Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Work

OK, so I’m a little late this week. I’m having computer problems and a bunch of other stuff going on. But at least I have power. My oldest daughter didn’t have power at work one day last week because they had a fire in the building. Now, the interesting thing about that is that her building is where George W. Bush has his office. Once in a while she will pass the secret service detail with W in the parking garage. So, when she drove into work and saw all the red, white and blue lights flashing on a bunch of official looking cars she assumed someone had found W and had made mischief.

I do not know exactly what he does in this office but at least he has the sense to go off somewhere and stay out of Laura’s hair. I think W has figured out his best shot of having any kind of place in history is to just keep his mouth shut and fly below the radar. And he’s done a pretty good job so far. He did have a very decent (classy, in fact) interview on National Geographic channel a couple of days ago.

Now let us pause for a minute to absorb the fact that the only place you can get a speck of journalistic integrity in America nowadays is on the National Geographic channel. National Geographic—the people with maps and pictures of icebergs and the Amazon River. These are the only people left in America with no political agenda. Except when you start throwing plastic into the ocean. Then you gotta watch out because, Sister, they will come and get you and Lord knows what they will do to you if they catch you. I don’t even want to think about it.

Dearie me, where was I?

Oh, fires at work. So…she found out it had nothing to do with Dubya at all. It was some sort of quasi-fire in the electrical workings of the building. Because if you haven’t heard, it’s hotter than hell in Texas this summer and all the electricity is overloaded because we're all running the AC at ninety miles an hour. A bunch from her office went to breakfast together then checked in to find they couldn’t go back to work so they all went to a movie then found out they could just go on home if they wanted.

Is there anything more delicious than a skip day from work? I always managed to work at places that held to a firm work ethic and expected me to show up on time no matter the weather. And because I was raised in that same work ethic I was always a good little soldier. Until the day I realized the new car I was driving over icy roads cost almost as much as my annual salary.  I wasn't nearly the good soldier after that.

When I worked at the bank they always drilled it into us that it was a law that we couldn’t close the bank for any reason so everybody was expected to trudge into work come hell or high water. And this included snow and ice. They would send one of the maintenance guys out for sandwiches fixings so we didn’t have to leave for lunch. The bank would be blissfully empty except for the old people. For some reason the old folks loved to get out in the ice and snow and walk to the bank and visit each other in the lobby. No wonder old people break their hips all the time.

Maybe the old people don’t get out as much now that everything is computerized and online but years ago you could go into your bank and have a face to face conversation with a real person.  The First National Bank of Garland was the oldest bank in town and the old people, who had started out as young people, felt a real kinship with their bank after so many years. It was part of their social scene. People had their favorite tellers and they knew each others’ families. They had all gone to high school together.

There was one loan officer who notoriously would not make a loan to a young person if it was for a motorcycle and he knew their parents. And there was one elderly lady who started bringing her gigolo into the lobby with her and would make huge withdrawals. Some of the tellers suspected the guy was milking her for money. One day she came in with him and tried to cash in a pretty big Certificate of Deposit and the teller wouldn’t do it for her. She had to complain her way up the hierarchy of the bank until she got to a new officer who didn’t know her.

It’s probably one of the most underappreciated aspects of the old time small town banks: the bank employees know your personal business and they take their responsibilities seriously.

It was also understood that you never talked about a customers’ financial business. There was a line drawn that we never crossed. We might know who you wrote checks to, how much you gave to the church, how often you over-drew your account or how far behind you were in your loan payments but we never talked about it to anyone. It was never written out in a policy manual; it was simply understood.

When I was an auditor we were in charge of making sure the numbers added up to the right amount. One of the most interesting things I discovered about banks is how little they think of actual money. Cash is actually a huge inconvenience to a teller. They have to add it all up all the time and make sure it’s all there. At some point cash loses its meaning and becomes merely limp pictures of presidents. The bills were always sticking together and rubbing ink off on your hands. Cash was always a real pain.

One memorable day my auditing partner decided it would be cool to count every single penny in the whole bank in one 12-hour day. It had never been done before and we soon learned why.  We started at 7 am when the drive-in opened, then went inside to count all the lobby tellers, then down to the basement to count the vault and finished by 7pm when the second shift of the drive-in closed.  I think it was around two million dollars. That may sound like fun but let me assure you it was a day from hell. Neither one of us had ever been tellers so we were the most awkward money counters ever. By the end of the day my back was killing me and my hands were filthy. But we knew for an absolute certainty the number for cash that day was correct. I slept good that night.

And you should too, because this week’s post is now officially over. See you next week. Hopefully my life will be more interesting then.

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