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Man in bank wants money

On Saturday, I’m standing at the counter at my local bank, waiting for a teller to help me escape a particularly challenging corner of red tape hell.

A man approaches the teller to my left. “I’d like a cash advance,” he says.

This catches my attention. For about two years – including a period of time when I was indicted and awaiting trial for grand larceny (always fun to mention) – I worked as a teller and customer service representative at South Shore Bank in southeastern Massachusetts.

Mark Wahlberg – then Markey Mark – was one of my customers.

Knowing a little bit about retail banking, I know that asking a bank teller for a cash advance is not a thing. You can get a cash advance from a credit card at an ATM and access overdraft protection with your checking account, but asking a bank teller for a cash advance is weird.

So, I lean in slightly to listen to the conversation.

“We don’t offer cash advances,” the teller says.

“Are you sure?” the man asks.

“Do you have an account at the bank?” the teller asks, sounding rightly confused.

“No,” he says. “But I want a cash advance.” He says this forcefully, which causes me to instantly think it’s a robbery. Without any real conscious thought, I scan the man for weapons. Assess his size and strength. Look behind him for possible accomplices. Ball my hands into fists.

“We can’t do business unless you have an account at the bank or you’re holding a check from an account holder,” the teller says.

“Seriously?” he asks. Still aggressive.

“Yes,” she says.

The man stands there for a moment, staring her down, before turning and leaving.

“Did you…” I ask the adjacent teller.

“Yes,” she says before I can finish. “I thought he might be robbing me. I still think he might’ve been robbing me.”

Upon reflection, I don’t think he was attempting to rob the bank. I suspect that he heard about someone getting a cash advance from their bank, and not understanding how banking works, decided to try to get a cash advance of his own.

Which is weird.

But it’s also impossible to know what it’s like not to know something. Maybe he was an astrophysicist capable of building rockets to take human beings to Mars, but amid those long calculations and interstellar understanding, he didn’t have the time or interest to learn how banking works.

I don’t really believe this, but I’m allowing for the possibility.

Either way, given my unfortunate experience with armed robberies and my resulting PTSD, the thought that I might be standing in the middle of a bank robbery did not make the next day or two very peaceful or tranquil, at least in my mind.

It’s remarkable how a brief moment of possibility can throw a switch in our stupid, prehistoric brains, activating a level of vigilance, a readiness for battle, and an assumption of danger that isn’t very helpful while watching your son play baseball, riding your bike, playing golf with friends, or enjoying Rosh Hashanah dinner with the family.

Stupid cash advance guy.