The Bank Teller

Let me tell you somethings. Did you know that every time we inhale, we absorb oxygen expelled into the atmosphere as a waste product by the earths plant life? Every time we exhale, we expel carbon dioxide as a waste product into the atmosphere where it can eventually be absorbed by the same plant life? Did you know this? Let me also tell you that no matter where you live upon our beautiful earth you are breathing in trace amounts of depleted uranium from the bombs that the U.S are using in Iraq. Did you know that over twenty thousand children die a day from starvation? How about the fact that a plane never went into the Pentagon? Did you know that 9-11 and the war in Iraq (which has terminated the lives of over one million Iraqis) are a result of what is called War Games? Let me also tell you that Lao Tzu, the Chinese mystic believed that if we can somehow expand our narrow image of ourselves and live from our wholeness, then many of our problems will simply disappear on their own.

This is why I took the job as a Bank Teller. It allows me the opportunity to tell strangers things that they would otherwise never know. Costumers come into the bank where I work and think that they are only coming in to deposit or withdraw money. They are usually impatient and in a hurry- stuck in what Lao Tzu would call “Narrowness.” Rather than just taking their money or giving them their money I like to tell them things- expand their consciousness. It is one way that I can make an active contribution to my community and to the human race as a whole. Did you know that writing poetry and reading poetry helps you maintain dignity, it will help you to be better suited to defend yourself in the world? I said this to a middle aged women the other day who seemed aggravated and in a hurry. I could tell that her life had become a collection of material pursuits and failed dreams and I could see the frustration in her eyes. “I have always wanted to read poetry but I never have the time,” she said to me with a glimmer of hope between her eyes. “Well, you might want to make time.” Today she returned to the bank with a book of T.S Elliot poems in her hands and she seemed refreshed. “I am making the time,” she said to me with a smile as I withdrew cash for her.

Often times people come into my bank to find out about bank balances, interests rates, mortgage payments, and fees. I give them the information they want but I usually prefice it with information that I want to tell. I have a sense of urgency within me that drives me to say something. Did you know that Spirulina, dried prunes, beef liver and beer are excellent sources of copper? I said to one man who looked to me to be suffering from a copper deficiency. Because of global warming and soil erosion, human beings are no longer getting a proper amount of this valuable mineral in their diets. The lack of copper in our diets may be responsible for the majority of contemporary diseases. The next day this man came back to the bank to show me the bottle of copper supplements he bought. It is by demanding dignity and respect that you gain it, I told another costumer who was being passive aggressive with me and refused to tell me how she was really feeling. Something was triggered in her when I said this and she straightened up her posture and left my bank looking more confident.

The managers at my bank are on my back. They have accused me of spending to much time with my costumers and not moving the line at a quick enough speed. Did you know that capitalism is used to exploit workers by making them maximize profits in the quickest amount of time? “I did not,” one of the managers said to me with a look of stupefaction upon his white collard face. Yes, capitalism exhausts the worker for the betterment of the organization that they work for. This is what drives capitalism. Use the worker to maximize profits for the company. When the worker gets worn out or dies- just fill the vacancy with another worker. There will always be workers because in capitalistic societies only the very few get to enjoy the wealth of other peoples labor, I explained. “Look, you are one of our best Bank Tellers but you need to stop spending so much time chatting with your costumers so that we can maintain our banks reputation for giving expedient service.” Then he walked away without waiting for my reply.

Did you know that I am going to get fired from my position as a Bank Teller? I am expecting it any day now. At the staff meeting yesterday the bank handed out a list of strategies for normalizing behavior in bank employees. One of these strategies was to replace words with a smile to speed up the line. “Smile more and speak less.” I am not a very good employee because I do not like bosses. I don’t like being subjected to their expectations. Did you know that a real culture functions to limit greed. Our culture functions to increase it , because we are repeatedly told, it’s profitable to do so, though the majority of profits go only to a few people, I said to every one present at the meeting. People who go to work for corporations essentially abandon their integrity as individuals in order to serve the corporation, I added to the consternation of the managers. “Okay that is enough just keep smiling and maximizing profits and that is all,” the head manager said and then ended our staff meeting. If you have lost the capacity to be outraged by what is outrageous, you’re dead. Somebody ought to come and haul you off, I said on our way out from the meeting. Like I said, I have a sense of urgency- I have to say something.

Did you know that we pity Muslim women for wearing veils, yet almost every face in this country is veiled by suspicion and fear? You can’t walk down a city street an get anybody to look at you. People’s countenances are undercover operations in America. Oh, and let me also tell you the most important thing I tell costumers at my bank. That love is not abstract and cannot lead to abstract action. Love is the catalyst for concrete action, which is taking responsibility for what we do here and now. Love is not just a feeling. It’s an instruction: love one another. That’s hard to do. It does not mean to sit at home and have fond feelings. You’ve got to treat people as if you love them , whether you do or not. I know that I am holding up the line, and that I am going to loose my job as a Bank Teller- but I have to tell these things……….

The Zipper Maker, Part 1

My wife was called in to work so I found myself at a bar drinking my fourth glass of red wine. The night had been filled with rain and coming in from the cold, damp weather felt rejuvenating. My bones rattled and the only place in town than I could think of, which would harbor some warmth, was the local bar. The bartender and I talked of the futility of politics and the ominous events that had taken place in town the past month. He told me of his home which was without heat and causing his wife to slowly loose her mind because of the fragility of her flesh. “For my wife, the cold is like an ill omen,” he told me. We talked of hospitals and Spanish red wine. When I had finished my fourth glass of red wine I felt all the tensions and distresses which hung around in my body like a nest, slip away into some unknown region where they had gone numb. I knew that this feeling of relief was temporary, but some feelings are worth the repercussions.

I wanted to walk. To fully enjoy this wine induced state where I was liberated from anxiety. The rain had transmutated into a slight drizzle and I was willing to become damp in exchange for a brief walk. I smoked a cigarette and harbored no resentments towards the world. I watched my feet follow one another and noticed that my body was traveling in time without the slightest effort from my mind. When I reached a particular point, I decided to have a seat upon a bench and watch the night sky darkened by luminous rain clouds. I felt like muttering a prayer but instead smoked my cigarette until it turned red. I was not alone, nor was I lonely. Rather I was a man fully occupying the space of his body and mind with a contentment so warm that I could hardly feel the cold.

“May I sit by you,” an older gaunt looking man said to me with a cigarette hanging from his lips. “It is not often you meet a fellow smoker in the rain,” he said sitting down besides me before I could echo a response. “My name is Andre,” he said sticking out his languorous looking fingers and waiting for my eyes to meet his. “Randall,” I said with a disposition that was friendly enough. I noticed that Andre was impeccably dressed in a black suit and fine patented leather black shoes. His hair was parted to the side and he smelled like a time when kings were doused with cloves, cardamom and cumin. “My intuition tells me that it will be raining for some time,” he said with what sounded like a Romanian accent-“I believe it will rain until we realize all the ways that we have forgotten to live.” I thought this was a rather ornate statement considering the ordinariness of our situation- two men sitting upon a bench on a rainy night watching the world pass by.

“You are being rather laconic, are you not?” I was uncertain as to what laconic meant, but I turned to him and flashed a smile. Even though I was feeling as if my space had been invaded, I was feeling well enough to leave my negativity alone. “So tell me Randall, what is it that you do with your life?”

If you wanted to ask me one question that would start me talking, it is this. I love talking about myself once I am given the permission to open up. At times I almost feel as if I am the most fascinating subject that there is and my only concern is that the listener is not as entertained by my life as I am. Being that I had four glasses of red wine in my blood I was more than willing to talk, but before I could respond to the question, Andre began to talk about him self.

“I am a Zipper Maker. I construct Zippers for purse, jackets and pants. People all around the world wear my zippers which keep their private things safe. I have been making Zippers for as long as I can remember. Since I was probably your age. I was working as a Waiter in a restaurant and I was desperate to find some way to make a living which I enjoyed. My mind kept coming up empty with ideas and I drank more wine to keep myself from falling into the depths of despair. Then one evening I was introduced to a man who wanted to give me a job at his zipper factory. At first I was hesitant, resistant to change- but then when I heard that a Zipper Maker could change the world, I was inspired to learn the craft. I was taken under this mans wing for thirty days and shown all the different ways to construct a zipper. The ubline contort which is the zipper used for purses, the erexile divide which is the zipper for jeans, and the koobla mobile which is the zipper for jackets. I fell in love with the art form and have been doing it ever since.”

I had never heard of a Zipper Maker before. “I am not boring you with my autobiography, am I?” he asked me with a solemn look in his eye. “Not at all I replied.” “Making zippers is a meditation, an art form that has not only given me life but also improved the world,” he said with a look of pride upon his face. I was struck by the confidence with which he spoke about a craft that I had always considered insignificant. “Would you like to join me for a glass of wine?” he said putting leather gloves upon his hands. My wife would not be home from work for a few hours and the last thing that I felt like doing was being alone with myself in our cold home. “Sounds wonderful. I know just the right place,” I said. “Good,” the Zipper Maker replied rising to his feet lighting another cigarette. We began walking towards the bar like two bodies pulled together by the forces of gravity. There was a warmth that I felt walking besides him. The kind of warmth that one gets from a feeling of familiarity. “So tell me Randall,” the Zipper Maker said, “what is that you do with your life?”

Brunch With My Wife.

My wife woke me up this morning at the early hour of ten a.m. She told me that she wanted to take me out for breakfast. I tried to be polite and say that she did not have to pay, but after a minimal struggle I decided to relent and let her buy me breakfast. I climbed out of bed, put on a cap, changed into something comfortable and we headed out into the cold morning.

I noticed a small itch in the back of my throat and hoped that it was not an impending sickness. I watched the gray building pass by as my wife drove to a particular restaurant she likes in downtown Oakland. I had not much to say on the drive to breakfast and admittedly told her I was feeling a bit low and under the weather. Being that my wife still experiences the good health which is the result of being in your twenties, she always seemed to be in good spirits.

We sat in a corner where a hint of sunlight made its way through the white blinds. The restaurant was recently opened and celebrated the roaring 1920’s with its Art Nouveau style and elegant old world charm. I ordered scrambled eggs with sausages and my wife ordered eggs and toast. To drink we ordered fresh squeezed orange juice. We where unusually silent staring at everything other than one another. There was only a few other costumers in the restaurant and I could feel a pressure between my wife and I that was soon to come undone.

My wife then cleared her throat and said, “Look I am feeling the need to talk with you about certain things.” “Okay honey, please,” I said welcoming any form of communication. She was hesitant and then began “well…I am worried about you.” “You are worried about me?” I asked- trying to pretend that I was surprised about such a statement. I was not surprised at all.

“Yeah, I am worried. Don’t you have a feeling that anything is wrong?” “What, could be wrong?” I responded feigning a false ignorance. I knew that a lot is wrong. “Look, in the past week you have been experiencing frightening heart symptoms, you have tried to have sex with me in your sleep and you have been sleep walking again, you sit around the house all day doing and saying very little, you are running out of money and are a unemployed high school Teacher with so much talent…. and, and.. last night you were all most arrested while taking a walk and I have noticed that you have been depressed. I feel like something energetically is off with you….and I am concerned.” Then she went silent and seemed to be thinking of other things to add to her list.

I did not know how to respond. Being a male it seems as if some innate mechanism within me wants to deny being helpless at whatever cost. Most males deny their helplessness by gaining wealth and/or power, by over working themselves- but I had and have very little to cover up my helplessness other than a straight silent face.

“I mean common honey none of what is going on with you concerns you? Don’t you feel like you need to take a good look at your life and make some effective decisions that will allow you to make positive changes…so that you can be happy?”

Of-course everything that my wife was saying was accurate. I could not disagree with her but something inside of me wanted to resist her argument. I wanted to say that everything would be okay and not to worry, but I was unable to mumble this obvious delusion. So all I could muster up from the depths of my soul was “things are difficult now, I know…but it only temporary.”

I have $2,400 dollars left in my bank account and no prospects of a job lined up on the horizon. Yesterday I went for a job interview as a drug and alcohol counselor but it is my belief that I sabotaged the interview by wearing jeans and asking the panel interviewing me, “so there is not much bureaucracy in this job is there?” They did not know how to respond. When one person on the panel asked me how my parents would describe me I said, “a nice kid, but a big disappointment.” The interview only lasted twenty five minutes.

“How did the job interview go yesterday?” my wife asked me. “I’d rather not talk about it,” I said staring down at the white table cloth. The waitress came with our food and kindly asked us if we would like anything else. I smiled at her and told her we were fine, “thank you.” As I watched her walk away I felt a chill run up my spine when the thought came into my mind that if I did not find a job soon I was going to have to return to the work of being a Waiter. I did this job (which almost always left me feeling like I had been dragged behind a car across asphalt for hours) for many years and I AM TERRIFIED OF HAVING TO RETURN to this world of contrived smiles and disappointed dreams.

“How are your eggs?” my wife asked me. “They are good, how about yours?” “They’re a little under cooked and soggy, but it’s okay,” she said while chewing her food. “Sorry about that,” I said not knowing if I really meant it- and we continued to eat the rest of our breakfast in silence.