Since moving to a neighborhood with a rapidly aging population, it has been my observation that old people enjoy going to the bank. While banking is, for most of us, a necessary ordeal, it’s also easy to see the appeal for someone isolated: you get time and contact and attention—all while conducting some sort of business. Plus, the air-conditioning is generally glacial.
The employees of my local branch are a patient bunch. On a recent visit, an old man in a baseball cap burst into the office where I was sitting, arranging a trip and enjoying the air-conditioning. “Where’s Melissa?” he demanded querulously. “I want to see Melissa!”
“Melissa isn’t here anymore,” said her replacement.
The old man looked bewildered and sad. Then he gathered himself up and said in my general direction, “Don’t expect any service around here!” and left.
I saw that on the desk was a beer cozy shaped like a small T-shirt and emblazoned with the bank’s logo.
Within the span of a few minutes—I was at the teller’s window, now—another old lady came in and asked for a hundred dollars in ones, and the same man (the one who’d yelled for Melissa) yelled loudly at the manager. One particularly sour fellow found himself before the window of a sunny young teller with a Little Richard–style pompadour.
“How are you today?” asked the young man pleasantly.
“Lousy!” said the customer. “And you?”
“Livin’ the dream!” said the teller. “Every day!”
“I don’t believe you,” said his antagonist. “But sure, whatever. You’re young. You’ll know better when you’re my age.”
“You’re a man in the prime of life!” said the employee.
“I’ve been having shitty days since before you were born,” said the old man fiercely.
The younger man laughed gaily, as if at good-natured wit.
“I assume you can do basic arithmetic, if you’re doing this job,” said the wit with dripping sarcasm, “so you can see I’m right.”
“Age is only a number!” said the teller, with what was beginning to look like sadism.
“Yeah, well, my numbers are lousy,” snarled the man. (I thought that was pretty good.) “I’ll leave you to it,” he said somewhat lamely and stalked off.
But not to worry: others were lining up.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.