July 22, 2007

"You’d think shooting arrows in the desert would be fun...”

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It was my second week as a teller at the credit union that is located inside a Wal*Mart. I had spent the first week trying to convince myself it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought. The second week was about to prove me wrong.

Even while busy helping another customer, I noticed her in line. I saw her waiting to be helped, clutching what seemed to be a makeshift bandage on her right arm. She was looking around to see if anyone was noticing what pain she seemed to be in. I started counting tellers and people in front of her to see if I would be drawing the short straw. Of course I would. (Later I’d get much better at seeing who to avoid, and taking the appropriate amount of time with the customers before them in order to make sure another teller had to help.)

As she approached my station it was abundantly clear that my instincts were dead on; the better view allowed a clear look at the filthy gauze bandage around her forearm. It was blood stained on both sides and touching the counter in front of me. The sight of this particular girl under any normal circumstance would already be enough for me to conduct myself with both eyebrows raised high; between her greasy blonde hair and visibly double-wide bra straps was the face of a girl so eerily simple that it seemed to register no real discontent with her present situation, the pain being merely inconvenient. This, in combination with the obvious wound I was trying not stare at, meant instant discomfort and a struggle to concentrate.

“I need to take all the money out of my account.” She told me.

Struggling with the computer system I was still learning, I tried to bring up her account. She explained that she was going to the emergency room, so she would need all of her money.

“Oh my goodness,” I mustered awkwardly, pretending I couldn’t see her bloody bandage and swollen arm. Since I had not asked any fact-finding questions about her injury, she clarified for me matter of factly, volunteering, “Yeah, you’d think shooting arrows in the desert would be fun. But it’s not!”

These words hung in the air since I had no idea how to respond to them. Finally her account came up.

Oh, god.

She has nine dollars in her account. Does she know that?!?

At this credit union, a five dollar minimum balance was required at all times to keep your account open. I told her this, and went on to sheepishly offer her the four dollars she could take with her to the hospital for her bleeding arrow-hole. She decided it would be better to take all nine, and reopen her account next week. I guarantee you I was more concerned than she was.

I dispensed her nine dollars, and closed her account, and off she went, leaving me to gape and look from side to side to see if any co-workers had overheard any of it. I had no idea at the time that she was a regular, and over the weeks to come, I’d have multiple (unavoidable) opportunities to see her and witness the aftermath of her desert excursion gone very, very wrong.

contributed by Leah M. Blunt


Brian said...

This is one of my favorite Leah stories. Just trying to picture Leah and Wounded Arm together at a bank feels like a Far Side comic.

Chris said...

I give this two enormous thumbs up. Delightful.

Nick said...

What a great story. I have no idea how I would have reacted in this situation nor what it must have been like to see her come in again and again. What kind of small talk can you make with someone after you've had them bleeding all over your work area?