A Modern Inquisition


Life Face First: Negotiating One Calamity at a Time

Slow. Painful. I sat trapped in my prison of torture.

The cruelty of my confinement was agonizing in its completeness.

As the days turned into weeks, I began to think I would never see the sun again. I would miss watching my nieces and nephews grow up, and I would never see Paris. Oh, Paris!

It was too horrible to contemplate.

I was not a prisoner in a bleak dungeon. Nor was I stranded on a desert island, though both would have been preferable alternatives. In reality, I was sitting in line at the bank drive-through, trapped between a banker who could not grasp the complexities of a deposit slip and a Volvo.

With no means to escape, I comforted myself by slowly rocking back and forth and chewing on the armrest of my car.

When the Spanish Inquisition ended, the former Inquisitors went in search of a new profession. They needed work that used their talents for inflicting cruel punishment, but in a more modern, subtle way.

They invented banking and laughed up the sleeves of their fancy robes as the innocent among us opened accounts in exchange for free coffee mugs and muffin pans.

For centuries since, we’ve stood in lines with no end and have shown two forms of ID to withdraw our own money. Tricked into believing an elusive fairy called “interest” will visit our little lump of gold and cause it to multiply.

Entering the bank is easy. Leaving’s the trick.

You think the line of 800 people will move quickly because there is a teller at every window, but as you slowly wind your way though the velvet ropes, you soon discover that only one teller is actually waiting on customers.

The others are working very hard at looking busy, and you suspect the teller on the far left is really a crash test dummy in a shirt and tie.

You work yourself into a state and as you wait, you compose a little speech that you mean to deliver to the teller when you finally arrive at her window. The longer you stand shivering in the freezing bank air, the longer your speech becomes until suddenly, it’s your turn!

You march up to the window prepared to launch your 40-page treatise on the corruption of banks, when the teller smiles a big smile and offers you a free sucker. Flustered by your enemy’s friendliness, you forget your speech as you struggle to simultaneously unwrap your Dum-Dum and hand the teller your driver’s license.

The next thing you know it’s four days later, your deposit is finally made and you don’t remember walking out the door, but there you are on the sidewalk out front, vowing never to return.

Well played,” you think. “Well played.”

You spend the rest of your afternoon in front of the computer trying to retrieve your money via Internet banking and reflecting on the real reason banks invest in so much security.


Nora Blithe

Nora Blithe is the author of the syndicated humor column “Life Face First.” Read her blog online at NoraBlithe.com.