I paid the 33% discount senior rate when I went to Trujillo this morning to go to the bank. I love fringe benefits.
As I entered the bank, I saw my childhood friend, Elvia. She was seated in the special seating area for senior citizens. Elvia’s face beamed when she saw me. We hugged and exchanged niceties. She patted the seat next to her and invited me to sit. There were four rows of seats. As each person was served, everyone moved over a seat and snaked their way to the front of the line.
Everything at the bank has to be double-checked, triple-verified, and quadra-confirmed. When it was finally my turn the cashier graciously asked, “What can do for you?”
I said, “First I want to deposit this check, and then I want to make a withdrawal.”
“One thing at a time, please” she said, smiling her bright, well trained smile.
She quadra-confirmed my cashier’s check, front, back, sideways, and backwards. Then she asked a passing colleague, “Can we take these?” The colleague asked, “How much is it for?” Young cashier shrugged, not having figured it out yet, despite all the checking. She handed the check to colleague. Colleague double-checked – front and back and said, “Ye-es, I guess, but you should get it approved.” Young cashier excused herself and went to the supervisor’s desk. Supervisor triple-verified, quadra-confirmed, said a few words, pointed, signed, and waved young cashier off. Smiling young cashier returned to her counter, punched in some stuff, looked up, and said, “Your account is expired,” I looked at her in puzzlement.
“You haven’t had any transactions in over a year,” she said.
“So I can’t make a deposit?” I asked.
“The deposit is no problem, but making a withdrawal is.”
She printed something out and said, “Sign, please.” “Go to the Informacion Desk; they will reactivate your account, and come back here. Don’t wait on line, just come back up to the window, and I’ll make your withdrawal.” Sounded reasonable …
The information cashier was busy confirming the sides on her take-out order, “Potatoes? Oh, then that one has no potatoes; oh, bread? …” It took about two or three minutes before she finished and acknowledged me.
Reactivating my account took about 25 minutes. I got my new bank book, returned to the teller. There was a whole new group in the seniors’ area. I stood a discreet distance from the woman who was transacting at the cashier window. I swear, everything takes forever! After about three or four minutes, I could feel an awkward tension. I knew I was being watched. I decided to say something to the man who was in the next-to-be-served seat. (It’s one thing to pop in ahead of someone quickly, but a whole nother thing to do so after an extended wait; too much like cutting in line.)
“I’ve already waited in line; I had to go take care of something at the information desk. She told me to come to the front of the line.”
“Well, go to the front of that line,” the Garifuna gentleman pointed to the regular bank line, “that’s where you belong.”
“No, this is the line I waited in,” I said.
He said, “That was before. It’s crowded here now, and there’s only one cashier. The regular line looks long, but there are four cashiers. It’ll move faster, and this line is for the elderly, pregnant women, and the like”
I smiled, politely thanked him for the compliment, but otherwise pretty much ignored him. Having clearly lost my attention, he started complaining to the man in the next seat. The two “elder” “gentlemen” egged each other on; indignation grew. The men insisted that I not have a turn at the senior window. The second gentleman protested that I don’t appear to be pregnant, or handicapped, and I don’t have small children. He motioned to the woman seated three seats down. She was nursing an infant while a toddler did sloppy cartwheels in front of them. I thought of saying something, but I was kinda enjoying the unintended flattery. Finally, the woman at the window finished her transaction. The cashier waved me to come. The Garifuna elder jumped in front of me, slammed his passbook on the counter and loudly protested – “What’s the point of the senior window! They only give us one cashier! It’s nice to have the seats, but then they just let anyone in here! No, she cannot have my turn! She is not qualified to use this service!” As the amen corner groaned their support, he turned slightly to face them. As he did, I slid my new bankbook to young cashier.
“Call security!” he shouted. Someone did.
One of the guards stationed outside the bank door came in, toting his rifle. He assessed the situation, turned, and left. The crowd would not let up! Young cashier, clearly uncomfortable with divulging my personal information, spoke through clenched teeth, “She has the age.”
I held up my ID.
“1951! That would make you 63 years old! You’re not even fifty!” A roar of awe waved through the audience. Garifuna elder persisted, proclaiming that I had borrowed someone’s ID, just so that I could cut in front of him in the senior citizen line.
“It must be your mother’s or somebody’s!”
“It’s just not fair to take advantage like that!”
He stood over me the whole time that young cashier counted out my withdrawal. Wanting privacy, I tried shooing him away, but he was so incensed that he did not appear to notice the stack of 500-Lempira notes piling up in front of us. I quickly gathered my money and left him shouting at the window. I turned back and stuck my tongue out at the second elder as I sauntered haughtily past him. The tension in the room dissipated. The whole room erupted with laughter. As I passed her, an elder woman, tugged at my shirt, politely asked, “Really dear, how were you able to borrow an ID?” I paused then replied in a loud, soft, whisper, “I didn’t borrow it … I stole it!” Louder laughter exploded as I exited the bank.
The best fringe benefit of my age is not looking it.