There is no way in which one can so surely arouse the suspicions of bankers as by trying to put some money in their hands. We went round to a near-by bank hoping to open an account. As we had formerly dealt with an uptown branch of the same institution, and as the cheque we wanted to deposit bore the name of a quite well-known firm, we thought all would be easy. But no; it seemed that there was no convincing way to identify ourself. Hopefully we pulled out a stack of letters, but these were waved aside. We began to feel more and more as though we had come with some sinister intent. We started to light our pipe, and then it occurred to us that perhaps that would be regarded as the gesture of a hardened cracksman, seeking to appear at his ease. We wondered if, in all our motions, we were betraying the suspicious conduct of the professional embezzler. Perhaps the courteous banker was putting us through some Freudian third degree … in these days when the workings of the unconscious are so shrewdly canvassed, was there anything abominable in the cellar of our soul which we were giving away without realizing … had we not thought to ourself, as we entered the door, well, this is a fairly decent cheque to start an account with, but we won’t keep our balance anywhere near that figure … perhaps our Freudian banker had spotted that thought and was sending for a psychological patrol wagon … well, how could we identify ourself? Did we know any one who had an account in that branch? No.
We thought of a friend of ours who banked at another branch of this bank, not far away. The banker called him up and whispered strangely over the phone. We were asked to take off our hat. Apparently our friend was describing us. We hoped that he was saying “stout” rather than “fat.” But it seemed that the corroboration of our friend only increased our host’s precaution. Perhaps he thought it was a carefully worked-out con game, in which our friend was a confederate. We signed our name several times, on little cards, with a desperate attempt to appear unconcerned. In spite of our best efforts, we could not help thinking that each time we wrote it we must be looking as though we were trying to remember how we had written it the last time. Still the banker hesitated. Then he called up our friend again. He asked him if he would know our voice over the phone. Our friend said he would. We spoke to our friend, with whom we had eaten lunch a few minutes before. He asked, to identify us, what we had had for lunch. Horrible instant! For a moment we could not remember. The eyes of the banker and his assistant were glittering upon us. Then we spoke glibly enough. “An oyster patty,” we said; “two cups of tea, and a rice pudding which we asked for cold, but which was given us hot.”
Our friend asserted, to the banker, that we were undeniably us, and indeed the homely particularity of the luncheon items had already made incision in his hardened bosom. He smiled radiantly at us and gave us a cheque book. Then he told us we couldn’t draw against our account until the original cheque had passed through the Clearing House, and sent a youth back to the office with us so that we could be unmistakably identified.
As we left the banker’s office someone else was ushered in. “Here’s another gentleman to open an account,” said the assistant. “We hope he knows what he had for lunch,” we said to the banker.