‘I don’t need to know what’s in the envelope – I’m Russian, we say the less you know the better you sleep – it’s an old proverb’.
I was in the bank looking over some documents that I store there. Alex, a wise looking 23 year old had fetched them from the safe and was sitting opposite me. ‘I can photocopy whatever you want but I just don’t need to know anything about it’ he said smiling, pushing the envelope towards me. ‘Alright’ I replied, ‘Please can you just do these two, I’ll have to pop next door to get the other colour copies done’. ‘Okay, no problem, just leave the rest with me and take what you want, I’ll be here when you come back’ he said as he opened the door for me.
Returning to the bank I found Alex sitting behind the bank teller’s window with the screen pulled down – on the phone. I gestured to him. He mouthed back ‘I’m on the phone, just go into the room – I’ll be with you in a minute’.
He walked in and sat down – still smiling. ‘Alex, I just paid £2.40 for two copies next door!’ ‘Yes’, he said grinning, ‘That’s what it costs. When I was printing my final year project I had to pay £80 for 40 pages!’ ‘Then, when I needed copies done I was lucky because a friend of mine worked in the shop; he gave me a good price as I also brought all my friends there’ he continued and winked.
‘What was your project on?’ I asked. ‘London buses bunching’ he replied. I looked at him – this Russian boy, so helpful and cheerful and was momentarily taken aback by the combination of this, his cleverness and exotic nature that seemed so incongruous in this high street bank. ‘You must have studied maths?’ I said. ‘Well, sort of – yes; mechanical engineering’. ‘So why are you in banking?’ I asked. ‘I started off here, but I just got a new job in credit sorting, that’s why I’m so happy!’ I have two more weeks, then holidays then my new job. I’m so excited, I’m telling everyone!’
We talked about his new job, then I gave him my envelope to return to the safe. ‘Okay I’ll put it back in the vault, most banks don’t do this anymore you know – but we do just because we already did. The vault is fire proof and theft proof – two people have to put things in it because it’s got a special catch on the door. Your documents are completely safe, don’t worry. As a matter of interest how much did they charge you?’ he said as he fixed me with his clear green eyes. ‘£15 a year, I think’. ‘That’s because it’s a packet. We charge £80 a year for a box’.
I said goodbye and as I watched him return to his seat felt momentarily transported to a world where intelligence reigned and a wider horizon existed.