She Works Hard for the Money

Last week, I did something that I try to avoid at all costs.

I went to the bank.

While I have uber-sweet childhood memories of walking to the old corner PSFS (Philadelphia Savings Fund Society) with my mom every week so that she could put money into her Christmas Club, I’m just not a bank fan.

The bank is a book without pictures. A total snoozer of an experience — every time.

I was forced to go into this particular bank because it’s where I have my mortgage.

And I had a question. You know, one of those “I’m an adult and this is so important that I have to sit in the bank lobby and wait my turn for a higher up bank person” questions.

After I was done with my serious, need-a-person-with-a-bank-desk-and-obligatory-ruffled-blouse-and-stereotypical-bun-on-top-of-head questions, I had to pay a visit to the teller. With no one in line, I approached the first open window I spotted.

With a mouth full of what appeared to be a half-masticated, smooshed-up trail mix bar, the teller welcomed me with that look. The trademark “Are you freaking kidding me lady? I know they are paying me to work, but I am EATING” look.

Half-annoyed and half-scared at how quickly she was morphing into LL Cool J from the Mama Said Knock You Out video, I smiled and said, “I’m in no rush. Trust me — I can appreciate a woman who can’t eat breakfast until she gets to work.”

“I have a two-hour commute,” she said between bites. “So I really appreciate your patience.”

Stunned, I blurted: “Two hours? You travel for two hours to come here? Wow.”

Incidentally, my internal monologue was saying “What the hell? Does there not exist one freaking financial institution in her neighborhood that she can call home? I know I can’t drive a block without passing a bank.”

She converted quickly on me — from annoyed and hungry — to appreciative of my interest in her life. The teller then shared her morning routine with me. She rose every morning at 6 am and left her North Philadelphia home. Then, she walked to her bus stop and grabbed a bus that she rode for 45 minutes, until she reached her next stop — the train station. Then, she boarded the train, rode the train for about 30 minutes and walked another 10 minutes to get to work.

“You must really love working at this bank,” I said. “Because that’s a crazytown insane commute every day for your job. Your lobby is killer, though. It has to be the lobby. I mean, you guys have a flat screen.”

Laughing, she replied without hesitation, “In this economy, I’m happy to have a job. And it’s a great work environment out here. Much better than what’s available near my house. And I went to college out here, so I know the neighborhood, and now that I graduated, I’m hoping to stay and see what happens.”

***

As a working mother who has interviewed her fair share of self-obsessed kiddos who think a college education renders them overqualified for sending a FedEx, fetching the office lunch or sitting at a receptionist desk, I so enjoyed my “teller time” that day — not one iota was lost on me. I wanted to take her home to meet my children — but since they’re all under five, I probably should have just grabbed her e-mail so I could bring her into my house as a guest speaker when my kids turn 14 and ask me why I’m making them get a work permit.

One of my biggest fears as a parent is that my kids will grow up thinking they don’t need to work hard in this life. And while I’m not sure I’ll be signing my preschool children up for a 400+ household paper route (as my husband’s family honorably did for extra income toward education), I think it’s mission critical to teach children the value of working hard to earn your keep.

As early as humanly possible.

I recently started a Sunday ritual in our house with The Pip (5) and The Chinchilla (4).

Every Sunday, they receive $2.50 if they do the following between Monday-Friday:

1) Help with all baby-related tasks, i.e. get Mom a bib, go grab a box of wipes, make sure she doesn’t fall down a flight of steps or eat a block while Mom uses the bathroom for two seconds, etc.

2) Set the dinner table;

3) Put away personal laundry (with Mom’s direction);

4) Make bed every morning;

5) Keep the basement playroom (relatively) clean.

It’s not a bad rate. ¬†Fifty cents a day, or fifty cents a task — depending on how you look at it.

On one recent occasion, The Pip got $2.00. And The Chinchilla got $3.00.

The wailing started quickly: “It’s not faaaaair …. why did she get more than meeee?”

“Because you didn’t put your laundry away,” I said. “You let her do it for you while you watched Wizards of Waverly Place. Therefore, she gets your fifty cents for that job. She did the job, so she gets the money.

Stage left — Chinchilla smiles devilishly like hybrid child of Donald Trump and Tonya Harding — possibly scheming about clubbing knee of sister and causing catastrophic injury so that she can collect all future wages.

Needless to say, the message got through. The Pip was quick to put that laundry away the next week.

***

“You’re going places,” I said to the teller — channeling my best Simon Cowell.

“Excuse me?” she replied.

“What I said was you stay put and you keep doing that commute. Because you have drive, and it’s all going to be worth it. I can tell. They are lucky to have you and someone will figure that out soon — if they haven’t figured it out already.”

I could tell by the expression on her face that I had made her day.

But little did she know how much she had made mine, too.

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One Comment

  1. Amanda
    Posted October 6, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Kate, What a heartwarming story! It brightened my day!

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