I have come to believe that a woman with children must undergo a certain number of incidents of public humiliation in order to truly earn the title of “mother”. I’m happy to report that we added one to our record this afternoon. I know you all can appreciate this:
We enter the doorway of a new bank, not our usual friendly bank, but foreign territory. To make matters much worse, we arrive only about 15 minutes before the close of the business day.
The double stroller containing Bella and Bean slams the thresholds of both sets of too-narrow doors. Angelina is in the Bjorn, and I’m sweaty and generally looking disheveled from my run-in with the doors.
Before I can catch my breath, Bella and Bean are screaming for lollipops (which they’ve only gotten once—kids never forget candy do they?). Angelina is stirring from her nap.
For some reason, I felt like the tellers and bank customers were particularly unsympathetic today. Do you ever feel like some places or times are worse than others for that?
We line up in what I think is the correct line. I can already tell all eyes are on us as Bella springs from the stroller and darts for the lollipop basket as I struggle to keep Bean from exiting the stroller. She quickly returns, licking one already-opened one and asking me to open another so she can eat two.
All eyes are on us. The tellers are even getting distracted, and everyone’s high-strung because it’s the end of the business day. Customers are pacing, tellers are shuffling papers as fast as they can, people are very agitated.
As I step toward a teller to confirm that we’re waiting in the correct line—heaven knows I don’t want to be waiting in the wrong line with the state my kids are in!—my cell phone BLARES like an airhorn from inside my bag in the stroller. It is set on an eardrum-shattering ring volume. Evidently, a child has reprogrammed it recently.
All eyes are on us. Nobody is concealing their glances anymore, now they’re openly watching our circus.
I race back to the stroller in time to barely miss the call, but I see it was my husband calling and quickly return his call. I had been waiting to hear from him about something important. Huge mistake.
Things begin to happen very fast. Angelina begins fussing, Bean Copperfield exits the stroller in a flash, Bella and Bean notice a small room beside us. Both run in, then Bella runs out and slams the door behind her, leaving Bean inside.
I hang up the phone immediately and try to open the door. It’s locked, from the inside. I knock and beg Bean to open the door, but I get no response.
I notify the bank officer in whose line I’m standing, and she does absolutely nothing.
I try desperately to stay cool and save face, but I’m getting worried about Bean, who won’t answer my voice on the other side of the door. I’m envisioning him electrocuting himself in an outlet, climbing onto the table and jumping off, or falling out of the window.
After 3 minutes, I cut in line and ask a teller to help me unlock the door. The tellers remind me that they’re all trying to finish doing “balance” or whatever it is that banks do at the end of every day, but one Merciful Teller comes to my aid.
My dignity is gone.
He rummages through several drawers and produces 4 baskets of keys and 7 or 8 keychains, about 200 keys total, and begins systematically trying each of them in the lock. I periodically knock and ask Bean to open the door for me. Merciful Teller hunts through other drawers for other keys and tries them. Six or seven more minutes elapse, and still no sounds or signs from Bean locked inside the room. It’s been about ten minutes, and I’m becoming a little beside myself but still trying to look collected.
All eyes on us is an understatement.
As Merciful Teller goes to look in yet another drawer for keys, I knock again and ask Bean again to open the door for mommy.
And just that easily, the door opens from the inside, and there stands Bean in the doorway, with green lollipop slobber on his mouth and collar, smiling normally and looking totally unassuming. The only item in the wastebasket in the small room is a green lollipop stick.