Friday, September 05, 2008

In line at the bank

I was trying to make a deposit at my downtown bank before the teller windows closed.

"Bankers' hours" -- the genteel, late-starting, early-finishing schedule of plump-looking small-town giants, wearing suspenders and a carnation for a boutonniere -- are relegated largely to memory in this day and age of banks in grocery stores and discount stores that are open seven days a week. Except, ironically, in the big city centers.

At least in downtown Chicago, most of the banks, and all of the big ones, seem to close at 4:00 p.m.

So there's something of a rush at 3:30 or so and I was in that rush, stopping at the office only briefly after a morning in court in the 'burbs, on my way to another appointment, and grateful that I'd made it to the bank on time.

There are two teller lines in the large lobby of this proud downtown bank. Downtown square foot real estate values being what they are, even in our troubled times, the lobby of this venerable institution is about to be downsized. For now, though, and perhaps only a few weeks longer, the lobby conveys a sense of power and wealth and no-nonsense common sense that all banks used to convey.

Before no-principal (or should we say unprincipled?) mortgages.

I quickly scanned the teller lines when I got inside. There are more teller stations on the east wall of the lobby, but there were several people waiting in line. There were only two stations open on the north wall, but only one person waiting in that line, and it was obvious that a third window was about to open.

To accommodate that 3:30 rush, you see, now well underway.

I jumped in the line for the north wall tellers. Two other men were right behind me: a relatively nondescript middle-aged man, except that he was taller, thinner and had more hair than me, which almost certainly accounts for my harsh initial assessment, and a white-haired leprechaun in a blue suit. Think Lou Holtz. A scrawny bantam rooster with the map of Ireland on his face and twinkle behind his glasses.

The person ahead of me was now at a window and I was next in line, and the third window opened up. I started over, but as I drew near someone behind the counter called the young lady teller away from the window: She practically shut the window in my face.

I did a double take and returned to the line.

The men behind in line caught the gesture and laughed. "What's the matter?" asked the nondescript man. "Isn't your money just as green as anyone else's?"

"Well," I said, "they know me here. They've seen my checks before."

"They can't compare to my checks," said the leprechaun, and the three of us proceeded, for the next minute or so, to poor mouth our own respective financial conditions. It was an inspired moment of improv comedy.

On the other hand, if the security guard had been listening, we would all have been thrown out of the bank on suspicion of vagrancy. It's a wonder, indeed, that a teller waited on me at all....

7 comments:

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

curmy, is google paying you a lot for this?
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just askin'... (sorry) sometimes i find these ads so strange!

smiles, bee
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Jean-Luc Picard said...

The characters we meet!

Kacey said...

My husband can strike up a conversation with anyone in the world....nice, smiley friendly conversations. He poats them on the back and smiles and laughs....people come alive under this type if treatment. We should all try it out... a little levity can change everything in someone's day!

Skittles said...

Your bank closes at 4pm on a Friday????

The Beach Bum said...

Curmudgeon -

In the summer of 1965 I was interning at the Northern Trust Bank on LaSalle. It was probably the most conservative and the fourth largest (in assets) bank in Chicago at the time. Its client base read like the Who’s Who of Chicago families. Old Money!

Back then the tellers closed at 1400 hours and there were no weekend hours. Also Branch Banking was not legal in Illinois at that time. The Commercial Baking tellers would be busting hump between Noon and 2PM, especially on a Friday.

Empress Bee’s comment about your Google ads has given me an inspiration for a Blog, which I will write either today or tomorrow.

The Beach Bum

Shelby said...

I can see it almost. The funniest things are the things are true.

Kacey said...

When I was very young (1955), I worked in a band as a receptionist and telephone operator in the loan department. We closed down at 2:00 on Friday to close out the week's books and reopened from 4:00 until 6:00, so the downtown people could do their banking before going home for the weekend. Those were the days before computers and everything had to balance every day before we could leave. But, those were also the days where the bank would kiss your butt to get you as a customer. Every new savings account got a letter actually typed (by me) and signed personally by the Secretary of the bank. Times were different....they were great!