It’s Wednesday afternoon, roughly 4 o’clock, and I’m standing in line at the bank trying not to pass out. My heart is beating a mile a minute, my face feels flushed, and surely someone has lit a small fire under my jacket because I am just burning up. While I wait for a teller to become available, I kind of stare toward the ceiling with my neck at an odd angle. My head is spinning and it’s the only thing I can figure to do to keep myself focused and not collapse on the floor.
I hate this. I should leave. What in hell am I even doing here?
It seemed simple enough, really. It was a nice autumn afternoon and I was traveling with my parents to a local Mexican restaurant. I’d also had $200 cash in my pocket for the past week that I kept forgetting to deposit in my account. I needed to get it in there. Since a branch of my bank is right next to the restaurant, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get that done, then head right over to have some food.
Except it wasn’t so simple. Not for me, anyway. The parking lot was a little crowded, and cars were backed up at the pneumatic tubes. The ATM, however, was free, and I hoped I could deposit cash through it like I had at other branches. We pulled up and quickly saw that there was no way to do that. It just wasn’t set up for it. I knew if I was going to deposit the money today, I would have to run inside.
My mom follows me in, and it looks like there is going to be a bit of a wait. My first instinct is to walk back out. I’m about seventh in line, but she convinces me to stay and get it over with. Each minute we’re in there feels like an hour. I don’t want to be in here with all these people around. Another person walks up in line behind us, then another, and I assume they are silently judging me. There’s probably cat hair on the back of my jacket, or my shirt is sticking out weird, perhaps my hair looks dumb. Something. The guy in front of me is waving and having casual chatter with someone else in the bank he recognizes, and I’m wishing he would just shut up. Then my mom starts talking to me, and I wish she would shut up, too. I don’t want to answer her because I feel like it will draw attention to myself, and the last thing I want is to be noticed right now.
One by one the line moves up. I’m getting more and more nervous. It’s not just this guy ahead of me, or the growing number of people behind me I have to contend with now. The teller will be asking me questions soon. I know I’m going to screw something up. I don’t even know what to do. Do I get my wallet out? Do I need my ID? Was I supposed to fill out a deposit slip first? All these questions race through my mind, and I’m sure somehow I’m going to hold the line up.
Suddenly, it’s my turn. The teller asks if she can help me. I mumble my way through a sentence about wanting to make a cash deposit, and try to concentrate on her reply because I don’t want to mess up. She asks if I have my debit card. I do. I pull my wallet from my pocket and my tremoring hands fumble to pull the card out. I put it on the counter, which was apparently the wrong thing to do. She doesn’t touch it, barely even looks at it. Do I know my PIN? Don’t tell her the code, just say yes or no. I say yes. Okay, slide my card through the machine in front of me, she says, and enter my PIN. I see the diagram showing how to do that, with arrows pointing different ways. I grab my card and do as I’m told. I think I have it right, and swipe it through. Nothing happens. Nothing. I’ve done it wrong. It doesn’t matter which direction I swipe, she says, just make sure the magnetic strip goes through the machine. I had it the opposite way, with the strip on the outside. I’m an idiot. She knows it, I know it, the people behind me know it. They’re probably giving me the exhale of exhaustion behind my back now, fed up with how long I’m taking.
My body temperature is clearly off the charts, and the teller probably notices my face reddening as the moments tick by, even though I haven’t made eye contact with her. On the second try, I get it right. I punch in my code and hope I did that correctly. I did. I think she asks for my cash, but I don’t even hear her. My mom nudges me and says, “Jay?” I pull out of my wallet, put my card back inside, and grab the money. While this is going on I can hear the teller talking about Thanksgiving, asks what we’ll be having, and all that. My mom says something, but I don’t even answer. I feel lost. The teller asks if I need my balance, I say no, then she prints out a receipt for me. I take it from the counter and stand there thinking there’s more to it. There isn’t. She wishes us a happy Thanksgiving, and I bolt.
I catch up to my mom, take my first breath, and release it. I can feel the tension leaving my shoulders, and my heart rate slows as I get to the door. “Let’s get the hell out of here,” I say. Before I make it outside the tears are welling up in my eyes. I’m not sad, I just feel dumb.
The air hits my face and dries the tears. By the time we make it back to the car, it’s over. No one notices that I almost cried. We head over to the restaurant, order some food, and have a good time together talking and laughing. What happened at the bank is old news. It’s going to be okay now.