Smile, Your Bank Loves You!

Bank Smile Happy Face

Dear Financial Institutions,

I just wanted to say thank you for being in my life. At a time when so many of us are struggling to make ends meet, are barely surviving from paycheck to paycheck, and any sort of long term financial security feels utterly, hopelessly unattainable, you have reminded me what a difference a smile makes.

Just the other day I had the very good fortune to visit my neighborhood Chase branch. The broad smile I received upon entering the premises made me feel right at home.

I marveled at the new design of the bank’s interior. Gone is the row of alienating glass windows, which I always found so, well, alienating. Until now I never realized that I longed to share the same air as the teller dispensing my cash. Well, now I can do just that, and it’s fantastic. I love love love the new approach.

I was quickly seated before a most affable employee. Or do you call him a Customer Service Representative? Financial Satisfaction Advisor? Excellent Experience Advocate? Anyway, he was so friendly that even my infant daughter enjoyed her time discussing my finances, smiling and cooing at the dapper young Banking Associate (Fiscal Friendliness Champion? Pecuniary People’s Person?). Not at all the stuffy banker of yesteryear. And such good dental work, too.

And even though he couldn’t help me with my request, I left feeling upbeat and excited about having to come back later. Yup, I had a smile on my face just thinking about returning.

The same day I also had to contact American Express regarding a small matter of negligent importance. Opting for the live Internet chat I was whisked into a virtual world of good cheer and many an exclamation mark. I’m used to sitting at my computer a bit slack-jawed, but how could my mouth do anything but turn up at the edges when every other sentence was punctuated by a “(Smile)!”.

Amex Chat Window - How are you

Granted, the grammar of the person I was chatting with was a little sloppy but that doesn’t matter for a financial establishment conducting serious business as long as your Live Chat Person is so amicable (Cheery Chatter? Happy Network Helper? Online Joy Provider?).

Mildly disappointingly, this Amex Celebrator of Smiles couldn’t really help me and I still had to download a form, fill it in, scan it, and upload it back to the site. But I did so with a (Smile)!

Amex Chat Window - Have a great life

All this smiling is really helping me come to terms with my ailing finances. It’s putting a little pep back into my attitude towards this month’s credit card bill. Paying off my rapidly depreciating car is so much jollier now that I’m grinning from ear to ear. And the mortgage payment? With this kind of upbeat attitude I’m sure the bank will understand when my company inevitably lays me off and I go into arrears.

So thank you, Money Managers of my life, because I know that your celebratory nature is actually a celebration of my own success, not yours. It is a testament to how well I am doing, not you. And it’s a promise that no matter what, you will always support me.

Amex Chat Window - Back you Up

Sincerely with a (Smile)!,



Teflon People

Teflon Frying Pan Human Egg Party

In conversation with a friend recently I heard the most delightful phrase. He was describing people who perpetually give off a sense that everything is just great, everything is wonderful, life couldn’t be better. They are forever regaling you with tales (and Facebook updates) of how nifty their weekend was, what a fantastic day they are currently having, or how much they are looking forward to next weekend and trying out the sure-to-be delicious hors d’oeuvres at that new place downtown. They nod, smile broadly, and disarm everything you say (positive or negative) with a quip or witticism.

Try to share a moment of fragility, doubt, or misgiving with such a person, and it simply bounces off them with nary a hint that you ever dared to be so weak.

These are the “Teflon People”.

We all know these people: the ones who make your face ache with all the smiling you do around them; the folks whose Instagram feeds are a torrent of one social event after another; anyone who uses the hashtag #sorrynotsorry.

It’s as if these people have never experienced a day of vulnerability, never accepted that having weaknesses might not be a mark against them. Life’s too grand to bother with negative emotions. And you, with your grumpy complaints and petty thoughts are just not believing in yourself enough, just not seizing the day as spectacularly as you should, nay, as you are entitled to do. If only you would shut up and join the party everything would be just great.

Teflon, incidentally, is a brand name for polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), a substance to which nothing will stick.

If nothing sticks, nothing accumulates, and therefore nothing changes.

I don’t know about you, but my life is sticky. I get annoyed with my wife (and she with me). I misread work-related emails and respond inappropriately. I do my best to avoid emotional traps, then fall into them anyway. No amount of Teflon behavior is ever going to make me forget just how flawed or downright stupid (did I mention the work-related email?) I can be.

I ask you, Teflon Person, is your life secretly sticky too?

When you arrive home after a long day, close the door and kick off your shoes, does your face do that wonderful collapse, muscles relinquishing their daily hold on quotidian pleasantry? Does your jaw slacken, eyes droop, lungs fill with the first honest breath of the day?

What would happen, Teflon Person, if you let down your guard?

The alternative to Teflon isn’t, as you might worry, being an angry miserable bastard. As if when not being Teflon one is in fact deeply sad and despondent, utterly dejected and full of rage. That is not the case. Ones emotional world is not governed by extremes, where you are either “Great” or “Terrible”. In fact, most of our daily lives are somewhere in the middle, a wash of ordinariness that is neither “Great” or “Terrible”, but simply “Meh”. Such is routine and it is a lovely thing.

If rage is what is underneath all your Teflon, though, then perhaps removing some of it would allow you to release some of that pent up frustration and find you way to a more balanced “Meh”.

I know, “Meh” doesn’t make for a self-congratulatory tweet or Selfie moment. But “Meh” is at least honest. And that honesty should be celebrated openly, not jealously guarded and shielded from the world.

Is there hope, Teflon Person, that you might heed my invitation to join the rest of us living here in reality?

What is that you say?   No, I didn’t see your Evite to the craft beer tasting event at the artist loft. Sure, I’d love to go, except I got laid off, my tooth needs a crown, my car started smelling like rotten fish, and I think the rash on my backside might just be boils. Ok, cool. I’ll see you there.