The poor tellers

Of all the recent stories about economic inequality in America I’ve read lately, this one jumped out at me: 1 out of 3 Bank Tellers in New York on Public Assistance. I’ve never worked in food service in any capacity, or in a large retail store, but I was a bank teller, for a month.

It was the winter of 1977-1978, at the end of a not great year, in which I lived in Charlotte, NC; Binghamton, NY briefly; Jackson Heights, Queens, NYC, NY; and New Paltz, NY, before drifting up the Hudson River to crash with friend Uthaclena and his first wife, and their two dogs (his I loved, hers, not so much).

After a year of being underemployed, I secured a job working at the Albany Savings Bank in downtown Albany. I was a teller in February 1978, making $6,000 a year. Every day I had $9K in my drawer, more on Wednesday state pay days and Fridays. It was depressing, getting all dressed up in a dress shirt and tie I couldn’t afford to look “professional,” with the “chance of upward mobility.”

My trainer was a former teller; she was a decent person, and undoubtedly a good teller, but a lousy, and impatient, teacher. When I finally got on the window, after the training, on the second day, I ended up five cents under, and spent nearly a half hour not finding the error.

This made it easy to quit, with three days’ notice, to take a job with the Schenectady Arts Council’s government-funded program to bring arts into the schools, starting the beginning of March. I was the bookkeeper, but it wasn’t the same level of pressure. Didn’t have to wear a tie. And I was making $8,200 per year, not a princely sum, but way better than at ASB.

The downside, ultimately, is that the funding abruptly ended in January 1979, leaving me unemployed for nearly five months, but it was definitely the better choice.
You should watch Money on the Mind, if you can. In nine minutes, it addresses the differences even perceived wealth differences can make.

Jaquandor’s liberal screed, which I agree with.

6 thoughts on “The poor tellers”

  1. I remember my mom telling me how discouraged she and my dad felt the first year he worked as an elementary school teacher. After years of sacrifice to get him through college, they discovered when they were submitting their tax return that even with him working full time in a professional career, our family was still below the poverty line.

    I do not believe in dragging some people down in the hopes of raising other people up (it doesn’t work- just look at early communist China), but there is something seriously wrong with the way we live and do business when there is such widespread inequality, greed, and suffering.

    I enjoyed the video and your post. Thanks for sharing.


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