Strangers

He stood in line, impatiently taping his Stacy Adams against the marble floor. The bank was pretty crowded for a Thursday afternoon. He peered down at his wrist watch. Pure gold with a flawless diamond inside the face at the 12 spot. “1:47” he thought to himself angrily, “I’ve been in this same position behind this old woman for almost 10 minutes!” The teller smiled at the elderly woman who seemed to be having trouble understanding the new bank processes. “So, you’re saying swipe my card into this machine here?” the gingerly old woman said. Grey hairs flowed from her head like a river of wisdom. She understood the world in her time but technology made it increasingly more difficult for her to maneuver through it. She was frustrated with herself. She knew she was causing a hold up in the line, looking back behind her and noticing the scowl of a man behind her. He was tall, slim and handsome. He didn’t seem like one who was known for his patience. His gold trimmed glasses sat neatly across the bridge of his nose. His hair was cut low and tapered on the sides as he stood with his arms folded across his chest. The elderly lady turned back around to face the teller, “Maybe I should just come back later. I don’t mean to be causing a hold up.” The teller smiled at her, “No, ma’am. They can wait. You are not less important than anyone else in this line. You mind if I step around to help you?” “Oh, do you mind?” the elderly lady said with a sigh of relief. “My pleasure.” The teller stepped from behind the counter and approached the elderly woman. She noticed the tall, handsome man with the scowl on his face. She bit her tongue, holding in what she really wanted to say to him. She was a customer service specialist and she would not be rattled. “Sir” she said in the most pleasant way she could muster, “we will be with you shortly. Thank you for your patience.” “My patience?” he said with a snarl, “Look, I have places I need to be. I’m in a hurry and I don’t have time to be standin’ behind some woman who should be in a nursing home somewhere.” That hit a nerve with the teller. She took a deep breath, but nobody noticed. She had a way of calming herself in the midst of a storm, “Sir” she was able to speak out calmly, “I understand your frustration but please bear with us. Someone will assist you momentarily.” The security guard stepped closer to the front of the line after the commotion. He was just as tall as the impatient man but much more solid. He could handle him if it came to it and it was understood. The teller smiled and turned back to the elderly lady, “I’m sorry” she said to the teller. The teller immediately spoke after her, “Oh no, it’s not your fault” she said, then she bent down to whisper into the elderly woman’s ear, “it’s not your fault that the guy behind you is a jerk.” The elderly woman smiled and redirected the teller, “so, am I swiping this wrong or something?” The teller smiled. Her cheeks were pushed all the way up. “Let me see. Do you mind giving me your pin?” The elderly woman looked at the teller quizzically. The teller was a few inches taller than she was and shaped round like a pear. She had a little extra weight on her but she wore it well. After a brief stare down, the elderly woman spoke, “I suppose. I don’t think you would try any funny business with me.” The teller laughed, “of course not, ma’am. I’m not in a position to lose my job or be thrown in jail, trust me.” The impatient man huffed behind them, tapping his foot louder and becoming a nuisance to those around him. The elderly woman turned, looking over her shoulder but not directly at him. She said to the teller in a brittle voice, “You know, miss. We have to do our jobs, no matter what. No matter who comes in or what kind of attitude they give us, we have to do our job. We have to do what we were called to do. We are expected to do it and there is no excuse we can give our boss at the end of the day if we don’t. And you, my dear” the old woman tapped the teller on her arm, “are doing a mighty fine job. You’re already a gem and there is much more in store for you. You will be used greatly in this life and the life after.” The teller looked at her sardonically and swiped her card, entering her information. Before she could respond to the elderly woman, the man stormed out of the line. “I can’t believe this! I have a million things to do! Thousand dollar contracts to sign and I’ve sat here wasting the last 15 minutes of my life behind a woman who doesn’t even need to be running errands by herself!” The security guard stood tall as the man walked past him, quickly adverted his gaze away from the security guard once he realized he was being watched. He pushed the door open with force and indignantly unlocked the car door of his black BMW. Chrome wheels. Leather seats. He was paid and he didn’t have time to deal with anybody beneath him. He backed out of his parking spot and sped down to the end of the parking lot.

Inside the bank, the Teller couldn’t seem to get the elderly woman’s card to work. The elderly woman kept a smile on her face, “Let that card loose” she said, reaching her hand out for it, “Let me try another one.” The Teller, just as perplexed as the elderly woman was, handed the card back to her. The elderly woman fumbled it purposely, dropping it on the ground. “I’m sorry, sugar” she said as the teller reached down to pick it up. “No problem at all, ma’am”, the teller responded to her apologies. When she stood back up, a younger woman was now standing in front of her. They were the same height and build. “Thank you” the young woman said with a soft tone. The teller jumped back, “oh my God” she said, “what happened?” The young woman looked at her confused, “What do you mean?” she said. “The old lady. Where is the old lady?” she looked around the bank, double and triple checking the young woman that now stood in front of her. “Old lady?” the customer said, “What old lady are you talking about?” The teller put her hand on top of her head in amazement, “The old woman I was just sitting here talking to!” she said frantically, realizing the card she picked up was still in her hand. She looked at it, “Tamara Ross” she said, “that’s the elderly lady I was just talking with.” The younger woman gave her a side eye, “umm… my name is Tamara Ross” she said. “No way” the teller responded as her mouth hung open in bewilderment, “there was an older woman standing right here. Did you all see her?” The security guard approached them, “is everything alright?” he asked. “No” the teller said, “Where is the old woman that was standing right here?” The guard looked at her the same way the younger customer and everybody else in line was looking at her, “there was never an old woman standing here” he said. She held the card in her hand, looking simultaneously at the name and at the woman that now stood in front of her. She stood there stock still until Tamara touched her shoulder, “Ma’am” she said, “Can you try this card now?”

Outside, the impatient man sped down the streets, testing yellow lights for their longevity and crossing each one just as it was turning red. He mumbled to himself, still irritated about the time he wasted in line at the bank. He came to another light. It was yellow well before he could reach the intersection. It flicked red and he floored his BMW. He wasn’t stopping for anyone. Just then, a car drifted out into the intersection preparing to turn. They had the green light. The man hit his breaks and swerved out of her way. His car veered off the road as he hit the curb and headed straight for a flatbed truck. That’s when it happened. Everything seemed to slow down and instantly, before his front windshield came in contact with the flatbed truck, the elderly woman appeared and pushed him down inside of his car. Instantly after the contact, she vanished. He laid sideways across the front seats and time sped back up as he crashed into the flatbed. He laid there, hurt but still alive. The back of the flatbed truck was completely driven through the windshield and shards of glass were everywhere. Paramedics were on the scene moments later as they pried him out of his car with the Jaws of Life. In the ambulance, fading in and out of consciousness, he heard the paramedics speak, “Yeah, this guy was lucky. I don’t know how he was able to lay flat like that across the front seats with his seatbelt still attached, but if he was still sitting straight up, he would be on his way to the coroners right now.” The impatient man laid there, zoning out to the beeps of his heart monitor. The elderly woman appeared for a moment, oblivious to everyone except the impatient man. She smiled and was gone when he blinked his eyes.

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