Wednesday, November 21, 2012

365 Jobs: At the Bank

Wednesday, November 23, 1994

He's wearing a pinstriped suit, slightly frayed.  The necktie is narrower than the fashion these days.  In the breast pocket is a smartly-folded handkerchief with a small dark stain.  He has a gray beard which is neatly trimmed but smells dirty. 

He's a black man in a white town.  I'm standing behind him in line at the Wells Fargo Bank where it's crowded, last day before the Thanksgiving holiday in wealthy Woodside, California.

Two tellers are open.

"I want to withdraw fourteen dollars," the man says.

His teller is a young woman with short dark hair, a soft sweater.  Her eyes widen when she sees him.  "There's only — let me check — yes — fifty-two cents in the account."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."  She tilts her head.  "Sorry."  The sorrow is genuine.

"There might be—"

"No.  It's always the same."

For a moment the man closes his eyes.  A long moment, standing at the window.  The teller rubs her nose.

The man opens his eyes.  "Blessings on you," he says.  He walks away with a shuffle.

I cash my check, a big one from three days of messy muscle-work for a matron of the horsey set.  I'm in a sweatshirt and jeans, dirty. 

My teller counts out a stack of fifties.  I feel rich.

Outside the bank, in the parking lot of glistening cars I look around for the man.  I might offer him something.  He might refuse to take it.  Anyway, no matter: the man has disappeared like the last stagecoach. 

Only the blessing remains.

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