The Secret Bank Account

Woman's hand holding US banknotes

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One of my first jobs out of college was as secretary for a local factory that made bakery machinery. As part of my job, I was in charge of handling credit union transactions for the workers. (This was way before the days of online banking and at the dawn of the age of computers.)

One day, a worker was absent and he received a payment from the credit union. I believe he must have been on vacation. As plant secretary, I had access to index cards containing personal information for all the workers, including their home phone numbers.

I thought I would be super helpful and let the man — let’s call him Butch — know his payment was waiting. If he was home, maybe he’d want to pop over to the office and pick up the check.  I phoned his home. Nobody answered, so I left a message.

A few days later, I got called into the plant manager’s office. He told me Butch was upset I had left the message about his credit union payment. You see, his wife didn’t know about this account and she heard the message. You can guess what happened at home!

Anyway, the plant manager chewed me out and told me not to call workers at home about their credit union payments. I was officially reprimanded.

As I was on a walk the other day, I remembered this event and started musing about the chutzpah, or perhaps it’s male privilege, that allowed the worker to complain to his boss that I had outed his secret bank account. And then for the manager to blame me for the problem.

It made me wonder whether it was common practice at this factory for workers to have secret bank accounts – to hold money back from their families. How would the families know? The deposits were automatically deducted from their paychecks. The transactions all occurred at work.

Instead of meekly agreeing to the reprimand, I wish I had laughed at the absurdity of the plant manager chewing me out for innocently not keeping a worker’s dirty little secret. But that probably would have gotten me fired on the spot.

I can’t recall if I was actively seeking employment elsewhere at the time, but I knew I wasn’t happy in that work environment and didn’t plan to stay long. I ended up working there for two years before resigning and finding a job better-suited to my career goals.

I am so glad I didn’t let the security of a paycheck keep me tied to a place and a job that didn’t suit me.

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