Big Bad Behavior

at 11:35 PM

A lefty organization sent me an email awhile back requesting that I end my relationship with big banks. I thought, why not? They've behaved really badly.

So despite my 40-year relationship with a really big, badly behaving bank, I closed my account and marched across the street with a wad of cash to a local bank, feeling virtuous for putting my money where my mouth is.

Now Occupy Wall Street is erupting with all the vibrancy of the '60s. I rejoiced with thousands of other Americans when one big bank had to back off charging for debit cards.

My relationship with these bad actors began when I needed a job in 1969. I arrived for an interview at Bank of America wearing a very short skirt, no pantyhose and hippie earrings. After hiring me, the interviewer said the dress code required pantyhose and skirts not more than two inches above the knee.

I became the receptionist in the San Francisco Employment Office. Alone in a windowless office, I greeted job seekers and answered five phone lines that rang constantly. My instructions: male college grads go to Management Training. Other men get an interview. Women take a typing test.

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Outside our climate-controlled building, the noisy '60s raged. Inside, hushed sterility was the norm.

One day, a young woman with coffee skin and soft brown eyes walked in.  

"I was here a month ago," she said. "They told me to come back." I found the card with her information, turned it over, and saw a note: "TOO UNATTRACTIVE." My eyes stung. "You don't want to work here," I said, looking right at her. "It's a horrible place." I gave her the name of an employment agent.  "Tell her I sent you."

Then I spoke to my boss. I ranted. I behaved really badly. And I quit. My replacement was a college grad from Smith with red hair and pearls.

I'm thrilled that people now know that big banks behave badly. And, along with me, have rediscovered their urge to behave badly, too.

With a Perspective, I'm Martina Reaves.

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Martina Reaves is a retired lawyer and mediator.  She lives in Berkeley.

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