I decided to get the broccoli pot pie. I know it has gluten – and dairy – but it’s quick, and I was hungry. I told myself something about meat-free being better for the climate and dropped it in my basket. I noticed the new guy from my yoga class standing in the freezer section, near the soy-based meat products. I thought, it’s funny, you never notice someone, he’s probably been shopping here all this time and I would have never paid attention until I saw him in yoga this morning. I sort of tried to catch his eye, to acknowledge that I recognized him, but he seemed to be super focused on the vegan cheezecake, so I turned to go checkout.
I felt bad for using a credit card to buy one pot pie but I never carry cash. My usual credit card, the one that gets me five percent back on all my Amazon purchases, was maxed out, so I had to pull out the backup card, the one I have been meaning to cancel from the bank I’m conflicted about but at least there’s plenty of room on the card.
I figured they must not have had what he was looking for because yoga man headed straight out to his car as I was waiting for the machine to read my chip. He didn’t really strike me as someone who would shop at Mom’s Organic Market, in his weird black yoga pants, his undersized black t-shirt that didn’t quite cover his protruding belly, his scruffy, unshaven face. Just goes to show that you can’t tell a book by its cover – that’s what I thought.
I walked to my car. Turned on the ignition and “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons, was playing. My son loves that song. I took out my phone to change songs but decided to turn the speaker volume all the way down instead. I just wanted to think my own thoughts, you know? Yoga man was parked next to me, of all things, his ignition was on and he was also fooling with his radio. Funny world, I thought. We’re all so similar, right?
I reversed, headed down the narrow lane, made the tricky left-hand turn where you sometimes just pray because you can’t quite see around the cars parked on the street. Then I turned right at the intersection where pedestrians always cross – even when it is not their turn – and don’t they know that is inconsiderate and interfering with the flow of traffic? It makes my blood boil.
So I was driving on Russell, waiting to turn right and I looked in my rearview mirror and there he was, his car right behind me, also turning right. I was so surprised! Did he live near me? I don’t know a lot of my neighbors. He didn’t exactly look like someone who lived near me. Most of my neighbors are lawyers or bankers, people who work on the Hill, he looked more like a less attractive, out-of-shape Jason Statham type. Or like, maybe a guy from Goodfellas, but in a yoga outfit. Well, actually, it looked more like a male ballet outfit, but like he had borrowed it from a smaller dancer. It didn’t look like something he usually wore, I will say that. OK, I have to admit, it didn’t quite fit into my understanding of the world order. I did, at that moment, as I was waiting to turn right and he was behind me also signaling right, have a momentary thought, is there something weird about this? Is there any chance this guy is following me? Susan, I told myself, don’t be ridiculous. Stop judging people and stop worrying about every little thing. Maybe he’s military. Right, that’s definitely possible. And people move in and out of houses around here all the time.
So I turned right. His car was behind me. I noticed that he was kind of leaning forward in his seat. I felt like he saw me, watching him in my rearview mirror. I looked away – I didn’t want him to feel like I thought anything was out of the ordinary. I knew that would be so rude. So I pretended to observe a bunch of orange milkweed – my favorite kind – I like to think of all the Monarch butterflies just munching away, though I worry that all my neighbors poison them with that mosquito spray so what’s the point. I signaled left, to turn onto my street, and he turned too. He didn’t signal, he just turned behind me. I pulled up in front of my house, turned off the ignition. He kept driving past. I definitely let out a big breath then. Susan, you are so ridiculous. This is why you don’t watch Law and Order anymore! I picked up my purse and the pot pie, got out of the car and walked to the front door. Of course my keys were not where I usually put them so I had to feel around, worried that maybe I had somehow lost them. Found them in the pocket with the Advil and emergency hand-wipes and started to turn the key in the lock. I heard a car approaching so I looked up to wave to whichever neighbor it might be and saw him, driving slowly, watching me open the front door. I smiled with my mouth (not with my eyes but I hoped he wouldn’t notice that) and turned the key, quickly slipped behind the door, pulled it closed and locked it. My heart was beating fast and I had slight prickles up and down my arms and legs.
Something definitely did not feel right. I literally got down on my hands and knees and crawled over to the dining room window. I moved very slowly so that my head would not be obvious and tried to peek out to see if he was still there. He was. Well, his car was there. He was not in it. I didn’t see him walking towards the door either. I thought about calling 9-1-1 but what would I say? A weird man from my yoga class followed me home? So I crawled back to my purse to get my phone but, again, as usual, it wasn’t where I thought it would be. Slow down, I told myself. I’m sure it is in there, just look carefully and calmly. You know when you are feeling emotional that you don’t think as clearly. But then I remembered that I had taken the phone out to change music in the car. Had I left it in the drink holder? Shoot, I thought, I always do that. So the phone was out in the car and we don’t have a home phone. I wondered if you can email the police? I thought about texting my husband from the computer. So I moved in that direction but then I thought, wait, maybe I should just run out to the car and get in and drive away quickly. Maybe that’s the best bet.
I grabbed my keys, unlocked the front door. I wondered if he was out there, hiding in a bush or something but it was broad daylight so that seemed like an awfully bold move. No, he’s not out there in the bushes, I turned the door knob. The door won’t open. It’s like there’s something outside blocking the front door from opening. And then I hear a crash of glass in the kitchen, my mind’s eye knows that he is now reaching in through the deck door window, turning the lock, and I hear the door open. What am I going to do? Run upstairs? There are no locks on any of the internal doors in the house. Hide in the coat closet? So I hid in the coat closet. It smells awful. We store our shoes in there, snow boots, old running shoes. The smell is terrible. But I crouch down, hiding behind several Patagonia jackets and one, thankfully, long J.Crew wool coat that I think about giving away every year. Thank god this one piece of clutter remains, I thought to myself.
In the end it did no good. He found me, huddled in there. Mrs. Green, he said, come out of the closet. He said it like sort of business-like. And he knew my name. This was definitely very weird. So I came out. You’re going to have to come with me.
I’m sorry, but I’m not coming with you.
I’m afraid you don’t have a choice.
And then I started to scream.
And he just leaned toward me, which I was not expecting, and had this little dart thing and he stuck it in my neck and the next thing I knew I was sitting in the back of his car, feeling a bit worse for the wear.
Was that a roofie dart? I asked him, when I came to.
Something like that, he said.
I wondered about the chemicals in a roofie dart, would they be potential carcinogens? Would there be any long-term effects?
Where are you taking me? I asked.
To a place. No more questions.
So I looked out of the window as we drove, not very far actually. We pulled into an alley behind a building that looked a bit like a strip mall. I saw a drive-thru teller window of a bank and there was a door around the back.
He told me to walk up to the door and go in, no funny business or I’ll just dart you again.
I didn’t want to risk additional chemical exposure to who knows what so I just did what he said. The situation was weird, and I did feel like I was probably in danger, and just then I had the thought, who is going to pick the kids up from camp and then I really started to panic, but I knew I had a couple of hours and somehow this would work out. If I just kept my wits about me.
The door had a combination lock, not a key, and he punched a few buttons. I tried to pay attention to learn the code, in case that was valuable information later, but he was too fast. He pushed open the door to a hallway. Inside the hallway were two more doors. Outside of one was another man, dressed in business casual.
We’re here to see the assistant branch manager, said yoga man to biz casual man.
It’s Ximena’s birthday today so they got donuts from Sugar Shack, I think he’ll be available in a couple of minutes. Just have her wait in the vault.
So yoga man opens another combination lock, and the next thing I know I’m standing inside a bank vault. Just like you see in the movies. There are these stacks of wrapped bills all around, and a couple of bikes, I guess the employees keep their bikes in there so they don’t have to leave them out on the street. Seems like you could just get a bike rack, I think. But who am I to judge, right? If this works for them then that’s great. I’m glad to know some of them are biking to work.
Wait here, says yoga man. The assistant branch manager will be here soon. And he closes the door and I’m locked in the vault. I momentarily wonder about oxygen – this isn’t a situation where it will run out, right? I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure that there is a gap under the door where air freely flows but I can’t remember if that’s something to worry about. I wonder if he meant I should sit and wait or if it is ok to stand. So I stand, still, and look around. I see the cash in the various denominations. Mostly ones, fives, tens, twenties, hundreds. I don’t think they have anything bigger than that. I think about cameras. I’m sure they have cameras around here. Plus, I’m wearing my yoga clothes, I don’t have a bag or anything to secretly stash any of this money. It’s not my money anyway.
I hear the door opening, and in walks, presumably, the assistant branch manager. He looks about twenty-eight. His hair is a bit longer than the bankers I am accustomed to dealing with. His hair product has a fruity scent.
You’re Mrs. Susan Green?
Yes, I said.
Are you the author of The Green Scene blog?
I wondered how he had possibly heard of my blog. I mean, I know a few friends and family read it but this is just a random assistant branch manager at a bank in middle America. If I’m being totally honest, I have to tell you that I was a little bit flattered. I stood a bit taller.
Yes, that’s me.
I wondered how long he had read the blog. Which of the recipes he had tried. If he, or maybe his wife, had experimented with my recipe for homemade apple cider vinegar toner.
Mrs. Green, we read what you wrote about us and I’m afraid you’re in some trouble.
What I wrote about you? But I’m a recipe blog, sometimes with a few book suggestions or a funny story about my kids, I don’t understand.
Three weeks ago, your blog contained a paragraph about our institution. You said something about feeling like you should change banks because of our recent “shenanigans” and that you felt that we were unfair to you when we extended you a credit card at 0% interest and then increased the interest rate to 21% at the end of 12 months, even though you had been banking with us for a number of years. You felt this was “usury” and that we were a representation of the kind of institution in America that was damaging the fabric of our society.
Well, I admitted, I did write that. As a reader of the blog, you must know that every once in a while I mention little things that I’m feeling upset about but, I mean, you guys were all over the papers that month, hard-hitting journalists were examining your practices, your staff choices, your history. I felt like it was a pretty light comment, all things considered. And nobody reads my blog anyway, just a few family members and friends really.
For the record, ma’am, I am not a reader of your blog.
I felt a bit crestfallen, the wind out of my sails and all that.
Then the door opened again and biz casual whispered something to hair gel. Hair gel turned back to me, one moment please, I have to find Ximena’s Starbucks gift card – I’ll be back.
The door closed again. I remembered, so clearly, the words of my mother. Susan, she had said. You can’t write these things. Don’t use real names. You don’t want the powers that be to know that you know what’s going on. You have your kids to think about (and thinking that reminded me about camp pickup. What was I going to do?)
Darn it. Why was my mom always right about everything? I couldn’t believe it. I had tried to write that piece with the specific bank name removed, but it just didn’t work that way. So I’d used the name, the real name and here I was, locked into a stripmall bank vault, at the mercy of the powers that be.
He was taking so long. And there was so much money all around. I thought about damaging the bikes but that would be bad for the climate so decided against it. And I remembered the cameras which there might or might not be. Probably there were. I felt less opposed to stealing from the bank, just to get them back for my mental anguish, but I couldn’t figure it out, where could I put the money and how could I get it without the cameras noticing?
I decided to sit down and meditate, maybe an answer would come to me from the infinite intelligence. While meditating, it occurred to me that I was pretty tense, maybe I should try a few yoga stretches. So I did some downward facing dog, warrior I and II, a full sun salutation, some child’s pose. It was taking hair gel a while to find that gift card.
Finally, he was back.
Look, I said, before he had a chance to start, do you think it would be possible for you, or someone in your office, to get in touch with my husband and tell him that he’ll need to pick my kids up from camp?
I don’t think…
Just send him a text, say Hi F, I’m sending this from someone else’s phone because mine ran out of batteries – I am not going to be able to get the kids from camp – so sorry – can you get the car and pick them up? See you tonight. And then do a smiley face but use punctuation not an emoji because if you use an emoji, he’ll know it isn’t me. Do like a semi-colon for eyes and then just a plain closing parentheses because that’s more my style.
I said: I promise to cooperate if you can just send him a text. I just, it’s really hot at camp pickup and they get so ornery if they have to sit out in the sun waiting for a long time and today was superhero day so they are both wearing costumes and it will just be so much easier if they get picked up on time.
Ok, we’ll get the text sent. What’s his number.
So I told him the number and he left again. I did more yoga to calm down.
You know, it is just occurring to me, as I’m telling you this story, that he wouldn’t have really had to send the message. I would have had no way of knowing, really. He could have just stepped out and said he sent the message and not really done it.
But he did send the message. I’ve seen it on my husband’s phone. So that makes me feel a little bit worse but not much.
Anyway, he came back. Here’s what we want. We want you to take down that blog post and to promise that you will not ever write disparaging things about our institution. We can agree to reduce your credit card interest rate to 17% and we can offer you a line of credit at 12.5% which is a really good rate, given your current amount of extended credit. That credit line can be as much as $35,000 so that you could pay off your other existing cards. But, if you blog about our practices again and use the word “shenanigans” with respect to our bank, I’m afraid we will have to assassinate you. Look lady, I’m sorry about all this. But the guys I work with – they mean business. We obviously know where to find you.
Ok, so all I have to do is take down that blog post and not write about your bank anymore?
I suggest you stop using the word shenanigans as a general practice, there are other institutions that will feel equally upset to be described as engaging in “shenanigans.” Ma’am, I just don’t want to see you assassinated by corporate America. I hope we have an understanding.
I promise, I said. I can make the change right now in your office if you want, but then I remembered I couldn’t. Oh, shoot, I can’t, I’m sorry I don’t know any of my passwords, they are memorized on my laptop and I have them written in a little book.
What if you request a password change? He suggested helpfully.
Good idea, I can do that. I can do that right now.
So he went to find a laptop and I did more stretching, it was really helping me through the whole episode. We reset my password – I chose 18Hairgel$$$ to get to the requisite number of characters. I deleted the post. I also took out a post that was slightly political just in case Washington felt the same way as corporate America and I removed a couple of mentions of the patriarchy and one reference to cage-free chicken, to be on the safe side. I wanted him to know I understood his point and I was not a threat. I turned with a smile, it will be all recipes, all the time from now on, you have nothing to worry about.
Yoga man gave me a ride home. I asked him if he had ever done yoga before or if he had just joined the class to follow me. I thought he had held up pretty well for a newbie. He didn’t seem to want to talk too much about his personal life so I just looked out the window mostly. I did ask him why they didn’t just go ahead and kill me, if they were worried.
If you were assassinated then any investigation would immediately turn up the fact that you had written one paragraph in your blog expressing moderate frustration with our institution and we couldn’t risk that kind of reputational damage, not after what we’ve been through. We thought it best to try asking, first.
I got out of the car. I didn’t know if I should thank him for the ride or what I should do. I definitely did not like the sound of the word “assassinate” so I thought I should just, you know, play nice.
When I got home my husband wasn’t there yet so I found my key, opened the car door, and found my phone, just where I thought it would be, in the darn drink holder. I called my husband to tell him not to worry about coming home early, I could get the kids. I walked inside, changed out of my yoga clothes, paused for just a moment to appreciate Lululemon, those yoga pants really live up to the hype. I grabbed some water, noticed my pot pie on the table was totally defrosted and wondered if it was ruined. I put it in the freezer, just in case. I grabbed a cinnamon rice cake because I still hadn’t eaten anything and had frankly been hungry since the mention of donuts, I got the kids.
I told them that I had had to break the kitchen door window because I had locked myself out. I don’t want them to be scared, right? That’s what I told the window guy too. I told Frank the truth. He thinks we should call the police but I say I’d just rather play it cool and not be assassinated, you know? I’m happy to stick to recipes. It is not that big a deal.
I don’t have a ton of time for blogging lately anyway, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching the solar panels we’re getting for the house and choosing a new Tesla.