A curly-haired young man wearing an untucked button-down shirt, jeans and a blazer walks coolly into the bank. His iPod is on shuffle, and his brown leather messenger bag swings casually as he walks. The student goes to the counter, politely interacts with a teller and leaves with a thick envelope.
He pays no attention to anyone else in the bank, brushing past a thin elderly woman on his way in. There is a woman chattering nonsense to herself as she ambles inside the lobby — probably some homeless crazy begging for cash from the bank’s patrons.
And yet … a modest pile of coins on the counter — a scattered bit of colored metal wafers — matter deeply to this woman. She pulls out roll after roll, aged cardboard that looks like it had been gathering dust for years, placing them carefully on the ledge. She mutters to herself as she performs her tasks. Rolls of nickels, rolls of pennies — a heap of low-value currency in an ever-worsening economy. She arranges the rolls on the counter in numerical order, squints, then decides it would be more appropriate to arrange them by color; and, at last, recategorizes them into an incoherent heap.
The bank bristles with corporate advertisements, posters and brochures; patrons are encouraged to get excited about this promotion or that opportunity! Bright American hues shimmer on laminated poster boards. Joyous, knowing faces adorn these pamphlets and placards, which are emblazoned with testimonials of fiscal glee.
Our deranged beggar-woman pushes the stack toward the window and waits, her back askew, head twitching, and hands that cannot remain still. She continues to mutter, her cracked lips pursing and contriving with fervor, yet without meaning. Soon enough, the bank teller gives her a small piece of paper, which she crazily signs and passes back. In return, and for all the effort of so many coins, comes a small stack of bills. Simple paper for her hard-earned currency, she counts the bills four times over and then slowly backs away from the counter.
For her, this is banking. This is finance. This is a lot of money, and this is how money moves.
The woman’s aged hands, jittering, shove the bills into a tattered purse at her side. She stumbles out the front door and into the bright afternoon sunlight, colliding with the same young male student who rushed past her just minutes before. She squints and teeters off balance. The young man, paying no heed to the impact of his blow, presses on. Despite the warmth, she grasps at the ragged black shawl around her shoulders and jerking it tighter around her malnourished frame.
Then — seemingly for no reason at all — the woman cocks her head to one side and issues forth a joyous grin, a toothy smile that spreads wide across her face in the dazzling sun. Her wrinkles tug and move into familiar positions of simple joy, and for a single moment no one has ever looked more at peace.
This woman was happy.
And I was that young man.
But what of it, anyway? Why not simply disregard those who stand in our path to greatness, especially the raving beggar-women who dare bother us with their inanity? Let us don our earbuds, stuff all the monopoly money we can into our pockets, and saunter down Main Street in style. Main Street? I meant Wall Street. Come now, my droogs! Let’s get sharpened up and ready for a bit of the old ultra-finance! The time is now, the epic glittering future is here, this mighty world of banking is ours for the taking. Sally forth, and let us live this life of status! What are we waiting for? It’s everything we want, right?
Matthew Brimer is a senior in
Jonathan Edwards College.