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Criticizing America

I couldn’t believe that I’d let the words out of my mouth, but sometimes small town life is just too much. I was at the bank trying to set up a monthly transfer to my son, who’s away at college. Actually, I wasn’t at the bank but their little office downtown, which has a couple of desks and no counter, because they don’t handle cash; the bank itself is out on the strip north of town in a new building. The teller seemed unable to grasp that I wanted a fixed sum to be transferred from my account to my son’s once a month without my having to do anything at all. “You can just come down and I’ll take care of it,” she said, seemingly unable to grasp that I might be away or have other things to do. She always has time to fill out forms by hand.

And she seemed certain that anything automatic was beyond the capacities of the bank, though perhaps, she said, I could call the manager (out at the real bank) and see if he could set up something special for me. That’s when the words came out. “It doesn’t make sense,” I said, “I just want to a direct deposit. You’ve been able to do that in Europe for 25 years.”

“This isn’t Europe,” she responded with a tremor in her voice. I felt badly about being mean to her, but I also thought, “No kidding.” I’m usually on my best behavior in Great Barrington because I know just how quickly stories get passed around in a small town. But in this case my sharpness paid off. Half an hour later she called to say that she had talked to the manager and was filling out a form she hadn’t known about. If I could come down and sign it, everything would be set up.

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