Saturday & Mr. Kline
A co-worker, Mia, liked to tell me that our names were mirror images. A-me. Me-A. Okay.
We both worked as drive-up tellers and had many regular customers. One, a sad woman whose little boy dangled himself out the car window while she tried to fill out a check. A veterinarian who tempted us with adoptable abandoned strays. The owner of the pipe and knife store in the mall whose deposit money smelled of cherry almond tobacco. And then Mr. Kline in his green Crown Victoria and bitter scowl. Even though he wasn’t a Merchant, the lanes where he had to manipulate canisters that got sucked up into the vacuum tube were too much trouble, he said, so he always came to the first lane with the automatic drawer meant for large merchant transactions. When Mr. Kline arrived all the other tellers scattered. You didn’t get a thank you, and he looked over all your work with great suspicion.
One day I told my fellow tellers that I would make Mr. Kline laugh. They sniffed at me, but they were eager to let me wait on Mr. Kline so they didn’t have to.
I would click on my microphone. “Hello, Mr. Kline,” “Mmm,” he’d say back. “How are you today?” I’d ask as I counted his money out. He didn’t budge.
One day the sad lady came through and as her brat dangled out of the car I dropped two of the give-away lollipops in the drawer, hoping she’d take one. As she drove off, Mr. Kline pulled in right behind her and I flipped the switch to send the drawer out again and I saw the mom had removed only one sucker. When the drawer opened on Mr. Kline’s side of the wall and he saw the sucker, he held it up. I spoke into my microphone, “It’s for you.” The slightest inkling of a smile showed on his face. An almost smile.
The next day Mr. Kline came to make a withdrawal, and instead of dropping the sucker in the drawer, I turned on the microphone and asked, “What flavor lollipop would you like today, Mr. Kline?” He hadn’t looked up or even acknowledged that there was someone on the other side of the window yet, “We have lemon, grape, strawberry and something blue that I don’t know what flavor it is.” He looked at me for a moment, perhaps he didn’t trust a joke when he heard it. Then he said, “Which do you recommend?” “Grape,” I said, “Definitely grape is our most popular.” He didn’t respond. I worked his transaction, then pushed the button to send out his receipt. “Have a great day,” I said. He reached in the drawer and saw that I had put in a lollipop of every flavor. “You have to let me know what you think of the blue one,” I said. He unwrapped it and stuck it in his mouth. With a stiff laugh, he said, “Thank you, Mia.” And drove off.
Mia! Mia had been assigned the Merchant Drawer that day. He saw the name plate that was stuck to the window and assumed my name was Mia.
I was fine with Mia, after all Mia and I almost had the same name.
Weeks later I had been assigned to work the inside lobby. On the floor counting rolls of pennies, I was not visible from the customer side of the teller line, when I heard “Is Mia in?” The head teller started to explain that Mia was in the drive-up, but I jumped up and said, “I’m right here, Mr. Kline!” When I completed his transaction. I said, “Sorry, but lollipops are only available at the drive-up.” “That’s okay,” he said. “They said you were working inside, so I thought I’d just say hello.”
“I’ll be back to the drive-up next week. I’m just covering a vacation.”
“Good,” he said. “I don’t like having to get out of my car.”
I was relieved he hadn’t lost his curmudgeon.