In Which Elena Goes to the Bank: A Pilgrimage in 3 Acts.

Today I went to the bank.

In the small town where I grew up, this statement would mean a simple thing, even a pleasant bike trip through blocks of houses on the main drag. I might have to wait for two or three stoplights while the rush hour traffic (ten cars) speeds through. Or I could take the trail overlooking the glittering lake and avoid traffic altogetherAh, blissful summer of bike rides through town.

But banks, I am learning, are not simple in a city. Please, join me for: Elena Goes to the Bank: A Pilgrimage in 3 ActsThat should really be 3 months, starting with


I find I need to cash a check.

I attempt to Google search for the nearest location of my bank, since the Big City is not something you “spin through”. (If only things were labeled like toy towns: “The Hospital”–“The Library”–“The Toy Store.” Because, you know, there’s only one of each.) The little blurp on the internet map shows that there’s one right by me. Your Personal Bank! Mere minutes away! Even on foot! It even gives times they’re open.

But I am smarter than the bank. I drive to this location, carefully, and my suspicions are confirmed. This bank is new and under construction. Like, it has no walls. I can see straight through all the steel frames to the heavy machinery on the other side. The whole thing is one big drivethru. Maybe they’re hoping I’ll stop by (during open hours) and toss my money toward them. Hah.

So I drive to the next nearest location: life is not easy, sans GPS. There is Summer Construction. Suddenly one-way signs are popping up like Whac-a-Moles and I’m going all the wrong ways and then suddenly I’m on the university campus. Surprise! There are students on the crosswalks wearing shoes that are so high-heeled I’m surprised they’re still vertical. There are students biking everywhere. There are flashing signs vying for everyone’s attention, which of course no one is looking at. The the stoplight decides to take a nap. My internal GPS is calmly announcing to me: “Searching for satellite. Searching for satellite.” Your Personal Bank is not supposed to be located on the university campus.

Finally I arrive at the bank, after multiple, multiple turnarounds in rush hour. The line is out the door; they’re closing in half an hour. The woman ahead of me gets too impatient and leaves. I can see her through the bank windows using the drivethru. So now it’s just five people ahead of me. I have a conversation to pass the time:

“Pneumatic Tubes,” it turns out they’re called. Used for sending things to the mother ship. (Click for credit.)

Me: There’s something funny about people sticking their money in little tubes, and it going up all by itself into the bank. It’s so…space age.

College-age girl behind me: Haha!

Me: [encouraged] It’s just so cool! I mean, a tube sucks up the little container–how does it do that? Does it have something attached to it? Who thinks of stuff like this?

College-age girl behind me: …[long pause]

Me: Clearly I don’t get out much.

Then she really laughs, and it’s a big beautiful laugh, and I laugh too, and we both sound like we haven’t laughed all day, which is at least true of me. And I am reminded again that she is a person, not just a crabby driver refusing to let me merge, and not just a stupid internet employee sending me to non-existent banks. She’s just a person, and we’re waiting in line like good people in a big city do.

Big cities. There’s nothing so bad about them…there’s just so much more of them.

I burn up another 45 minutes and all of my warm fuzzy just trying to get home. More of them, my foot.

Stay tuned (oh, stay tuned) for part 2.