Tuesday March 24, 2020
I had a considerable amount of cash on me and I needed to go to the back to deposit it. Normally I would do this at the end of the day but my back now closes at 2pm instead of 5pm, thanks to the coronavirus.
So Monday I headed to the bank during my lunch break. It’s a little more than a half mile stroll. I decided to take the route that went down 3rd Avenue because the terrain was a bit less stressful on my knees. The half mile walk down 3rd Avenue turned out to be a veritable obstacle course. Between the construction workers puffing away on their smokes, the street people and their coughs and the aggressive pan-handlers, it made for an unpleasant journey. I found myself zigzagging from one side of the street to the other and back again as I made my way south.
By the time I got to the bank, there were two other people ahead of me. One of them, still reeking from whatever it was he was smoking, was still holding the extinguished remains of his smoke of chose. I stood back from him because the aroma was actually making me ill. The teller asked him to put away whatever he was smoking. The man was offended to be asked and he threw it in a nearby garbage can. The teller said, “No,” ran to the trash can, fished out the stub and threw it out the door of the bank.
Meanwhile the other teller was having a struggle of her own. She was trying to explain to a customer why she couldn’t cash his check. Try as she might, he simply couldn’t understand. It appeared that everything she said went over his head. He was as lost as a little puppy dog left alone in Manhattan. As he wandered off a new issue erupted.
A man came into the bank followed by a person I had seen often on 3rd Avenue. This woman is very aggressive in her asking for money. She followed the man into the bank demanding that he or someone in the place give her money and do it right now. The woman teller ran over to confront her. An argument ensued but eventually she convinced her to leave the man alone and leave the bank.
By the time I got to teller, transacted my business and left, I was feeling very much shaken. My emotions were all over the place. I was a little angry, a bit scared, but mostly I was sad–deeply sad. I felt bad for the man with the foul smelling smoking material. I felt bad for the man who couldn’t understand why the bank couldn’t cash his check. I felt bad for the man who was being harassed as he came into the bank. I felt bad for the woman who was demanding money out of her poverty. I felt bad for the tellers. I felt bad for people coughing on the street, with no where to go. I felt bad for everyone.
Then I did something that made me feel bad for me. I took a different route back to work. I walked one block up to 4th Avenue and enjoyed a very quite pleasant walk back to my workplace. I could walk away from 3rd Avenue and not have to deal with its mess. But what about all the folk I encountered on my walk to the bank? Getting away from 3rd Avenue and things it typified for me today might not be so easy for them.