actually be entered into the correct account. I couldn't hear more than half of her mumbled words, as apparently the microphone in her booth didn't work either. While describing in detail every move she was making, she paused and looked at my hand, then looked up into my eyes to tell me what a pretty ring I was wearing. Thank you, Mary, I said, looking at her name-tag that said, Service Starts with Me: Mary.

I was in a rush, trying to make it to work on time, and had driven out of my way to the bank with a parking lot. To make life easier.

She continued to gaze at my ring. How much did you pay for it, she asked? Slow AND tacky, I thought, while smiling and saying, hmm... I don't remember exactly. 20 or 25 dollars? Oh, no, said Mary, now just gripping my receipt tightly in her hand while staring at my ring. I think that's agate, she said. That must me more than 20 dollars. I don't know, I said, wondering if my hand would fit under the plexi-glass to grab my receipt and parking ticket so I could make a run for it. And silver! she exclaimed.

I'd have to use the hand without the ring, so she couldn't grab hold of it to inspect it further.

I got a good deal, I said brightly, wondering how much the parking attendant would charge if I left without my validated ticket. Well, said Mary. Looking down at her own rings, she realized she was still in possession of my receipt, and proceeded to search her desk area for a little tube, that she slowly aligned with the top of my receipt, and pushing down firmly and carefully, added a smiley face to the top of my bank record. She smiled up at me, and then, with a slightly trembling hand, signed her name above the smiley stamp.

Pushing that and the parking ticket through the opening at the bottom of the window, she held her fingers on them a bit, as I tugged at them, the lower half of my body already angled toward my escape. Thank you for coming today! Mary said, barely legible through the think glass. There's coffee and candy for you...

THANK YOU MARY. I'm fine, I just have to get to work. She released my receipts, and I was gone, breezing past the free candy bowl and coffee area.

I was a few minutes late to work, and when I told my Mary story to a colleague, she said she often avoids going to Mary's teller window if she's in a rush. I can just picture it, a whole line of regulars ignoring the lighted arrow telling them to step right up to bank with Mary.

Thinking back on it, I realize Mary may have been teaching me a lesson. Not the one I immediately thought of (how not everyone is meant to be an astronaut or bank teller), but how I can respond in a situation that is not working out to please me. All Mary wanted to do was connect, to compliment me on the steal of a pretty ring I'd found, to wish me a happy day filled with smiley-faces, free hard candy and coffee. And all I could think of was my schedule, how, since I was not technically punching a clock, I felt Mary was infringing on MY time.

"'Happiness that lingers is not the face the world turns to you," she said. 'It is the face you turn to the world.'" (Sight Hound, by Pam Houston)

Sigh. Alright. I'm coming for you Mary, have your smiley stamp ready.

Happy smiling dog, originally uploaded by LivornoQueen.

1 comment:

Kari said...

That's so sweet Rebecca!