I had some bank problems recently. I have a "writing name" as T. calls it and, after months and months of depositing writing-gig-related checks under that name, my bank decided they they weren't sure who I was exactly, and they sent my checks back. In order to sort the mess out, I had to go into the bank and meet with an actual bank manager person. I get intimidated ahead of time, when I have to meet with people like that. I don't know why, but I always assume they'll be rude to me, or chew me out, or make me feel like an idiot. As it turned out, the bank manager guy was probably a good twenty years younger than I am. He was fresh out of college, and had moved from Ohio to North Carolina for his first ever job. He was also very, very nice. I explained the name mix-up problem and, instead of criticizing me, he was impressed. The other tellers were impressed too.
"I've never met anyone with a writing name," one of them gushed.
We sorted it all out and I left, feeling a renewed faith in bank people. The next time I received a check written out to writing name me, Scott suggested I walk it in, and deposit it in person--just to be safe.
I was in a hurry that afternoon, so I grouched a little. What? Walk it in? That will take forever! I've become addicted to convenience--to pulling up to the drive-through ATM and not having to actually interact with anyone. I stick the check in the envelope. I feed it into the slot, and it's done.
But I walked it in. I took the kids with me, too. There was no one else in the bank at all and the air seemed energized suddenly, when the kids and I walked in. The tellers smiled. The teller who helped me with my deposit that day looked at my check and smiled some more. It's so nice to put a face to the name! she said. I process people's checks all day through the ATM and I never know who they are.
I thought about what it must be like, to wish for a more human connection. To put a face to a name. I thought about it from the teller's perspective, and how I must have brightened her day just coming in there. How boring and mind-numbing it would be, I thought, to long for more human interaction at work and never get it.
Now I've been in the bank three times since. I've walked the last three checks in--sometimes with the kids, sometimes by myself. When I enter the building the bank manager guy, who is usually never busy, calls out to me--"Hi Aliki!" and the teller know me by name, too. The kids get lollipops, and everyone smiles when they seem them, even when they're not behaving well.
This whole bank business has inspired me to try and help bring back the human connection--at least in my own small world. Everything is drive-through this and drive-through that these days. I'm going to walk my dry-cleaning in instead of using the drive-through window, and I'm going to bypass the ATM window as often as I can at my bank and take the extra five minutes to park and walk in. I'm going to take the kids with me when I can, too, so they grow up knowing that there's a real live person on the other end of it all; someone with a face, someone with a name.