I actually enjoy going to our little bank down the road in Marseille.
In Paris, our nearest bank branch was pretty big and professional. I often would dress up in one of my old work suits and fancy myself an international businessman when I had to go set up or change accounts. I like to think it helped. Mostly it just gave me an excuse to still own a couple of suits.
But here in Marseille, I take the opposite approach. It’s laid-back, and our local bank branch fits the bill. I could have gone a few blocks away to a bigger one where they speak English, but I chose this one for its charm. As I walk in, dodging doors and the one chair that sits inside, I am always greeted by one of my favorite people. I call him (in my mind) Monsieur Clean. I swear he could be Mr. Clean’s French cousin. No earring, but he does have stylish glasses that compliment his shining bald head, is always standing, about 50 years old, could probably bench press a smartcar, and he wears the same thing everyday: gray dress pants and a tight black t-shirt. But my favorite part is that I’m not convinced he actually does anything. He stands behind the desk as if he is a teller there to help, but each time I’ve tried to ask a question of him, he tells me to sit and wait until someone else can come. The someone elses are the two other people that work there. A woman I’ve yet to meet, and a younger guy who likes the phone (very un-french) and loves New York. He always seems happy to see me, helpful, and fairly efficient. He doesn’t understand how I could prefer American food to French, but always raves about his visits to New York, from the taxi rides to the hotels to the people he meets.
The entire bank branch could fit in our old American living room (or our African living room for that matter), and I feel like I’m stepping into a janitor’s closet when I walk around the half-glass wall to my friend’s ‘office’. I’m pretty sure this branch has no pull whatsoever on the actual bank’s inner-workings. I don’t really know that anything ever gets done when I go. But I do enjoy my visits there. I always leave with a smile, and that’s not easy to do from anyplace here that doesn’t give you fresh bread.