The case of the fire-retardant teller

Posted on Wednesday 20 May 2009

I barely survived a three alarm meltdown in lane two of the bank drive-thru, and I was the one who started the fire.
I had two checks to deposit, both clearly endorsed and recorded on my deposit slip. No other cars were waiting, in my lane or any other – yet the teller seemed to be taking an unusual amount of time to process my transaction. When I glanced at the window, I noticed that she had apparently called in a supervisor to help her.
“We can’t deposit this check,” the supervisor said. “It’s not made out correctly.” For nearly 20 years I have used the same bank. For the last five, I have had a business account for my freelance work, in addition to a personal account. The name I use for my business is not a registered DBA, and generally clients know to make their checks out using my name with the business name, or my name alone. But this particular check was made out only using the business name. It’s happened a few times before, and when it has, the bank officer who helped me set up the account has approved the deposit. But that person now works for another bank.
I explained all of this in a loud, agitated voice to the play-by-the-rules supervisor. She didn’t budge. When she asked if I had a banking officer she could call, I told her that he now works for a competitor, and asked if she’d prefer that I drive two blocks up the street and deposit it with them. (Sadly, this gets even uglier.)
I also told her I had deposited similarly-addressed checks before, and she said that I shouldn’t have been allowed to. I was getting madder by the second, and my voice was getting louder. She asked me if I had a DBA registered in my county for the name. I didn’t. I’d filled out the paper work when I set up the account, but never sent it in.
“Are you going to deposit the check or not?” I asked her. “I can’t without the DBA,” she replied. But then she said, “Would you like for me to give you an application for it? The fee is $15.”
“I fail to see how that is going to help me today,” I responded.
Let me stop here and say that just a few days prior, I had taught a Bible study lesson on one of Satan’s biggest lies: “I have my rights.” And let me also add that a few days before that, I had read in the book of James, “Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves.” (James 4:1-2, The Message)
“If you’d like to come inside,” she said, I will fill the application out for you and send it in.”
She was offering to help me, and I wanted to make the deposit without asking my client for another check. So I went inside to meet her, still in a huff.
She pulled the application, and began filling it out. She said that she was a notary, and would hand deliver it to the clerk’s office for me if I would make out a $15 check, payble to the county clerk.
“So you’ll take your own check?” I asked her. (I told you it got worse.) She should have closed her book then and shooed me out of her office. But she didn’t. She proved to me the truth that  “A soft answer turns away wrath.” And she softly turned mine away. Her calm was like a fire retardant that doused my rage.
We completed the form, she took my check, and promised that she would mail me the receipt and copy from the clerk’s office. Then she stepped away and came back with a deposit slip for bothof my checks. “I’ll note on your account that checks should be accepted under this name,” she said. I said thank you and left – with considerably less arrogance than I had entered.
By the time I got in my car I was utterly ashamed of my behavior. I called the bank when I got home to learn the supervisor’s name. She will receive a personal apology…and a thank you for teaching me what I mistakenly believed I had already learned.
Because until I live the truth, I don’t really know it at all.

It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole word up in smoke and go up in smoke with it… (James 3:5-6, The Message)

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