Wednesday, September 07, 2005


The Resume (A Random Anecdote)

Job #10: Teller at the Trust

I worked for the bank twice--three times, actually, but we'll only count it once. If you read one of my first random anecdotes, you'll know what happened the last time I worked this job, and who I met as a result. The second time I worked for the bank was for a few weeks at Christmas, shortly after returning from a semester abroad.

But the first time I worked for "The Trust," as we'll call it, was about a week after I quit my job at McDonald's and my family relocated to New Hampshire for good.

I was saving to be able to spend the first half of my junior year in London, so I needed money any way I could get it. I did odd jobs for my uncle, but my big break came when an old high school pal of my dad's stopped by our new house.

Mr. Kidder was a tall, handsome man in exactly the way my dad was not. But he was an immensely friendly fellow and seemed genuinely pleased to have my dad back in town. As I learned later, Dad and Mr. Kidder occupied a special, if slightly obscure place in the history of New Hampshire high school athletics, as they both played on the one of the first high school soccer teams in the state, and won the first state championship game ever held. They had spent a good chunk of one spring in the late 1950s traversing the state in a battered old school bus, playing much bigger schools like Concord, Manchester and Nashua.

In the midst of their reverie, I came home from digging a septic tank for my uncle and my dad introduced me.

"You work for David?" he asked, meaning my uncle. "You must be one heckuva good worker." He winked at my dad. "I need all the good workers I can get at my place this summer."

Mr. Kidder, I may have failed to mention, was the president of the bank.

Honesty compelled me to mention that I was perhaps the most math-impaired 19-year-old on the planet, but Mr. Kidder seemed more concerned with whether or not I had a presentable sport coat, tie and slacks to wear. "You'd work with our head tellers until you got good enough to manage your own cash drawer. It pays $5 an hour. And you get to work indoors, in air conditioning. Wouldn't have to dig septic tanks all summer." He was wrong about that, by the way--I had committed to digging two more for my uncle, and would finish both before the summer was out. But the idea of working from 8 to 2 three days a week and all morning Saturday was just too good to pass up. I shook Mr. Kidder's hand and told him I'd be in to apply formally on Monday.

After sorting out my ditch digging schedule, I presented myself on Monday to the head teller, Marilyn, who showed me around the main office of The Trust, introduced me to the rest of the tellers and gave me my own teller stamp for stamping deposit slips and cashed checks. I was Teller 4.

I spent the next two weeks in the care of two older women--Jeanne and Eva--who had worked for the bank since its inception. Jeanne was a sweet, mothering type who spent much of the summer trying to set me up with her daughter. Eva was a short, squat woman--roughly the dimensions of my dad, actually. And she was German, so she had a strong accent which made her seem all the more stern to me.

"Ziss izz not your money, you haff to remember!" she would bark at me as I took money from the vault or balanced my cash drawer. She was constantly filling my ears mit horror stories of former tellers who had misplaced money or failed to balance their cash drawers at the end of the day. "Zen you vill be in za big trubble, ja?" she said.

But for all her sturm and drang, Eva grew to like me, and under her and Jeanne's patient care, I actually came to do well at the job. It turned out keeping track of my cash drawer wasn't really all that hard. But there were plenty of other details to remember.

All the security procedures, for example, and all the ways the tellers circumvented them. The short vault, for instance--which is what we called the small safe where we sometimes kept cash behind the teller desk--had two combination locks on it, and only Marilyn and the senior teller on duty were supposed to know the combinations. But in fact, both combinations were set so that all you had to do was turn one of the dials counterclockwise to 40, and the safe would open.

I had to learn all our phone codes, too. The Trust had about 10 different satellite offices, several of which were actually cubicles inside general stores around the region. Depending on the size, these branch offices were usually run by one, sometimes two tellers, who were required to call in and report the status of certain bills in the drawer. But we couldn't just say "Yeah, everyone from the craft fair made deposits today and I've got $40,000 in cash sitting here." You never knew who might be listening. So there were codes you worked out to let the home office know you needed a pick-up of the excess cash. There were also emergency codes, too. For instance, if you were in trouble--like being robbed--and someone from the home office just happened to call you during the robbery, you were supposed to tell whoever answered that "Mr. Kidder's out sick today."

I know, it's all so quaint, isn't it?

At least, that was my initial impression, because I lived in one of the safest, most crime-free regions of the state, if not the country. It amused me that The Trust had taken such elaborate precautions to ensure its employees were never in danger of being tempting target for a hold-up. Because, really, who would ever rob our little banks?

As the weeks progressed, I became proficient enough as a teller that Marilyn started letting me do other things, such as opening accounts and selling certificates of deposit. When I had mastered these skills, she judged I was ready to start working the branches. Every week, I was somewhere new. One week I sat in a glorified cage at the back of an old general store, cashing social security checks for the old folks who tottered down there. The next week I was at the large new branch office out by the shopping center.

Then Marilyn called me in one morning and told me she was sending me to the Andover branch, an office across the street from the general store that served the small town, which at this time of year largely catered to the faculty and staff who ran a semi-prestigious prep school there.

We sometimes passed through Andover on our way to Concord, and I remembered the branch office. "Isn't Andover a one-man office?" I asked.

As soon as I said this, Marilyn made a little grimace. "Well, yes, normally," she said. "But Doreen, needs, um, well, she needs some help this summer. And you'll be good company for her."

I had never met Doreen, but I had heard of her. Like Jeanne and Eva, she was one of a handful of long-term tellers, and since the bank opened, she had been the queen and sole teller of the Andover branch. Marilyn told me to get going--the branch opened at 9 and Doreen wanted me there when she opened up.

As I marched through the lobby of the main office, I saw Jeanne and Eva whispering excitedly to each other, occasionally hazarding a glance at me. I couldn't stand it.

"All right," I said, leaning over the teller desk to interrupt them. "What's the deal? Why does Doreen need help in Andover?"

Eva glowered at Jeanne. "Ve haff to tell him. Der boy need to know."

Jeanne smiled at me. "Oh, honey, it's nothing to get worked up about. It's just, Doreen, well--"

I was waiting for them to tell me she was crazy. Or getting on in years and couldn't be trusted. I'd been dealing with crazy people my entire working life. Crazy I could handle.

But then Eva said, "Doreen vas robbed at Andover 15 years ago. She duzzent like to be alone now."

I was more impressed than surprised. "Wow! Robbed? Cool! I bet she's got a story or two to tell. Sure, I'll go keep her company." I started for the door again, then stopped.

"But...Marilyn said Doreen needed help this summer. Why now?"

Eva pursed her lips, then looked at Jeanne, who said, "Because the man who robbed her gets out of prison this year..."


Damage control alert! I just posted a comment on your son's blog, and of course I left my name, which links to my blog. But it just occurred to me that my most recent post is not child-appropriate, so it might be prudent to keep an eye out. I'm sorry! On the other hand, the content is probably way above is head, so maybe he wouldn't get it anyway.

But something tells me that children of yours have trouble finding anything above their heads.
Oh boy! A cliffhanger! Good story, MM.
Oh Lordy...

I sense another tale of head injury coming our way...


Wow, a whole year of blogging. That's dedication. I've seen alot of blogs come and go but of course they weren't one third as talented as you. I am completely addicted to your blog. You should be writing for your magazine not editing. I've been trying to guess which magazine you work for. Do you know Graydon Carter? How about Dalton Ross? Do you know David Sedaris, I love him. I know you can't say but hows about a little hint. Please.
Because, really, who would ever rob our little banks?

I could hear the impending doom music playing in my head when I read this line.

BTW - Happy Anniversary! Has it really been a year? Wow, time flies.
Please tell me that you foiled a robbery attempt. The super-hero-esque name will definitely be in proper place.
Happy Anniversary...I too have become a devoted reader of your blog - even going back and reading through ALL of your archives (yes, over this summer I had a LOT of downtime at work!)Keep up the great writing!
Your blog, more than everyone else's I read...combined, causes me to shake my head, laugh and mutter "Oh my GOD.". And continue reading...

Vomit-meter notwithstanding.
Vot's zo vunny about zis?
I chust don't get it.

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