Recently I left one job to start another. Because I don’t really like lingering in states of abeyance, I gave myself exactly one day in between my end date and start date, during which time I planned on taking care of the sort of tasks that just get neglected in a rich and fulfilling life, like getting a hair cut and changing the oil in my car. (Ha ha. In truth, even during the periods of my life when what is going on is Facebook and an obsessive re-watching of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I still can rarely be bothered with car or hair maintenance. I will probably be reincarnated as a very irate mechanic. Or a much neglected wig).
Another item on my to-do list was to go to the bank, which is generally a pretty straightforward, even pleasant, experience. The tellers at my local branch are all extremely polite, kind of young woman and men who giggled when my husband used to write me checks out of a hello kitty checkbook (fact!), always find something pleasant to say about my appearance (once it was “your cheeks look so scrubbed!”) and blink a lot. I kind of adore them. I also like going to a bank that is frequented by a white haired aristrocratic looking lady who literally clutches her pearls as she attends to business, day laborers, immigrants of all nationalities, and many, many taxi drivers. It’s like the economic United Nations of banking, and I like to go in and think that the meager money I’ll be passing over for the tender caretaking of the earnest, youthful tellers will mix and mingle with the fruits of labor and wise pre-birth choices of parents alike. A melting pot of an entirely different sort, even as we live out our separate and segregated human lives.
So, because I am a pretty simple person who has apparently decided that renting for life and avoiding car ownership are the keys to happiness (so far, yes!), my banking needs are usually basic and handled within minutes. Sometimes the tellers try to give my life tips like “Seriously, maybe you might want to eat out less?” or “Have you ever considered getting a job that actually pays you money, like, for real?” (which I kid you not are pieces of advice these tellers, or their youthful forbears, have offered me over the years. Which I love. These 22 year olds are probably right about a lot of things, and I appreciate that they tend to take me under their wings), but mostly even that is brief and things go well and I leave and go on with my day.
Yesterday, it all started pretty well. When I got to the bank, I was feeling kind of rushed because I did have a hair appointment scheduled at a place that is sort of geeky-trendy (they sell endless loop decorative scarves with Star Wars prints along side some seriously sexy platform shoes and long flowy dresses with Octopus tentacles screen printed on them), and while I knew my normcore outfit (this is a new word I learned this week. Normcore. It is a word that describes a new hip trend amoung people for who new hip trends are a thing, and it means that a person is choosing to dress “aggressively normal”. I am not sure, but I suspect this is the one and only fashion trend I can legitimately say that I am a pioneer in. I am one aggressively normal dresser!) and rapidly assembled ponytail wasn’t going to be impressing anyone, I hoped to at least demonstrate my commitment to exploring fashionable styles by showing up on time. So I was relieved to see that there were two tellers and three people ahead of me. Awesome! A cinch! Total in and out and on with the rest of my day.
Directly ahead of me, there was a very adorable older couple. Maybe you know this about me, but I used to work as a case manager for seniors who were disabled or otherwise struggling with independence, and then later I worked as a case manager for the family care givers of seniors who were trying to make it so their loved one can stay home. While a lot of that work wasn’t my cup of tea, the ability to occasionally spend time with people who had spent a life figuring out how to live together and be devoted to each other was a powerful, amazing, humbling experience, and whenever I am out and about and I see an older couple patiently leaning in to each other, helping each other along, I feel touched, and also immediately they get all my attention. This couple talked to each other quietly in whispers, moved very very slowly, and the gentleman of the pair (this was a male/female coupleship) carried what looked like a battered woman’s purse, a huge shapeless kind of fake black leather thing like the sort of thing a mom with young kids might carry with her to tote around a small portion of her household.
When it was their turn, the couple moved together to the teller’s window. The gentleman hefted up the purse, which kind of seemed to be heavy to him, and out poured out stacks and stacks of banded together hundred dollar bills.
I mean stacks and stacks. I mean, they overflowed off of the window shelf and onto the floor, and the teller looked shocked (and I was shocked, and also was like “oh my gosh, this is a real thing that actually happens?” and also like “have I ever seen this much money at one time before? ” (answer: no)) and the gentleman said something and then the lady said something and it became immediately clear that they did not speak English.
So we have two bank tellers, a gigantic and uncomfortable amount of cash, and two very frail, whispering elderly people who don’t speak English. And me, watching this from a respectful distance, trying to be circumspect. (Again, not ever having been around a large pile of money, but my general sense is that the etiquette is to maybe pretend it isn’t there? Or at least pretend that you have absolutely no knowledge or awareness that it’s there? Seriously, if someone knows the agreed upon decorum in this situation, let me know! ) .
The tellers tried to ask questions, like “Do you have an account here?” and “Is this your money?” and also, but really more aimed at each other, and less a verbalized thing and more a sort of shared air between them, “What the fuck?” But the couple just kept pointing to the money, which was clearly the salient feature in the experience but also really the one feature which everyone got. Everyone got that there was a fricking huge pile of money in the middle of the room. The couple seemed pretty serene, and also possibly used to young people tragically not understanding them. The tellers were kind of tag teaming this situation, and it became pretty clear to me that I had nothing to offer by way of a pressing claim on anyone’s time, and also that a hair cut, and possibly a few days of looking like the sort of woman who knows how to manage the top of her head, were beckoning. So I kind of quietly just sort of backed away and then sort of gently tiptoed out (I don’t know why, but I felt very, very weird drawing attention to myself. Almost like I was trespassing or something?). And one of the tellers noticed me and followed me to the door and after it shut behind me she locked it and that was kind of that.
But obviously, that *isn’t* really that at all. Because, guys, what is going on? Was that their life’s savings, which one day for reasons not explained they decided to just- rehouse? Was this something they found in a lot behind their house? Was this the result of drug deals? Money laundering? Extortion of their grandkids? A life time of winning bingo at the local parish? Tips? A grand heist? Was this a good thing or a bad thing? Were they trying to just make a deposit?
Whatever it was, they didn’t seem flustered or unhappy, so I can only conclude that this is just a day in the life of this extraordinary couple. You get up, you put on your dentures and find your tri-focals, you stretch out the aches and pains, you negotiate into clothing and you hold the hand of your beloved and you take a gigantic bag of cash out into the world and you see how it goes.
Mazel tov, dear couple who blew my mind yesterday. I hope the beginning and the ending of that story was/will be as incredible of the tiny little sliver of the middle I got to see.
Thank you for reading!
43 minutes (give or take, I had to deal with an anxious cat).