Queue

The sounds of everyday life echoed through the room, coughs and sneezes mingling with shuffled footsteps and the clicking of pens. For a second David thought it might have been vaguely beautiful, if he wasn’t in such a hurry. He had a date waiting for him at a fancy restaurant.  Waiting and probably growing more annoyed. He was meant to have been there ten minutes ago, but he was still stuck in the unmoving bank queue. As he watched the woman at the teller’s desk count out a bag of coins he could only wonder how much longer it was going to take.

David sighed as another coin hissed across the cheap Formica counter-top, pressed flat by an ancient bony fingertip. A dime, he was sure of it. He’d been standing here long enough that he had become confident in his ability to identify the coins by the sound they made as they were slowly tallied. His eyes lingered longingly on the on the boldly scribed “Out of Order” sign attached to the coin-counting machine by the door.

He checked his watch.   He’d been waiting in line for roughly ten minutes. It had seemed like an eternity; and judging from his position—thirteenth from the front—he had a few more to eternities to go.

A pleasant tone of greeting chimed out from one of the two teller counters, the green “HELLO” sign blinking invitingly above the desk beckoning the next customer forward. David shook his head, baffled that on a day as busy as today, with a line as long as this, they would only have a pair of teller windows open. Especially with grandma-penny-jar up there counting out her retirement ten cents at a time. You’d think someone with so little time left to live wouldn’t want to be spending it counting change at the bank.

The old bird looked as though she could kick over any second, he mused grimly.  Of course, then where’d he be? They’d probably shut down the whole branch for an hour or more while the paramedics determined the obvious; that she (and probably a number of others) eventually died of boredom. It’d be an epidemic!

A heavy tap on his shoulder interrupted his internal rant. David turned his head and saw a bulky man with sausage-like fingers withdraw his pendulous mitt.

“Black Sabbath, huh?” The fat man asked. The stubble-laden flesh beneath his chin hung loose about his neck and danced when he spoke.

Silent confusion was the only response David could muster.

“Your shirt.” The man pointed with his kielbasa of a thumb, his breath smelled like coffee, and considerably better than the rest of him. “You like Black Sabbath?”

“Oh. Yeah. I guess.” David turned his back to the man dismissively, a little annoyed, and in desperate need of fresh air. He hadn’t realized he’d worn that shirt, having rushed out of the house to meet Karen for lunch. She hated his old heavy-metal t-shirts and most certainly wouldn’t approve of him wearing one the first time he met her parents. He’d have to go home and change.

All the more reason this line needed to move faster.
As though on cue, the chime sounded again and the old woman crossed the two hundred dollar mark in her collection of really slow coins. The queue inched forward again.
“I really like that one song.”

Oh God, save me from this, David thought.

“The one that goes, ‘Bahnahnahnah nahnahnahnah nahnahnahnah,’” an air-guitar was deployed, “’nahnahnahnah nahnahnahnah nahnahnahnah nah-nah-NAH!’ You know the one?”

“Yeah . . . That one’s pretty good.” David tried once more to extract himself from the conversation.

“Yeah, what’s it called, again? It’s like, ‘Crazy’ or ‘Schizoid’ or something, right?” He appeared deep in thought. “It’s something like that.” He nudged David’s shoulder with his meaty fist, “C’mon you know, what is it?”

Come on man, David thought, get a clue! “Paranoid, it’s called Paranoid.” I don’t want to talk to you, you smelly disgusting man!

“Yeah, that’s it! I like that one.” He trailed off into awkward silence.

David breathed a light sigh of relief, and stood quietly in line making an active effort to never look over his shoulder. Several more customers approached the teller window and eventually left. He checked his watch again. Karen was going to kill him. He pulled out his cell phone and sent a text message, “At the bank, taking forever, be there soon.” And placed the phone back in his pocket.

His right arm dropped and his hand touched the leather sheath of the rope draped between the stanchions designating the snake-like path of the line. Something wet stuck to his finger and he withdrew as though he’d just touched a hot burner. His fingertips glistened with some unknown clear substance and he glance about feverishly for an answer. His eyes landed on a child, in the row before him sniffling and wiping his nose repeatedly.

David frowned and wiped his hand on his jeans. He had to get out of here before he lost it completely.

“Hotter’n the devil’s butt-hole in here, huh?” The man behind him was speaking again. He was sweating profusely. David had to admit that it was awfully warm. It had to be especially uncomfortable for a man of that size.

“Yeah, yeah it’s a little warm.” What are you doing? Don’t engage. Repeat; do not engage!

Another ten minutes of smelly vapors and screaming kids later the old woman finally finished counting. David was next. He watch the teller, a tallish woman with straight shoulder-length ebony hair and a smile on her face, hand the old lady a deposit receipt. How could she still be smiling after an ordeal like that?

The chime sounded and “HELLO” blinked. David nearly knocked over the elderly woman toddling her way from the counter to the door. He approached the desk, taking a deep breath, trying to calm himself.

“How can I help you today?” The teller asked. Her voice was friendly her demeanor appeared impervious.

“Just a deposit today,” David extracted a folded up check from his back pocket while the teller tapped the keys on computer, “Can I borrow a pen, please?”

She smiled and handed him a writing tool, “Do you know your account number?”

“Oh, yeah, hang on.” David took the pen from her hand setting it on the counter and pulled out his wallet. He opened it up to one of the inner flaps, exposing a membership card slipped into one of the clear photograph holders. “Here.”

She took the wallet from him and tapped the number into her computer. David attempted to scrawl his name onto the back of the check, then pen didn’t write.

“Excuse me,” he checked her nametag, “Uh, Satine? Do you have another pen?” She looked up at him with a strange look in her eye, one hand digging blindly into a drawer behind the counter. She handed him a pen and turned back to her computer. David shifted uncomfortably, “So, Satine. . . that’s an unusual name. But you probably get that a lot, right?”

“No,” she looked right at him, her face seemed different, “What’s unusual about it?”

“Well, it’s not a name you’d expect to encounter at the bank.” His palms were sweating, why wasn’t she making the deposit? “It’s like something from Moulin Rouge or something.” He chuckled nervously.

“Like a burlesque dancer?” Her voice became stern. He’d offended her. He could feel it.

“No. No, not like that. . .” He backpedalled for all he was worth, “Like the movie, with Nicole Kidman. You know the one.”

“The one about the burlesque dancers.” She reached out and took her pen from his hand. “There’s a problem with your account number, sir. I’m going to need you to take a seat at that desk over there.” She pointed behind him to a pair of large oaken desks placed before important looking leather chairs and adorned with expensive looking computer monitors. “Lucy will be with you in a moment.”

“Wait, what’s wrong with my account?” There was desperation in his voice. He just wanted to get out of this place. He looked to his right and saw the fat man leaving. The man nodded his direction, stuck out his tongue and threw the horns.

“Lucy will be able to help you, sir.” Satine continued, “Next.” Her finger pressed the button near her monitor, the chime sounded and a woman pushed her way past David up to the teller’s window.

David sighed and checked his phone. No word from Karen; that meant she was mad. He sulked over to the desk he was directed to. The nameplate read, “Lucille DeVille.” He sat, slouched, into the significantly less expensive chair on his designated side of the desk. He checked his watch. This was taking forever.

David didn’t know how long he sat there, only that eventually he awoke to the sound of Lucy’s voice. He sat up straight and looked with sleep-blurred eyes at the woman across the desk from him. She had a wavy mane of fiery red hair, a slender frame and seductive lips. The kind of woman that could have slept her way to the top, but chose the more cutthroat method of stomping on those who got in her path.

“Well, Mr. Ross, welcome back. My apologies for the wait, I was in a meeting.” She made a few commanding keystrokes and looked David in the eye. “Satine said there was a problem with your account. Are you aware of any issues?”

“Um, no.” David uttered. He checked his watch; he’d been here almost three hours. “Why?” He checked his phone; still no word from Karen. She must be really mad.

“Well, everything appears to be in order here,” She shrugged, “I was just curious if Satine had mentioned anything to you about what the problem might have been?”

“No. No she didn’t, she was actually kind of rude about it.” He felt a sense of indignity bubbling up inside.

“Well, then, Mr. Ross, I apologize for the error.” Lucille stood, David watched her, entranced. “One of the teller’s should be able to help you shortly.” She began to walk away.

“Wait, what?” He blinked away Lucille’s image from his mind, “You can’t help me here?”

“No, I’m sorry, Mr. Ross. This computer is not permitted to engage in financial transactions. If you just wait in line, one of the tellers will be with you shortly.”

“I just waited in line!” He shouted. She didn’t flinch. Stranger still, neither did anyone else. In fact, it occurred to him suddenly that, though everyone had been waiting for an unreasonably extended period of time to reach the teller’s counter, he had been the only person who had seemed even the least bit anxious about it.
Something wasn’t right here.

David made his way back to the line, the sounds of everyday life echoed through the room. Coughs and sneezes mingled with heavy footsteps and the clicking of pens. For a second he thought it might have been vaguely beautiful, if it wasn’t so eerily familiar. Karen was still waiting for him, probably home by now, waiting and most certainly angry. He was meant to have been there three hours and ten minutes ago, but he was still stuck in the bank queue; thirteen from the front. He watched a young boy at the teller counter with his mother; counting out a bag of coins one by one and wondered how long it was going to take.

Someone tapped him on the shoulder. His heart sank as he turned around. Behind him stood a man, a completely different man from before, but thematically the same. Heavy, bearded, wearing a stained t-shirt with a dragon printed on the front.

“Ozzy or Dio?” He asked frankly.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, what’s going on here?” David demanded, staring into a security camera as though a group of hidden cameramen were about to jump out and reveal it was all a gag; like on TV.

He heard Satine’s voice mention to the other teller that she was going on her break and would be closing her window.

“Going on break?!” He’d lost control of his voice. There was no way he was standing here for another three hours while Satine took a long lunch. No one reacted.

“Ozzy or Dio?” The fat man asked again.

David watched Satine flip the switch to turn of the green sign above her window. The “O” blinked out.

 

© A. Stephen Getty  2010

All Rights Reserved