Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Trying Too Hard

This is a shaggy dog sort of story about what it’s like to live in my head for about 10 minutes in line at the bank.

A friend wrote me a check for some theatre tickets, and I sat on that check for nearly a month, unable to work in a trip to deposit it because the bank is on the left side of the road when I am on my way to work, and it is impossible to get back on once you’ve gotten off. You have to organize east-bound morning errands and west-bound afternoon errands (east bound = dry cleaners, Dunkin Donuts, gas. west bound = liquor, groceries, pizza, bank). Only when I am coming home I have already forgotten all errands, and/or just want to get home.

Preparing for a week off means making a lot of lists, and organizing said lists, and pretending there is gas rationing (because there sort of is) in order to map errands together, and break up the week off by not having long annoying errand days.

Monday was a holiday, so Tuesday is bank day, where I realize I can just cash the check and put it in my pocket to fund the rest of the day. And the line is long because it is nearly lunch time, and no one could come yesterday, so I wait and watch the tellers and wonder if anyone is going to answer the ringing phone.

I have taken off my sunglasses because it is polite, and because they have a big sign about it. And I would rather not, in my kicky denim skirt and soccer-mom sleeveless blouse, be mistaken for a felon.

Sometimes at the bank they call you by name. I have never figured out if this is to be genuinely friendly, or as one last security check (“Have a nice day, Miss Bender.” “Huh?”). Sometimes they call you by your first name, which I do not enjoy, but which I prepare for by checking out the name of the attendant in question. Then, when they say my name, I give theirs right back: “You too, Arlene.” Take that, Arlene.

I use the waiter’s name back at him so I can remember who he is. I have an unfortunate agnosia for faces which is only worsened when everyone is in uniform (e.g., waiters, bridesmaids, the guys down in Sales). I never forget a name, but I always lose my waitstaff.

This is what I am thinking as I am standing in the teller line and the older man behind the counter is working through my papers, and ID, and signature, and NSA screen to give me $100. I see a stack of business cards there on the counter which say his name is “Wen Chei.” And I wonder if I am going to say, “You too, Mr. Chei,” or “You too, Mr. Wen,” because you can never be certain with Chinese names, knowing who has anglo-reversed the order and who has not. And if he calls me by my first name, he should not get “Mr.” in return, because I am the customer after all.

I always want to call my doctor “Dr.” because certainly she has earned it, and I would never be so bold as to use her first name. We should maintain as much formality as possible when some of us don’t have our hands where we can see them. But every time I start to, it sounds too Dr. Kildare, and I am afraid I will laugh.

I am thinking this as well while I wait, when I notice that the teller’s name tag does not say Wen Chei. It says “Go Soxi,” and I sweetly chastise myself for assuming that those where his business cards because they had a Chinese name, and if they had said “Finbar O’Shaughnessy,” would I have immediately dismissed them? Ok, what if they said something more neutral, like “David Smith”?

And how will I pronounce Soxi? Is it “SO-shee”? “so-ZHEE”? Like my college professor with the lateral lisp who couldn’t pronounce her own name, but had a palate tailor-made for Mandarin Chinese?

And there is still the first name/last name problem…

He counts the 20s: 1-2-3-4-5. and again… and…
That’s not his name, you pinhead. That says “Go Sox !” Go Sox.

And he says, “Have a nice day.”

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