Being High At The Bank - Culture | MERRY JANE
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Being High At The Bank

Before the altar of money, we whisper and pray, but not when we're stoned.

by Tom Huth

by Tom Huth

What is it about pot that turns us against the system? We start thinking for ourselves. We dream up unauthorized ideas. We itch to break away from the herd. We discover off-menu delights. We enjoy breaking the law. When the big boys treat us like dirt, we have fun getting feisty.

I walk into the local branch of my bank to withdraw $2,000 from my checking account. Three people are waiting in line between the velvet ropes, and I join them. Only two of the ten teller stalls are staffed. Par for the course. One of them, of course, is reserved for business customers.

Half a dozen other supplicants fall in behind me. We stand mutely, not letting our eyes meet. This is no place to schmooze. A bank is the only building quieter than a church. Before the altar of money, we whisper and pray.

The line hasn’t moved. I don’t know what makes me do it. Is it the dope? I’m no more stoned than usual. Is it Bernie Sanders? I turn to the girl who works as the bank’s greeter.

“Hey!” I call out, cheerfully. “Can’t we get another teller here?”

She coos, “One is at lunch. She’ll be back.”

“When?”

She just smiles.

We shuffle ahead one step. The line is almost out the door now. I see one person leave in despair, then another. I think of Trader Joe’s, where they open a new checkout stand if only two people are waiting.  

How can banks get away with this kind of crappy indifference?

Finally, my turn comes.

I hand the teller my check and my ID and grouse good-naturedly, “Banks shouldn’t treat their customers this way.”

He’s a trainee, with an older man standing at his shoulder. I add, “Nothing personal.” They pretend I’m not talking to them. I ask the supervisor, not challenging him but merely trying to engage, “Do you think it’s right?”

Softly, he admits, “No.”

The teller braves, “We talk about it ourselves.”

He deals out my hundreds so rapidly, I can’t keep up. But other people are waiting. I scoop up the bills and carry them to a counter next to the lengthening queue.

There I count them. Only $1,900.

Why does this error give me a fiendish satisfaction? Loudly, I proclaim to the greeter girl, loud enough so that everyone in line can hear: “I’m a hundred bucks short!”

She comes closer so we can talk more discreetly. She says, “We have to count our cash. It will take a second.”

I smile. “You don’t mean a second. How many minutes are we talking about?”

“Ten?” she guesses.

I stand at the counter guarding my hundreds, which are fanned out just as I received them, in case anybody thinks I pocketed one.  I attempt to banter with the people in line:

“Great service here, huh?”  

They look away.

Greeter Girl brings a case of bottled water and moves down the line, offering a bottle to each hostage.  

I needle her: “How about some food? They’re getting hungry!”

What will happen if the tellers count their cash and tell me I’m wrong?  

Will I strip off my clothes to show I’m not hiding anything?  Will they go the body-cavity route?

In time, a female banker catches my eye from afar and beckons for me to come over. I gesture to my money spread out like playing cards and counter-offer, “You come here.”

She brings me an envelope. Inside are five twenties.  

I nod my head, half-expecting an apology.

I call out to the chumps in line: “Count your money before you leave!”

“Shush!” the banker lady scolds.

I better scram before they call the police. Bernie made me do it. Dope made me do it.          


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Tom Huth

Tom Huth is the author of the memoir Forty Years Stoned: A Journalist’s Romance, coming out on 4/20 from Heliotrope Books in New York. He is a refugee from the newsroom of the Watergate-era Washington Post, a novelist, an adventure-travel writer, and a believer in the inspirational advantages of marijuana in the artistic workplace.



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