A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story
“Stick ‘em up!” said Clyde. I swear that’s what he said.
My first bank robbery. I was right behind Clyde in line, so I saw it all. It wasn’t what I expected…
Behind the teller’s cage was Hello-my-name-is-Annabelle, the world’s most unflappable teller. She said: “Do you have an account with this bank?”
“Huh?! Lady, this is a stick up!” Clyde had one of those cheap little .25 caliber pistols, the kind that are guaranteed for three armed robberies or one family brawl. He was wearing nylon hose over his head so it was very difficult to tell that he had brown hair, brown eyes and a pitiful little attempted moustache. I don’t think his nose is really that flat.
“I understand that,” said Annabelle. “I asked you if you have an account with this bank.” The prim people worship Annabelle as a goddess: she is primness personified, right down to the last tittle and jot. Her mousy-brown hair was wound up in a tight little bun and her little half glasses rode half-way down her nose. She wore a forest green dress with the tiniest white polka dots. I couldn’t see her shoes, but I’d bet they have buckles.
“Oh, just put the money in the bag!” commanded Bonnie, Clyde’s moll. She’s an unbearably thin woman with bleached blonde hair and greasy jeans. She didn’t bother with a disguise, since the downtown of every city that has a downtown is crawling with unbearably thin women with bleached blonde hair and greasy jeans.
“I would like to do that,” said Annabelle. “But first I’ll need your account number.”
“I don’t have a damn account!” said Clyde. “Okay?! If I had money, why would I be robbing the damn bank?!”
“Well, if you don’t have an account, I’ll need eight dollars.”
“Eight dollars! What the hell for? If I had eight dollars, I could wait until tomorrow to rob the damn bank!”
“Non-depositor’s transaction fee,” said Annabelle. She tapped her pen on a little sign mounted on the counter: “If you don’t have an account with First American Interstate National Trust, we will be happy to process your transaction for a nominal non-depositor’s transaction fee of $8.00.”
Clyde scratched his nylon-plastered chin. “What if somebody wants to cash a pay check?”
“Eight dollars,” said Annabelle.
“Change for the bus?”
“Judas Priest!” Clyde observed.
Annabelle was not one to be distracted. “I’ll need eight dollars to process your transaction.”
I think Clyde might have shot her right then, but Bonnie said, “Wait. I got an account at this bank, I think.”
Annabelle said, “May I have your bank card, please?”
“Your bank card. Your ATM card, if you will. I cannot process your transaction without a bank card.”
Bonnie had an enormous purse, somewhat larger than a duffel bag. She sat down on the floor and began to pull things out of it. There was an amazing quantity of stuff in there and all of it was garbage, only dirtier. Finally she looked up in triumph. “I got it. I got it.” She handed the card up to Clyde who handed it to Annabelle.
Annabelle said, “Now enter your PIN number.”
Bonnie struggled to her feet. “My what?”
“Your PIN number. Your secret password. The number you enter when you use an ATM machine.”
Bonnie looked very confused but she stood at the little keypad and typed in a number.
“Incorrect. Try again.”
Bonnie scratched her head and tried again.
“Incorrect. Are you sure this is your card?”
“I’ll get it, I’ll get it.” Bonnie typed in another number.
“Incorrect,” said Annabelle.
I leaned forward and whispered, “The last four digits of your social security number.”
Bonnie’s face lit up and it took her only two more tries to get it.
“That’s correct,” said Annabelle and Bonnie beamed with pride.
Annabelle typed about twenty thousand keystrokes into her computer terminal, pausing now and then as the machine prompted her for more information. After an eternity she looked up and said, “This account is overdrawn.”
Clyde said, “Huh?”
“Overdrawn. This account is overdrawn. By… two dollars and fifty-seven cents.”
“Wait,” said Bonnie. “I got thirty, forty dollars in this bank!”
“That was five months ago,” said Annabelle. “Since then, we’ve deducted your account maintenance fee of seven dollars per month.”
“Great…,” said Bonnie. “Good thing we’re robbing the bank, because I’m broke.”
“It is a bit of a problem, though, isn’t it?”
“What problem?” Clyde demanded.
“I cannot process any transactions on this account while it is overdrawn. You’ll need to make a deposit to bring it into a positive balance.”
Clyde guffawed. “You mean we can’t rob the damn bank until we give you two dollars and — what was it?”
“The minimum cash deposit is five dollars,” Annabelle said primly.
“Wait,” said Bonnie. “I got it, I got it.” She rummaged through the many pockets of her purse, pulling out coins and crumpled up, greasy bills. “You take Food Stamps?”
Annabelle coughed softly. “No.”
Bonnie finally dumped her cache of cash on the counter top and Annabelle primly counted out five dollars.
“Now fill the damn bag,” Bonnie growled.
“There is one more small issue…”
“Oh great!” said Clyde. “What now?”
“There is a teller usage fee.”
“Sheesh!” Clyde exclaimed. “How much…?”
Bonnie looked at the coins left on the counter. “I don’t got it…”
Clyde turned his gun on me. He said, “Gimme two bucks. Now!”
I said, “You must be joking.”
“I’m sorry, but I’ll have to charge a ten dollar armed robbery fee, payable in advance.”
He screeched his frustration. There was a little boy behind me with a mayonnaise jar filled with rolled pennies. Clyde said, “Gimme two bucks, kid!”
Bonnie pounced on his gun arm. “No way!” she said. “I’ll rob a bank, but I ain’t rippin’ off no kids.”
A businessman three or four places back in the line reached into his pocket and pulled out a huge wad of bills. He peeled off two dollars and handed it to Bonnie. He said, “I’ll pay anything to get this line moving.”
Bonnie gave the money to Annabelle, who turned back to her terminal and typed in another forty or fifty thousand keystrokes. Clyde finally had time to be nervous. He looked every which way, sweat pouring down his nylon-hosed temples. He was fascinated by the surveillance cameras, and his eyes darted from one to another. Bonnie was clearly bored, and she spent the time examining her nails. They were bitten down to the quick, and, if I were to guess, I’d guess that she planned to have some new ones installed with her share of the swag.
Annabelle completed her typing chores, and it didn’t take much longer than ten minutes. She took the bag off the counter and began to fill it with the cash from her cash drawer. When she finished, she looked up and said, “I’ll need eighteen dollars.”
“What!?” If Clyde had been a steam boiler, he would have blown.
“Eighteen dollars,” Annabelle said primly. “Excessive withdrawal fee.”
“God damn!” said Bonnie. “Just take it out of the damn bag!”
Annabelle shook her head. “It’s eighteen dollars over and above the amount of the withdrawal.”
“Christ on a crutch!” Clyde shouted. “Is there anything in this bank that’s for free?!”
Annabelle smiled brightly. “We are always happy to explain our fee structure at no charge.”
Bonnie said, “I give up. I just give up. I never thought robbing a bank would be so much damn trouble. Let’s go knock over a liquor store, where they got some sense.”
“Hell with it,” said Clyde, stuffing his gun in his pocket. “Let’s just go to a liquor store. We can cadge quarters ’til we get enough for a bottle.”
Bonnie looked doubtful. “She’s still got our money…”
“Leave it!” He clawed at his hose-clad face. “Man, does this stuff itch!”
Bonnie scooped her change off the counter. “I don’t got enough for bus fare…”
“I don’t care! We’ll walk!”
They shambled out of the bank and Annabelle took the bag of money off the counter top. She fixed me with a prim little look. She said, “Next, please.”