Standing in line at the bank, the gentleman in front of me began pounding his knuckles on the wood countertop where they display the appropriate forms to make a deposit, or withdrawal.
There were two tellers, moving as fast as they could. But not fast enough, not for the gentleman in front of me. Pounding his knuckles on the wood let everyone in the bank know exactly how he felt, annoyed, deeply annoyed.
I counted-off the pounding, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, then doubled-up with half notes, 1-And-2-And-3-And-4-And, 1-And-2-And-3-And-4-And, using a high-hat backbeat to underscore his rhythm, I began pounding on the wood with my knuckles, too.
“Can you believe this,” he turned to me and said, “I’ve been waiting forever.” I shook my head, smiling, and said, “I like waiting. It’s relaxing.”
He spread both arms and said, “This gentleman over here likes waiting.” So I spread both arms and said, “This gentleman over here is in a make believe hurry.”
I didn’t say what I wanted to say next: “Where are you going in such a hurry? Seriously. When at best, we all know, you’re going home to have a nap and take a shit.”
I didn’t say it because I didn’t want to be the guy at the bank using potty-mouth. I like having a kinship with the tellers. Making them uncomfortable for a joke seemed like a selfish thing to do.
I quietly turned away, waiting my turn.
Standing in line at the bank, the woman in front of me began sighing, over and over, sighing. Once she was absolutely sure everyone at the bank was acutely aware of her displeasure, she turned to me and said, “Can you believe this? I’ve been waiting for twenty minutes.” I shook my head, smiling, and said, “I walked in right behind you. We’ve been standing here for a minute and thirty-seven seconds, at best. What’s your rush?” Appalled, she snapped, “I have a husband waiting at home for me with Alzheimer’s.”
I know when I’m outmatched. I know when I’m on the losing side. I know when going for the win is a gigantic blunder. So I nodded my head sympathetically, using an uncomfortable half-smile to telegraph shame.
I didn’t say what I wanted to say next: “If your husband is waiting at home for you, with Alzheimer’s, here’s the good news…two minutes after you get home, he won’t remember you were late. But I’ll remember. I’ll remember how you behaved. And so will all the people in the bank who’ve been enduring your unendurable sighing. So how about getting a grip! There are other people in the universe besides you. Stop putting yourself in the center of the universe. You’re not the center. You’re a brat. You’re a fucking brat.”
I didn’t say it because I didn’t want to be the guy at the bank using potty-mouth to standoff a cranky septuagenarian. Besides, I didn’t think my rant would be well received. I like having camaraderie with the tellers.
I quietly turned away, waiting my turn, telegraphing shame.
For the record, please note, I don’t hold the door open for other people to be a gentleman. I don’t let women with SUV Baby Strollers cut ahead of me at Starbucks to be a gentleman. I don’t stop my car at crosswalks for pedestrians to be a gentleman. I don’t wait to be the last person out of the plane, or the last person out of the movie theater, or the last person in a line of merging cars to be a gentleman. I do it because I’m done pretending I’m in a great-big hurry, since I’m so important.
I’m not. And neither are you.