He walked into the bank, moneybag in hand. The woman seated in the corner eyed the stocky man. “I take it you are waiting on me,” he said.
“My husband should be here. Should have been here long ago,” she responded, flinging her hands in the air and blowing on her fingers.
“I thought I would be late,” the man voiced as he paced. “I have to look at this truck.” He peered out the window then returned to the corner near the woman.
The door opened, the duo craned their necks. The customer looked at the line of patrons. She made a face and waddled to the back of the line. The duo sighed.
The woman blew on her hands again. “I don’t know where my husband is. Was there a red truck outside?” She chuckled. “I had my nails done while I waited.”
“I need to look at this truck,” the man repeated as he moved towards the window a second time. A few moments later he returned to the corner and sat in a chair near the woman. “I already bought a truck this morning,” he announced.
The line of customers grew. I shuffled forward, cradling a small box. The woman at the head of the line swayed from side to side.
“Crazy people were driving 65 in the passing lane. Thought I’d be late. If you’re gonna drive 65 you should be in the right lane not the left. I don’t drive 65. That’s a suggested speed limit anyway,” the man bellowed.
The woman giggled and continued to fling her hands. The lady in the front of line smiled and shook her head. I listened, my facial expression neutral.
He continued his speech. “Those people need to get out of the way. They are the ones who cause wrecks. The speed limit may be 65, but no cop is going to stop someone for 10 miles over the limit. People driving fast don’t cause wrecks. Slow drivers cause wrecks.”
My hackles rose and my mind raced.
“I drive 70,000 miles a year. Done that for years and never got a ticket. I set the cruise and drive. Drove 77 all the way here. Yea, speed limit’s just a suggestion. It doesn’t matter anyway unless you get caught,” he boasted.
The woman squirmed in her seat and blew on her nails again. People behind me cleared their throats and shuffled their feet. The patron at the counter wrapped up her banking and exited. Was that a look of relief that flashed across her face?
“I can help the next customer,” called the teller.
I stepped to the counter, presented my box of coins, and found myself inches from the fellow who continued to flap his jaws. I tried to tune him out.
My transaction complete, I pushed the glass door and sucked in fresh air. My head hurt from attempting to ignore arrogance.
“What took you so long,” asked my oldest as I slid into the passengers seat.
“Yea, what took so long,” echoed my youngest.
“Long line,” I replied. Staring out the window my thoughts drifted as I remembered a time when I too viewed something as a suggestion.
During my college days I missed a class on a test day. The next day, after class, I asked my professor when I should take the test.
“Friday at 2:00,” he responded.
I didn’t show up.
Three days passed before I knocked on his office door. “I’m here to take the test,” I announced with a grin. My smile evaporated as his voice echoed with scorn for missing Friday’s appointment. Minutes ticked by as my face turned various shades of red. Sweat dripped down my neck.
As his lectured escalated, he punctuated his disdain by stabbing his finger in the air. Tears pricked my eyes. I fought the urge to bolt. He scowled, walked to his desk, grabbed a test, and shoved it my direction. My arm shook as I reached for the papers. I staggered to the student desk in the corner and buried my face in my hands.
The crunch of the gravel driveway jarred me back to the present. I wondered about that man and his flippant stance towards the speed limit. Does he believe his boasts?
A few days later we passed flashing lights on the opposite side of the road. Squinting, I tried desperately to see the driver. Was it that man? I couldn’t tell. Shaking my head I wondered how fast the car was clocked. Did the number matter after all?
My mind returned to the scene from years ago.
I stared at the test and choked back tears. The words blurred. Nothing made sense, yet I scribbled some form of answer. Completing the last question, I crammed the packet into the prof’s mailbox and stormed down the hallway. I crashed through the door and gulped fresh air. By the time I stomped across campus and entered my dorm room, my anger subsided.
Two days later I returned to class. Barely able to look at my professor, I focused on my notes. The class ended. He dropped the graded test on my desk. I shoved the papers in my book without looking at the score. The number on the front didn’t matter. I never missed a test again.
by Jill Printzenhoff