What I’ve Learned Working a Year at the Bank

It’s been a year since I started working at the bank and a lot has happened in that time. There have been ups and downs, good times and bad, from the time I stepped out of my comfort zone, took some initiative, and stopped someone from stealing a pen, to the time my wife was out of town and all I took for lunch was a single slice of turkey in a Tupperware container. I actually can’t believe that it’s been a year already, because it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, but in the short time that I’ve been employed here, I’m fortunate to have learned some valuable lessons that I’ll be able to carry with me throughout the rest of my life. Maybe you too could benefit from what I’ve learned, so today, that’s what I’m going to share with you.
 
To start with, I’ll let you in on a little secret that I learned fairly quickly after starting my employment here; there is a huge quality difference in keeping your lunch in the break room refrigerator or leaving it in the car. Maybe you’re an intelligent human being with common sense who already knows this seemingly obvious fact, but if not, learn from my mistake, because believe me when I say that there are few things in this world than lasagna that has been sitting out in the hot car for five hours. Try as I might, I still can’t shake the disgusting smell of the Ricotta cheese that seems to have taken up permanent residency in my nasal canal. Maybe the rule only applies to lasagna, but after that devastating experience, I haven’t been willing to risk it with anything else, so I’ve been playing it safe and keeping my lunch in the break room fridge, and I would highly suggest you do the same.
 
Another very important thing I learned working at the bank, is not to be intimidated by angry people. For as long as I can remember, I’ve never really liked confrontation. The only exception is the structured debates I did in high school, but we weren’t actually mad at each other and arguing about anything significant, but in the real world, away from the comfortable confines of a classroom, I’ve always hated heated arguments or when people are unhappy with me. I don’t know why I was like that, but whenever someone is upset or mad at me, even if it’s completely unjustified, I would feel awful about it, but now I’ve learned to take it in stride. When the inevitable happens and someone gets upset with me for something outside of my control, even when they act irrational and yell, I don’t let it bother me. I do my job and smile, and let their irrationality roll off my shoulders, content in knowing that I’ll have a good story to laugh about later. I’ve learned to not worry about when someone is upset with me about something that I can’t control, because there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it, so there’s no sense in worrying about it.
 
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I’ve learned to appreciate my job. I may not love it all the time, and it may not give me a sense of fulfillment at the end of the day, but I’m thankful for it nonetheless. It’s the best job in terms of pay and benefits that I’ve ever had, so while it may not be the most exciting thing in the world, it’s a reliable job, one that a lot of people would probably love to have, so I’ve learned to appreciate that and not take it for granted. If you have a job, any job, be thankful for it, because there’s a lot of people in the world that can’t find work and would love a job like the one you or I have. So that’s what I’ve learned working at the bank for a year, and perhaps you’ve learned something from my experiences too. I’m not sure what the coming year holds, but I’m hoping that I continue to learn and to grow no matter what I’m doing.

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The Car Crash

My vehicles have been in two wrecks in my life, and I haven’t been in the car for either of them. The first one happened a little more than six years ago on December 21, 2011. I remember the date because it’s when my last name was officially changed to my birth name, Curtis. I was in downtown Little Rock at the courthouse to pick up the official papers signed by the judge, and so we wouldn’t have to pay for parking, my younger brother was just going to drive around the block while I went in and got the papers and would pick me up back out front in about five minutes. In the span of a few minutes, my brother managed to wreck the car. Luckily nobody was hurt, but my Ford Explorer Sport was never the same again because the drivers side door was smashed in and could open less than a quarter of the way making it difficult to get in. That car is long gone and years have passed without a car accident, but last night, my Honda CRV was in an accident.
 
It was nearing six o’clock and the sun had been down for nearly an hour. The temperature had dropped significantly and what little ice and snow had been melted from the road in the light of day was frozen once again. My wife and I had been at the store doing our grocery shopping. Because of the winter weather and slick roads we had been putting it off for several days, but with nothing left to eat for lunch or breakfast in the apartment, it was time to go to the store, ready or not. We were on the way home, which is only about a five minute drive from the store, when I decided to stop for gas so that I wouldn’t have to leave earlier for work the following morning to allow myself extra time to stop. It was the Shell station, a place I’d visited many times over the year and a half that we lived in Memphis since it’s the closest gas station to where we live, but despite the familiarity, I never could have predicted what would happen when I pulled up to pump nine and exited the vehicle.
 
I popped the gas cap and went into the gas station to get a Peace Tea and pay for the gas, leaving my wife alone in the car. If I could do things differently I would have insisted she come inside with me so she wouldn’t have been in the car when it happened, but at the time I had no idea what was coming without the benefit of hindsight, so I didn’t even think twice about her staying in the car. As I exited the Shell station, drink in hand, I heard the distressed honking of a car followed by a loud thud as one car collided with another, directly in front of pump nine. I looked at my wife who was still sitting in the passengers seat and she held her hands up in disbelief, angry at the stupidity of the driver that just backed into my car. At least she wasn’t hurt. The car pulled away from mine and back into the parking spot in front of the gas station that it had just backed out of. The driver got out of the car, and while laughing, said, “I think I just hit your car.”
 
I didn’t know why she was laughing but it made me kind of mad that someone could react to hitting another person’s car so flippantly. As I walked over to survey the damage, I refrained from using the word idiot at all, and only nodded a silent yea, afraid my words would betray my civility. To be clear, I’m okay with a legitimate car “accident,” but when it’s due to complete negligence, where the other driver just isn’t paying attention, I’m far less understanding, and that’s what this was. There wasn’t any ice on the ground between where the other driver was parked and the gas pump where my CRV sat. My wife said the car just started backing straight up and didn’t turn their wheel at all so that there was nowhere to go but straight into our car. My wife, from the passenger seat reached over and tried to honk a warning, but it was too late. Luckily there wasn’t any noticeable damage on our car so we let the other driver go without calling the police or anything, but it could have been a lot worse. Whatever the weather is, make sure that you pay attention and drive with caution, whether you’re driving down the interstate or just backing out of a parking space.

Flight of the Guinea Pig

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It seems like just about everybody I know, has had a pet at one point or another in their life. Some had dogs, others had cats, still others had fish, or in the case of my youngest brother Landon, you had all of them. Pets are great from the responsibility they teach to the loyal friendship and love that they give, it’s a wonderful thing that I hope everyone has the chance to experience at some point. For me personally, dogs are my pet of choice and I think I’ll probably have one for the rest of my life because while yes, they can be incredibly annoying sometimes, like when you’re trying to take them outside to use the bathroom and instead of running to me like they do my wife, they take off into the bedroom and hide under the bed, at the end of the day I really like them and our apartment would feel empty without them. I feel that way about dogs, but my cousin Bailey, felt that way about a guinea pig, which if you’re unfamiliar with the species, is a kind of cross between a miniature rabbit and a large rat. If I’d gone my whole life without ever having seen one of these furry things with its creepy, beady eyes, I would have lived a complete and fulfilling life, but the gods had other plans, and my aunt Kathryn allowed Bailey to get a guinea pig, and they named her Genevieve.
 
Before I tell you what I did, I want you to understand that I like animals and would never intentionally do anything to hurt them. That being said, I threw my cousin’s guinea pig, Genevieve, onto the ground. I should explain so you don’t get the wrong idea and get PETA involved, because there’s really no need for that. I was visiting their house when they lived in Memphis, something I always enjoyed doing when I was in town. It was the first time I’d met the guinea pig, Genevieve, and I was understandably terrified of the thing. I don’t know whether it was the soul piercing eyes, the excessive furriness of it, or the high pitched squeal it would emit when it was hungry or wanted attention, or perhaps it was a combination of all these things, but I was not a Genevieve fan from the beginning. Still I wouldn’t intentionally hurt her.
 
On the day the unfortunate incident occurred we were enjoying the afternoon, hanging out playing video games and watching TV. I remember the sun coming in through the windows and hitting me as I sat on the very comfortable couch. Some afternoons are begging for a nap, and this was one of them. I imagine I resisted as we watched “Burt the Conqueror” not wanting to miss any of the hilarity, but eventually my eyelids became unbearably heavy and I could resist no longer, so I fell asleep, there on the couch. Since I was asleep at the time, I can’t say for certain what happened in the time between dozing off and waking up, but somehow, Genevieve ended up in my arms. I imagine Bailey thought it would be funny to do, given my fear of the guinea pig, but she never anticipated what would happen next. Feeling the furry rat bunny on me was enough to jolt me from my slumber and bring me forcefully to my feet so I could defend myself against the great beast. It was completely inadvertent, and accident born of momentum, but as I stood, I reflexively swatted my arm at what I felt on me and sent Genevieve falling to the floor, screeching all the way. I felt terrible, because even though I didn’t like the guinea pig, it was still a living creature, and was important to my cousin. I would like to tell you that after it was all over, Genevieve and I made up and became friends. Sure I would still act like I was scared of her, but deep down I would have a soft spot for the guinea pig. That would make me a liar, because the truth is, we never made up and I don’t know if she ever forgave me because after that we were estranged for years, and then she died. You always think there will be enough time to eventually make things right, but you never know when a life will tragically end. Rest in Peace Genevieve, you will be missed…not by me admittedly, but probably by someone.

Observations in a Bookstore

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved bookstores. Sometimes when my dad came to visit me as a child, we would go to the Barnes & Noble in Little Rock and spend hours there. We had nowhere to be, and were content to spend an afternoon lost in another world. Sometimes we would sit together at the little table and chairs in the children’s section and he would read stores to me, and sometimes we would pick out books to read on our own before retiring to the comfortable, overstuffed armchairs hidden in nooks and crannies of the big bookstore. It was great, but I’ve come to realize that while that was something I used to love doing, it’s not something I’ve done in a very long time. I can still spend a good amount of time in the bookstore, but all of that time is spent browsing, not sitting around reading or just observing what is going on around me, because as an adult, that goes against most everything else I am programmed to do. We’re taught to be efficient, not idle or wasting time, so if you’re in the bookstore, you should be making the most of that time, looking for books to purchase, not just sitting in a comfortable chair being content with your life at that very moment, but today I went to Barnes & Noble, and decided to change that. 

My brothers and I went to the bookstore this morning because they were in town visiting, and we were looking for something to do, and since it was very cold outside and we all love books, so we decided Barnes & Noble was the place to be. Upon entering we all split off, I towards the new releases just to the left of the entrance and my brothers to I don’t know because I wasn’t with them. I browsed for a while, falling into my regular routine of finding interesting books and taking pictures of them so I could search for cheaper copies later online. I’m the reason bookstores keep closing. After a while, out of the corner of my eye,  I noticed that one of the big comfortable chairs over in front of the windows was vacant, and as if being pulled by some outside force, I found myself being drawn in towards the chair. I sat down and was immediately engulfed in comfort, instantly taken back to a simpler time. I didn’t grab anything to read, because once I saw that the seat was open, I knew that I had to make my move immediately since those seats are a coveted luxury at the bookstore, and taking time to find a book would cause me to miss my opportunity. 

There were people in the chairs on either side of me, both with books that they weren’t really reading. Despite the fact that they had something to read, that they themselves had selected from the thousands of books in the store, both people were completely immersed in the cell phones they were holding. It seemed a little sad, because while cell phones have completely changed our lives, mostly for the better, they distract us from the little things that we used to love. I spent years sitting in chairs at the bookstore without having to have a phone in my hand, and was completely happy, but now it seems, at least from my observations, that people are no longer content just to read. I fantasized about a life where I could come to the bookstore every day. I could come first thing in the morning and get a cup of coffee and a croissant for breakfast, then find a book that interested me before retiring to my corner to read the day away. It sounds nice, but then again would it become too routine, the daily monotony of it all, making me grow to loathe it? I really don’t know, but I’m not going to be in danger of that anytime soon because I have a real job to go to, but maybe one day I’ll be able to try a new way of living, where the bookstore is the focal point of my day. There’s so much to learn, so much to read. Until then, I’ll make an effort to go back every once and a while and spend some time sitting in a big, comfortable chair, lost in a book, just enjoying life. 

Braving the Icy Roads

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After hours of snow and ice falling down, it’s usually advised, especially in a town like Memphis that doesn’t have the same kind of firepower to combat the winter weather on the roads like cities up north where it is more common, that you shouldn’t drive unless you have to. By staying at home and off the roads altogether, you completely eliminate the risk of having a car accident from sliding on the slick ice and losing complete control of your vehicle. While it’s encouraged that you don’t attempt driving unless it’s absolutely necessary, it is much more dangerous doing so at night when you can’t see all the patches of ice on the road, but about 7:30 last night, my wife and I pulled out of our apartment’s parking lot and onto the dark, frozen streets of the city, with one goal in mind, finding something to eat.

It’s not that we didn’t have anything to eat at home, because we did, but sometimes cooking is the last thing you want to do, so we figured we’d go somewhere near the house and pick up something to eat. We’d been home all day, both of the companies my wife and I work for were closed due to the weather, and by the time night descended on us, we were getting restless and just felt like getting out of the house for a little while. The plan was to go to Subway, which is one of the closest fast food places to where we live, a journey that would only require us driving down one back road where there wouldn’t be much traffic if any and then we’d arrive at the sandwich shop, eating fresh within a couple of minutes. The road leading to Subway goes downhill and has a couple of turns, so I took it very slow, careful for the story of my death not include the words “on his way to Subway,” and all of a sudden the strip of businesses came into view, one of which was the sandwich shop, and to our dismay, all of the lights were off, closed due to the weather.

The other place close to us is Popeyes, and that actually sounded better to me than Subway, so I took a right and started driving toward the chicken restaurant. We were on a street that was a little bit busier at this point, surrounded by streetlights which cast a bright yellow light on the snowy ground below, giving the appearance that all of the dogs in the world had decided to pee in that exact spot. There’s a saying or creed that the Postal Service abides by saying that “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” which is nice, but apparently not a sentiment shared by the Louisiana based fried chicken company known as Popeyes, because they too were closed, which was unfortunate because spicy chicken was really starting to sound good. My wife and I agreed that we didn’t even care what we got to eat at this point, but would settle for whatever was opened, if anything was actually opened. We drove on.

I’m more open to eat McDonald’s for dinner ever since they started their all day breakfast, which is obviously the highlight of that particular fast food establishment, so when I saw the golden arches in the distance, I didn’t exactly hate the idea of stopping there. With cars in the parking lot, they were obviously open, so we pulled into the drive thru, but instead of asking what we would like, or how she could help us, the person on the other side of the speaker only said that their system was down. They could only accept cash, which neither my wife or I had, so I told the voice goodbye and left the McDonald’s, growing hungrier by the minute. A little ways up the road we pulled into a Taco Bell that was open, which probably would have been my first choice that night had it not been so far from our apartment, but somehow we’d made it that far and I couldn’t have been happier. The systems at Taco Bell were up and running so we placed our order and before long were turning out of the parking lot and on our way home. I made sure to drive extra carefully on the drive back, because while dying on the way to Subway would be terrible, dying with uneaten Taco Bell would probably be the worst way to go.

Family Ties: A Snapshot of my Grandfather

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Pictures are like a time machine for feelings, because with the snap of a camera you can freeze a moment in time, and no matter how much time goes by, when you look at it again, some of those same feelings come rushing back to you through the memory, which is why a Christmas gift from my aunt Tracy is one of the most meaningful and special things that I’ve ever received. She put together a photo album for me and the eight other grandchildren of my grandparents, a personalized memento to remember our granddad, who passed away about two and a half years ago. When I say put together, I’m speaking literally, as the cover of the album is made up of neckties that belonged to my grandfather, neckties that I’ve seen him wear countless times, some ties that I’d actually worn before when I was on the debate team in high school, and I stopped by his house on Friday’s, the day of the debate match, so he could tie the tie for me. Before I even opened the photo album, just holding it in my hands and stroking the silky smoothness of his ties, I knew that this was special.
 
Inside the memories came flooding back, from the very first picture, one showing my granddaddy asleep in a lawn chair, hat pulled low on his head, chin angled down toward his chest, as he napped in the driveway of a beachside vacation rental home. Of the countless things to admire about that man, his ability to nap anywhere would certainly make the list. While you or I would probably get bored or restless waiting outside for your family to get ready to go down to the beach, my granddad, always the one to go with the flow, took the waiting in stride and decided to get a little rest and relaxation. Next was the picture of me with him and my two uncles, standing outside dressed in suits and ties, even me, who would have been no older than three at the time, either before or after going to church. I always enjoyed going to church with my grandparents when I was younger, because granddaddy was the preacher, and everyone there wanted to talk with him after the service and shake his hand and compliment him on his sermons. He was a rock star, and as his grandchild, I was a rock star by association, everyone shaking my hand and being friendly with me as I stood next to him in the foyer of the Southwest Church of Christ.
 
There were pictures of their new house, the one they built on “the farm” as we called it, ten acres of land that they bought just outside the Little Rock city limits years ago. Their previous house was only about two minutes away, and I remember after they bought the land, going over there with my granddad when that’s all there was and riding the four wheeler around on that blank canvas that would eventually hold their home. While they built the house, my grandparents lived in a mobile home on the property, one that would eventually be occupied by my great grandmother, grandma Laird, the mother of my granddaddy. The structure of the home was up by the time Christmas rolled around, so it was decided that we would have our first Christmas in the house, and it’s definitely near the top of my list of Christmas memories. There was no electricity or furniture, so extension chords were run through the house to light the giant open space that would one day become the living room, and folding chairs were brought in, arranged in a circle for everyone to have a seat, because nothing was going to stop our family from having a special Christmas together in that new house. I remember sitting around later that night, drinking apple cider for what I think was the first time, and listening to my Gran-Gran, my grandmothers mom, play her mandolin, and I was genuinely happy in that moment, sitting in the warm, comfy glow of the lamplight surrounded by family and lots of laughter.
 
Then there were the vacation pictures, from all the many trips my granddaddy generously took the family on over the years. There was the picture from our trip to Yellowstone, where we stopped somewhere along the way in the mountains to take some pictures, and I, excited upon seeing snow in the summer, ran over to it, then slipped on it and fell, covering the lower half of me in mud. In the picture I’m standing behind a wooden bench, which means that the picture was taken after the fall but before I got back to the car to clean up and change clothes. Before photoshop and airbrushing, there was standing behind large objects to hide things you didn’t want anyone to see. There were pictures from North Carolina, when we went to the Outer Banks, and one from when we stopped on the way in the town of Mount Airy, the town where Andy Griffith was from that inspired the fictional town Mayberry in his television show, which was my granddad’s absolute favorite. Finally there was a picture of the whole family in Destin, Florida. It was the last vacation we ever took together, the last time I ever saw my granddaddy. It was a good trip and I spent a lot of quality time with him, sitting out on the front porch in the morning, drinking coffee, reading, and just talking. I have so many great memories of my granddaddy through the years, and thanks to my aunt, I now have a time machine back to those great times and feelings we shared while he was still with us, something I will cherish for the rest of my life.IMG_4672

Food and Football: The Perfect Night

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I’m exhausted today, like trying not to fall asleep at my desk tired, but that’s okay, because it is totally worth it. You see, I didn’t get much sleep last night, because I got home late and then once I got home I was too excited to fall asleep, so I tossed and turned for hours, and eventually got a few hours of rest sometime between the hours of 1:30 and 4:50 this morning. I may be tired, but I’m very happy, still living off the high from last night. I’ll explain.
 
Last night my wife and I went over to my grandparents house about six o’clock for dinner with them, my dad, and my uncle Brett. My grandparents had just gotten back from Orange Beach, Alabama earlier that afternoon, and brought back with them some shrimp fresh from the gulf of Mexico, a delicious and succulent treat that everyone was looking forward to. Mimi had made some potatoes and corn on the cob to go along with it, which were good, but the shrimp, as I sat there taking bite after bite dipped in cocktail sauce, seemed to be the very best thing I’d ever eaten in my life. We ate and ate until we could eat no more, easily one of the best meals I’ve had in a while, and while the food was great and we all enjoyed ourselves, that really wasn’t why we were there. We had serious business to attend to.
 
Throughout the college football season, it is mandated in the Curtis Family Creed that we must gather together and watch the Crimson Tide of Alabama. In good times and bad, we stand by our team, although admittedly it’s been a lot more good than bad lately, which definitely makes it a lot more fun, and last night was no exception. We sat in the dimmed light of the living room, my grandpa on his throne, the leather recliner that sits to the right of the couch, where my wife, Mimi, and myself were seated. In the rocking chair sat my dad, the perfect seat to for letting out all of his nervous energy in the form of rocking, and on the other side of my grandfather sat my uncle Brett. By halftime we knew a change needed to be made, because our offense was stagnant and with short, three play drives that ended in punts, our defense would no doubt grow too tired to continue putting up a fight pretty soon.
 
For weeks now, at our football gatherings, we have talked about wanting our backup quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, to get some playing time, because clearly, between him and our two year starter, Jalen Hurts, Tua has the much better arm, able to zip passes across the field with pretty good accuracy, and last night we finally got our wish as he ran out onto the field to start the second half. From the first touchdown drive that Tua lead, hope re-entered my grandparents living room and we started to believe again that we could actually win this football game. It wasn’t easy, or all that pretty at times, but Alabama eventually won the game in overtime, and it was glorious. Everyone jumped out of their seats, high-fiving and hugging, basking in the victory of our favorite team. I told my grandpa, who records all the games, not to erase this one, that way I can come back later and relive that wonderful night all over again. As we left, I told him “let’s do it again next year” and hopefully we will. I don’t know when our good fortune is going to come to an end, but I know that for right now, we’re enjoying every minute of it while it lasts.
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