In my early twenties, I took a job working as bank teller. There was a rigorous interview process followed by hours of training. We watched corny sexual harassment videos, took part in ethics workshops, got schooled on appropriate work attire and most importantly, received valuable "in case of a robbery" please "don't be a hero" advice.
It was my first "big girl job" where it was actually mandatory to dress up and wear heels. I learned a lot about the banking industry and myself during my time there. It felt great to dress up every day and step onto the tiny platform from which we greeted our daily customers separated by thick, bulletproof glass or the "bandit barrier" as it was so aptly called.
After some time, I became a ninja with the 10-key number pad and could punch in a 16 digit credit card number with my eyes closed while making small talk with my patrons. In case you're wondering, mama's still got it, and I still do all of my number crunching on the 10-key.
I also learned some interesting things about money. Like how to count cash fast, I mean really fast. And to date, if I happen to have a large stack of bills in my possession, I shuffle them from my right to my left hand at lightning speed while I quickly add up the denominations in my head.
It turns out, that bills are at their best when grouped in stacks of 20. That's how all bankers keep track of their cashbox. Which means that you know exactly how much is in each stack and how many stacks make a bank bundle. For example, if you have a $2000 bundle of twenties with a bank ribbon around it, you know that that bundle totals 10 stacks and each stack contains twenty $20 bills, which equal $200 (20x10) each. It's an easy break down and the same applies to all denominations so everyone on the bankers' of the wall is speaking the same math.
Did you know that $2 dollar bills are actually not that rare? You can go to any bank and ask for one, or a bundle with a ribbon (which equals $400 because it has 10 stacks of $2 bills with 20 bills in each stack). So there's really no point in holding on to the one you've perhaps had in your wallet for years, but I digress.
Most days passed uneventfully, in fact the one time my branch was robbed at gunpoint, it was my day off so I didn't even have an opportunity to exercise the "don't be a hero" mantra. In my two year stint there, the day that stands out the most took place one hot summer afternoon. The sun was angry that day, pushing the temperatures above one hundred and making the air unbearably thick and heavy.
We'd been working away in our cool, air conditioned fortress all morning as a revolving door of hot and miserable civilians slowly inched their way through the cue. Next up was a very large woman with an enormous rack, and tight fitting clothes. She had big curly hair, and was channeling Peggy Bundy with a wide belt cinching her waist, and cleavage for days. She dragged herself to my window, visibly uncomfortable, hot and sweaty. "I'd like to make a cash deposit" she said, as she simultaneously reached into her bra and pulled out a stack of wet, stuck together bills...
I stared at the cash for a moment, composed myself and extended my hand. Unfolding the wad with the tips of my fingers I tried to separate the bills to count them. They didn't budge, the wet cotton fibers of distorted presidents' faces clung to each other like pages of a book left out in the rain.
Eventually, I did manage to count them and make her deposit. After she left I washed my hands profusely and went back to my station a bit off kilter. It's a funny story I like to tell sometimes, because it reminds me that staying composed is a muscle we constantly need to flex and how important it is to laugh about just about everything.