The only reason I physically enter a bank anymore is if I have a Canadian cheque, as everything else I can do online or at the ATM. Last week was one such time, and armed with an extra adult (my stepmother) I got in line. She took Little Red to the comfortable chairs and magically kept him quiet and contained the whole time.
It was a Monday morning (I should have known better but I wanted that cheque deposited the sooner the better) and the line reflected that. The computer system was down, adding to everyone’s stress, as the other branch in town was sending customers to our branch, not realizing that the computers were down there, too. I waited patiently, and eagerly, as I saw that a friend from Sylvan was now working as a teller and I couldn’t wait to see her and to show off Early Bird, contentedly sleeping in the sling.
I didn’t get to Anita’s window, but the one directly to her left, so we still got to say hi between her customers. My teller was more with-it than most, and when I explained that I had a Canadian cheque that needed to be exchanged he didn’t argue with me and tell me that it was already in dollars. (ahem, a regular occurance at this bank.) Fortunately, that part of the computer system was working, so while it took long, at least it was doable.
Meanwhile another customer approached Anita’s window. He asked for a cash advance from his Master Card and Anita explained that the computers were down but that she’d try a machine at the back and see what she could do. When she returned unsuccessful she politely explained that the transaction was declined. He did not respond politely. He screamed and yelled at her, calling her a liar. He even said, “if you scratched my card I will sue you. It is on camera and I have a witness.” As he said “witness” he turned to me.
I didn’t look at him. I continued to look straight ahead, trying to stay out of it. I would never support him in something so ridiculous and rude.
The manager came by, ran the card again, and this time it worked. Instead of being pacified by the transaction, it fueled his anger and beligerance. As my own transaction neared it’s completion I was filled with the need to defend Anita, not just because she was my friend, but because he was being completely absurd. Uncharacteristically emboldened, I spoke up.
“Actually, sir, I’ve worked with a lot of credit card machines. Sometimes they come up declined when there’s nothing wrong. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just a mechanical thing.” I wanted him to know that we’d all been there and that there’s no shame and no blame. He was livid. This was none of my concern (although he’d tried to include me when he thought I’d be on his side.) “I apologize. I just think you’re being unfair to her.” Again he reminded me that this was just between him and her. (Sorry, when you’re that loud, the whole bank is involved.)
I walked away, finished, and he followed me, and again had words. He was clearly imbalanced and for a moment both Liz and I wondered if he would get violent. I was very vulnerable, much smaller than him and wearing my infant son. He continued with words only as we left. I stayed unemotional and calm, but when I got to the car I was shaking, realizing how scary it was. I let it bother me for a few minutes, until I realized that I would have felt worse for not saying anything (actually the manager should have asked him to leave — his verbal abuse to her employee was completely inappropriate and he was disrupting the whole bank.) I couldn’t ignore the feeling I had that I needed to say something, and even if it hadn’t been Anita, but just another anonymous teller, I’d still have voiced the injustice.