One of the responsibilities I have in my job at the bank is that I get to meet new people every day. I’ve an assigned client base of somewhere between 400 and 600 people before getting to walk-in customers, so I could probably have one conversation a day for close to two years and not have everyone covered.
This is occasionally frustrating when I have a lot to accomplish, which has been the case a lot recently. Sales is my job, and butters the bread. But a lot of what I do is relational as well- I need to be able to make a connection immediately with someone who walks into my office. Some might not believe as I do, that the relationship is more important.
I’ve found that I relate better to clients (and people in general) when I know “their story”, when I’m able to understand some of who they are, and why they do the things they do. My strongest, most cherished relationships are the ones where they’ve let me get inside their head, and I’m able to reciprocate. That can take time, and effort, and courage; it’s something that doesn’t come easy to a lot of people, and didn’t for me for a number of years. I still struggle relating in a lot of ways, but I’m good on my feet, and can usually connect quickly when I need to.
I can’t know everything in an hour-long appointment at work. But sometimes, I get that glimmer of something deeper and personal, that makes my work worthwhile for a day.
Our branch is very close to McMahon Stadium, which is where the Calgary Stampeders play. For those uninitiated, they play in the Canadian Football League, which is our mutated answer to the USA’s superior NFL product. 3 downs, fields 110 yards long and an uncertain amount wider than in the NFL, bigger balls (teehee), 12 players instead of 11, a little more motion before the snap, a couple other obscure rule changes. Otherwise, the same football you all know and tolerate.
The location makes us a convenient stop for the team, and I’ve seen my share of players and coaches pass through. Even with the CFL being a less grand (and thereby, more intimate) product than the NFL, it has been fascinating to see the players outside of the field. We see the runs, the tackles, the highlights, but not the day-to-day, which for what they make, isn’t always so different.
I met a player today, with a name I thought I recognized. I ran the name through my head as he came into my office, and we started to set up his account. A few players had come in, and two were in the next office, joking around as they got their accounts set up. I’d been chuckling quietly at their energy and banter. The man I saw seemed quieter, more reserved (apparently this wasn’t the case, from the stories my co-worker heard, but we’re not here for that).
I went through my practiced motions, updating information, reviewing what we’d do for the account setup. As I worked, I asked him how many years he’d been playing. Some in Canada, but more in the US, as it turned out. He was a month younger than me, but looked even more so, despite his experience. I thought he was a linebacker, from his physique (I always guess defense, for some reason), and a later search proved me wrong.
I asked him if it was hard, all the travel and changing cities. The players I’d met had always had an interesting perspective, and he seemed like a thoughtful type. He admitted he didn’t like the travel, though he liked playing. He had a daughter, who he missed when he played, and that he didn’t like being away from her for several months. He went on to say he’d prefer to play in the US, but nothing had happened there for him. He liked it here, but…
“For a Canadian, it might be a dream, playing in the CFL,” he said. “But for an American, it’s harder, being away from home for so long. It’s different here.” He paused. “I wish I could settle down, not move around every year, but I need the money.”
We didn’t speak a lot more as we finished, and I went to search his name after. I was right; I had seen the name before, when he’d played down south. He had moved around quite a bit. I’d remembered him from one of the games I’d seen last year- he’d been against the Stampeders in that game.
We have this tendency to glamorize sports, and certainly there’s that aspect to it. But in a league like the CFL, it’s a little less distant. There are those who take jobs in the offseason, and in talking with my customer (and with one of his friends in line, who was opening an account), I saw a glimpse into a reality that, really, wasn’t that far away from ours. They had bills to pay, family to see, and responsibilities that keep going when the final horn sounds and the game is over.
It was a little strange, having put a story to a name and a face I’d seen before. But I liked knowing his story; and that my work allowed me to see it. Knowing a part of his story made him more real and relatable than a view from the stands at McMahon ever would.