UNITED STATES—The national holiday fell on a Tuesday. It was not one of the movable holidays, so there was a buoyant Monday, that felt like a second Friday, effervescing with anticipation for good times to come, that many commandeered for good times in the present.
Right after it was all over, on Wednesday, Mr. Smith urgently deposited cash at the bank, $420 cash. He counted it twice, he wanted to be sure before filling out the deposit slip. Make it easy on the teller.
He got to go to the window with Voytek, a very punctilious gentleman who was usually at the business window.
“Why aren’t you at the business window? They demoted you,” Smith joked.
As always Voytek was very dapper, his pearl-gray necktie evenly knotted, his suit perfectly pressed, the shirt flawlessly laundered. The impression of extreme order and care did not stop there: his graying hair was neatly trimmed and combed. Yet today a startling growth of white stubble, about 3/8 inch in length, uniformly covered his cheeks, the smooth pale cheeks of a man who has worked all his life in an office.
“Good morning,” said Smith. “I have this cash deposit for you.”
The greeting slid off Voytek. His gaze was slightly unfocused. With blunted hand movement he took the cash bills and the deposit slip, gazed at it uncertainly. The bills soon flew through the counting machine: the amount of $400 showed.
“You are missing twenty dollars,” Voytek said with no vigor in his voice.
“I am sure it’s there,” Smith said. “I counted it twice.”
Mr. Smith himself was not so crisp and awake and confident the day after the holiday. He was not forceful on the point of the missing funds and was half ready to surrender the twenty dollars to the banking monolith which claimed him as “guest” and Voytek as serf. But, yes, he had counted it twice.
Voytek stood there astagger, the look on his face recalling a man who suffers a toothache. He ran the stack up bills through the machine again, and it came up to $400. With a gesture of the hand he succeeded in conveying to Mr. Smith, ‘Wait, I will see.’ Some figures he gazed at on a screen served to worry his face further, he then proceeded to count the drawer, meanwhile drawing comparison to the figures he had on the screen. The movements of his body were delayed, as if they had to float through an ocean before transmitting from his brain to his muscles.
Other people were gathering in the line. Only two teller windows were open. Voytek cringed imperceptibly as Mr. Smith’s lips parted in preparation of some utterance, and preempted the distraction. Then Voytek said with a flutter of fingers of one hand, ‘Let me finish.’ It was a form of communication perfected during his time at a state-run bank in Kaliningrad.
He meticulously counted the drawer, and when he was done, found the missing twenty dollar bill.
“I’m so happy,” Mr. Smith said. “Thank you for giving the matter full attention.”
There was a delay in the words reaching Voytek’s brain, effusive was not the right tone for this morning after the holiday, and Voytek waved Mr. Smith off.
Smith was happy: to find a bank employee who cared as much for his money as much as he did –more.
Mr. Smith didn’t usually answer surveys; they reflected an insecure company. But this time he wanted to share the goodwill. He cornered the bank manager and even made a point to call corporate later, and put in a good word for Voytek and his exceptional service despite the holiday’s obvious after-effects.
Next time he went to the bank, Voytek was not there: not even at the business window. The manager was obtuse about Voytek. Face by Smith’s insistence he said, “There’s been a change… We let him go.”
“No! He’s the best. I gave him a glowing review,” Mr. Smith said. “He cared as much about my money as I did.”
“Voytek had problems in previous weeks with the drawer count, Mr. Smith. Your review helped contribute to his negative job evaluation.”
“My review helped get him fired!”
“I didn’t say that,” said the manager. “You did.”
That was when the week with two Mondays became the week with three Mondays.
Grady Miller, is the Wizard of Fiction. His Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood is available on Amazon.