While I’m not officially in Texas yet, I am staying right over the border and because there’s not a whole lot going on in Durant, OK, I’ve had to dip in to the Lone Star state on a few occasions in order to run errands.
I’d like to preface this story by stating for the record that I was not in a Walmart at the time of these encounters. I was at a Bank of America in Denison, TX. It’s also worth noting that because online banking was down on this particular day – the day my rent and credit card bills were due – and because the ATM in Denison was broken, I actually had to go inside the bank to complete my transaction.
I don’t think I’ve set foot inside a physical bank branch in ten years. At first I was super annoyed by the inconvenience, but shortly thereafter I realized that this was simply the universe conspiring against me to create a perfect storm of circumstances that would confirm my every stereotype about Texas…at least at first.
So it’s Friday, February first and I’m wicked pissed because I couldn’t harness the magic of internet technology and simply take a picture of the checks I wanted to deposit and I had to drive thirty minutes across state lines to the nearest Bank of America. I pulled up to the bank which is located on Main Street and does not have a drive up ATM, so I had to wait for an available parking spot on the street.
After a few minutes a spot opened up and I expertly parallel parked my little Toyota between a giant pickup truck and a no parking zone in front of a fire hydrant. Before I could get out of the car, the saddest looking woman I’d ever seen (or so I thought) waddled out of the bank to the brand new gargantuan Ford something or other pickup truck parked in front of me.
This woman was a sight to behold. She was white, probably in her sixties, enormously fat (or so I thought), toothless, full moustache, gray mullet and wearing a too-tight Ray Lewis jersey…with no bra. I would have taken a picture, but unfortunately I was too busy worrying that she was going to hit my car because she backed right on up without so much as a look. Now, I’m an (albeit reluctant) New Yorker, so I’ve seen some shit when it comes to driving, but this lady made me nervous enough to back my car into the no parking zone until Elvis had left the building.
Once the unfortunate looking Ray Lewis fan was gone and my car was safely parked behind Volkswagon Jetta, I texted my friend (who happens to be from Texas) to tell him about what I saw, but before I could hit ‘send’ I saw someone even more deserving of a blog post.
Moments later as I was walking into the bank, I held the door open for an old black woman with a Buddha belly wearing a cropped t-shirt, dirty sweat pants and mismatched shoes. I couldn’t take a picture of her either. That would have been rude as this woman was clearly in need of some assistance. She shuffled away muttering incoherently to herself and I walked around the building to look for a functioning ATM.
There wasn’t one so I had to go inside.
I had forgotten that some people still wait in line to talk to a human at a bank and I was taken aback by the sheer number of people inside, though, I rationalized to myself (as I’m often wont to do), I’m sure I wasn’t the only one inconvenienced by the lack of mobile banking technology that day. So I turned to a small table in the center of the room to sign the back of my checks (I worked a lot of background in the weeks prior and I get a separate pay check for each day that I work so I had a stack of the most pathetic pay checks you’ve ever seen) and when I turned around this is what I saw in line in front of me…
Ok, this wasn’t exactly what I saw because this photo was clearly not taken in a bank, the woman in line in front of me did not carry her own folding chair around (as far as I know) and I’m not mean-spirited enough to take an embarrassing picture of a stranger and put it on the internet. That would be terrible. I merely googled ‘fattest ass in Texas’ and this was one of the first images to come up.
Apart from being wildly unhealthy, there wasn’t anything particularly unusual about this woman. I was just surprised to find so many of the walking wounded in the same place at the same time…outside of a Walmart. Then I thought, wait a minute…I’m jobless, standing in line at a bank at two o’clock in the afternoon, wearing snow boots and a parka on a sixty degree day in Texas and I haven’t washed my hair in days – I’m one of them!
Then it was my turn at the counter.
I was making small talk with the bank teller and casually mentioned that the Bank of America website was down. She commiserated and complained that their ATM had been on the fritz all week too.
‘No wonder it’s so busy in here,’ I said, affably.
‘Well, that and it’s the first of the month. It’s always mobbed in here on the first of the month.’
In another, more innocent time I would have asked what was so special about the first of the month, but because I am older, wiser and a little bit sadder now, I knew exactly what she meant.
Picture it – Connecticut, February 1, 2004…
I was living in the crappy section of Hartford (which, I guess is sort of redundant) in an apartment across the street from a Save-A-Lot grocery store, or as I called it, ghetto mart.
It was Super Bowl Sunday and I was having a party. I had most of the stuff I needed already, but I was having some pre-party anxiety and decided that a few more bags of chips and boxes of frozen appetizers wouldn’t go amiss. So off I went to the ghetto mart. I drove there even though it was just across the street because as I mentioned, it wasn’t the best neighborhood. Plus I wasn’t a New Yorker yet so, like most Americans, I was allergic to walking.
It was mobbed in the store, but I darted around, grabbed my salty snacks and made my way to the check out. If I thought the aisles were crowded, the check out lines were even worse. Not renowned for their customer service on the best of days, the Save-A-Lot staff seemed particularly overwhelmed and irritable…and slow.
Trying to make the best of an unfortunate situation, I turned to the woman in front of me, a large black woman whose cart was positively brimming with groceries, her three rambunctious children in tow and I said, ‘I guess a lot of people are having Super Bowl parties today, huh?’
She turned to me and gave me a pitying look that plainly said she thought I was the the most naive little white girl on the planet (and I kinda was) and said, ‘Child, it’s the first of the month. Das food stamp day.’ You have to use your imagination to hear her sassy black lady voice but trust me, it was awesome, if not completely humiliating.
So anyway, when the bank teller mentioned that it was the first of the month, I knew she must be referring to the day when government checks arrive in the mail. Thereby explaining the concentration of the saddest people in America all in the same place at the same time. It isn’t that Texas is a cesspool of ignorance, sloth and poor hygiene. That’s poor people everywhere. And I’m one them, only I’m probably sadder than most because I’m not even eligible for government assistance. I’m poor by choice (aka an ‘artist’) so that’s even worse.
God, that’s depressing.
On a lighter note, here are a few things that are awesome about Texas:
1. Food that’s horrible for you (read: deep fried everything) is even cheaper here than in other parts of the country. For instance, I had the most amazing chicken tenders the other day. They were enormous, breaded with Cap’n Crunch and Corn Flakes cereal, then fried. They were also only five dollars. So good.
2. DFW is one of the nicest, most efficient airports in the country.
3. This guy’s truck:
[Why yes, that is a catapult…]
In short, Texas is awesome. I may never leave. But I probably will. Also, I’m wicked poor, which is upsetting, but apparently not upsetting enough to actually do anything about it. Lastly, I’m pretty sure if I could rig a catapult to the top of my little blue Corolla I would be happy forever.
Hang in there y’all.