Friday, July 28, 2006


One afternoon in the 1970’s I was at a Bank of America facility at Market and 10th Streets in San Francisco, monitoring the test-run of a training workshop I had helped develop.

We were interrupted by the delivery of a note to one of the dozen or so attendees, an Operations Officer from the major BofA Branch next door on Van Ness. OOs are to branch banking what RNs are to hospitals. The nice lady read the note and excused herself, saying something about a robbery.

When she returned an hour later she told us what happened: some guy gave a threatening note to a teller who gave him some minimum amount of money from her till. The robber then took the cash over to the New Accounts desk and told the customer service rep that he wanted to open a savings account. The guy was apprehended and no body was hurt.

Of course it’s funny and all, but in a way it’s kind of poignant. The robber’s goal wasn’t necessarily to “get away” with a lot of money, rather he really just wanted to participate in the American banking system. With the low rate of savings among Americans then and now, this guy’s impulse was exemplary. There were just some parts of the process he didn’t understand.

So I’m thinking that all the agencies involved got brownie points for catching this poor fellow. It was recorded as a “case solved” by that hitler-in-a-dress J. Edgar Hoover.

And the robber probably did some time. More time, I was thinking, than that greatest bank robber of them all Charlie Keating. There were lots of thieves who robbed S&Ls blind during the deregulation, including some Bush’s, but Keating was the king. Keating understood that to really rob a bank you don’t go to the teller’s window. My memory was that Keating, for whom John McCain (among others) ran errands in the Senate, never actually went to jail. So I asked Pud to check.

“Shocking, absolutely shocking!” Pud has this little dance he does when under the influence of cogitation.

“Charles Keating actually spent four and a half years in prison before his conviction was overturned. That’s the good news.

“But, get this,” Pud was trying to pace himself, “he was a goddamn Catholic who led a fucking anti-pornography crusade. This asshole wanted to take away our money AND our pornography! Well, fuck him.

“And you think it can’t get worse?” Pud asked, arms splayed to the universe, “this fucker was in cahoots with Mother Teresa, the most evil woman of the twentieth century!

“That’s right. He gave her a donation of 1.2 million dollars and she wrote a letter to the judge in his favor. Where the fuck did she think he got the 1.2 million dollars?”

“Pud,” I said in my calming voice, “Mother Teresa is dead.”

“Ding dong,” Pud said, “none too soon.”

“Oh, and did you see that Bernie Ebbers’ conviction and 25-year sentence were upheld by a Federal appeals court?”

“THAT asshole!” Pud said, “Good!”

“Keating and Ebbers will be completely forgotten by history, Mother Teresa’s name will live on as a trivia answer.”

This made Pud smile. “Good,” he said, “along with Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.”

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