by Phil Lemos
A couple weeks ago I started a new job. When I was in the HR office signing reams of paperwork, including a direct deposit pay sheet, they told me for the first pay cycle I might receive a paper check.
This morning I trudge downstairs to check the mail and see, as predicted, a check from my employer. I glance at the grey skies outside. The check, of course, would arrive on a morning when we’re expecting a foot of snow. Honestly, I’d rather stay holed up in my apartment. But the only thing I want less than being out and about during a snowpocalypse is to have a paper check lying around, undeposited. The nearest branch of my bank is about 10 minutes away. I make a dash for it.
I walk into the branch, endorse the back of the check and walk up to the teller. Even in the era of automatic bank transfers, it seems like such a simple task. Sign, hand over, receive deposit receipt. In and out.
There are three people in line in front of me, engaged in various transactions and running into various snags in the process, which lengthens my wait time. After 10 minutes, I draw Sasha in the bank teller window lottery. Sasha looks at the check, asks me a couple of questions, glances at the computer screen in front of her, and I think I’m on my way when she asks:
“It appears you don’t have our mobile check deposit app,” Sasha says.
Yeah…so what? I’m here. It appears I don’t need it right now.
“If you had it, you could take a picture of your check and deposit it electronically,” she continues.
I don’t say anything. All I want to do is deposit this check and get home before the roads become too slick. I look behind me, out the window, and I see the first snowflakes begin to fall.
“I’ll go print the form out so we can set it up for you,” Sasha says.
“Honestly,” I say, “I just want to deposit this and leave before the storm hits.”
“Oh, no, it’ll be really quick. I’ll be right back.”
Sasha freezes. The teller in the other window, stops in the middle of her transaction to look at me. The other customer, an older lady who clearly also doesn’t have the mobile app but isn’t being trolled about it, looks at me, petrified, as if thinking, “This is how my life ends.” Someone who appears to be a branch manager type, who had just emerged from an office, freezes in place.
I glance upward and, for the first time, notice that I’m also wearing a winter hat and, inexplicably for such a gloomy day, sunglasses that I forgot to remove upon entrance as per bank branch protocol.
“Is everything OK?” the other teller asks.
I lower my voice slightly.
“I said…I want to deposit this and go home before the snow gets out of control. We can sign me up another time.”
Sasha forgets about setting me up with that app. She completes the transaction and hands me a deposit slip. Nobody in the building has uttered a word since I spoke. “Thank you,” I say, as I leave the branch.
I’ve weaponized my voice many times before. My voice carries, and I have a way of treating every life obstacle, such as maintaining proper work flow, or impending snow, like a crisis-level event. At my old warehouse job, I yelled so loudly the entire building could hear, and was asked on more than one occasion if I have Viking blood in me. This weaponization is not something I’m necessarily proud of, and I’ve had uncomfortable meetings with everyone from my bosses to HR to discuss it.
I get home, safely sheltered before the snow slickens the road. A couple of days later I receive an email.
“As a valued customer of The Bank, your feedback is vital to help us improve the services we provide. You are invited to participate in a brief online survey regarding your recent visit.”
I rate my recent interaction with Sasha with all 5’s (“indispensable service”). Two days ago, I would’ve hit the radio buttons on the opposite end of the spectrum. But I’ve had time to think about how I conducted myself.
Also, I really need to download that mobile banking app.
Phil Lemos is a current degree candidate at The Mountainview Low Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction.