Taking a position in a small Trust Company years ago, after a successful year at a major Canadian Bank, seemed foolhardy to my fellow bank employees. Little did I know I would begin my most rewarding and fun career.
Pride and arrogance doesn’t sit well in the craw of fellow workers, but, housed in the enthusiasm of a young woman who walked in and found a serious error that had eluded staff for weeks, the defects turned into virtue. I was considered diligent, attentive and welcome.
The only problem with being a fast track hero, the position has to be maintained. The pressure for continuous excellence led to uncharted, I thought, mental aerobics. My small department was in excellent shape so the next obvious challenge was to improve client service.
Our small city was home to a number of characters, with no known address, who came in monthly to cash their government cheques. Their familiarity allowed us, at that time, to confidently cash these cheques without asking for identification. They didn’t have accounts with us so we only saw their names on their monthly cheques.
One such gentleman decided I was the only one to serve him. If I was busy with another client, he’d sit quietly until I was free. The minute the chair across from my desk was available, an armoured car could not have re-routed him.
Once settled in the chair, this elderly gent laid his pension cheque on the desk. Fingers bent and twisted from arthritis pushed it toward me. He sniffed repeated in the absence of a handkerchief. I brought out my box of tissues and placed it casually on the desk. While we discussed the weather, he unzipped his parka with one hand and fumbled for a handful of tissues with the other.
This quiet man with eyes that could make Santa’s smile seem harsh wiped his nose. He wiped his most unattractive, veined, bulbous, overgrown and lumpy proboscis. He fumbled with embarrassment as he snorted, huffed and wiped his way through drips and sniffles. The large mass on his face offered no opportunity for disguise or grace.
I pretended I needed to use the electric calculator. I swirled around in my chair and faked a column of numbers on the paper I grabbed. The stream of electrical ka-chung, ka-chungs almost overrode the sounds of his ablutions.
‘I will not look at his nose.’ I silently chanted several times. ‘I will look only at his grandfather eyes.’
I turned around and apologized for keeping him waiting. I smiled into his sparkling blue eyes and treated him as though he was CEO of this very Trust Company. I reached for his cheque and asked what denominations he preferred.
“Oh…just small bills, please. I have such trouble getting people to accept the bigger ones,” he said.
I forced my eyes to move casually over his face and back to his eyes, “I know what you mean.”
I counted out small bills and slid the cash over to him.
“Thank you,” he said. “I really appreciate you cashing my cheques without fuss. That means a lot.”
A lump formed in my throat. Tears stung my eyes. The urge to wrap my arms around this dear man was almost unstoppable.
As he rose, I swallowed the lump, swelled with pride and said, “You are so very welcome, Mr. Nose.”