Here’s some advice about asking your bank teller out for a date: don’t do it by writing a cryptic message on a slip of paper and then passing it to her while you fidget and sweat on the other side of the counter. That was my mistake. I walked into the bank at what I figured would be a slow time (mid-afternoon) on a slow day (Wednesday). Indeed, there was very little activity: one guy in the waiting area flipping languidly through Maclean’s; a young couple listening earnestly to every promising word issuing from one of the financial advisors; an old man at the little forms kiosk, crouched over a deposit or withdrawal slip as if he were making an etching.

Perfect. I didn’t want her to be distracted by the unrelenting and tedious bustle of a long line of customers. There was a lull and she was talking cheerily to the teller next to her, a heavily made-up woman wearing a bad combination of chartreuse and fuchsia. I should have typed out a nice legible message on a card at home, but I had forgotten to in the foggy-headed anticipation of finally acting on my desires. The old man, the etching complete, stepped up to the multi-colored teller and handed his work to her. More people entered the bank and I rushed up and grabbed one of the forms and thought I was clearly writing this on the back of it:

hi, I like you. My name is Frank. Would you like to go out with me sometime?

But I tend to write badly when I am in a hurry, and—as the police officer later confided to me—she assumed from the scrawl that I was requesting something negative, and it was a bank, so …

I remember that she didn’t say a word to me as I smiled and slid the paper toward her. An odd look swept across her face. She cleared her throat and looked down at what I had written.

“Sir?” she said.

“It’s Frank.”

“Yes. I mean … You … Sir?”

“I wrote it all down there. Otherwise I thought it’d be awkward.”

The police officer also explained that many banks have now equipped all the tellers’ stations with a foot-activated alarm, so that the tellers aren’t blatantly reaching down to press a button while an edgy robber, gun in hand and pressed for time, watches their slow-motion actions, the eyes darting, the hand gradually disappearing under the counter.

“Sir, if you—”

“Frank. Please call me Frank.”

“Frank. OK, Frank, if you would just tell me what you would like me to do, what you want, then I hope we can resolve this.”

“Resolve? Well, Valerie, I was hoping … Is it OK if I call you Valerie?”

“Sure.”

“I was just hoping that maybe we could just go out to a movie or something some time. You know, just go out some time.”

“Sir?”

“Please. Frank.”

“Yes. Right. Ah, go out?”

“Yeah. You know, like a date.”

“And the money?”

“Excuse me?”

“The money. From here. The bank. The money you’re robbing.”

It was about then that there was a loud noise at the entrance, and I turned around to see that police officer there with—well, with a gun pointed at me.

“Drop your weapon, sir,” he said.

I looked down at the pen that was still in my hand, unable to see how this could be construed as anything other than an innocent writing implement. Sure, maybe some psycho bent on dispatching his victim regardless of the lack of standard weapon: Joe Pesci used a pen pretty effectively in Casino. But I—

I turned back to Valerie, only to see that she had vacated her station—in fact, all the tellers had. I saw my note still there on her side of the counter, upside down, and while I was reaching for it I heard his voice at my shoulder (“… the weapon …”), then his hand, and a muffled scream from someone at the back of the bank.

The police officer was calm and understanding. I deciphered the note for him, which he had rescued as potential evidence, and he just chuckled as I guided him through my atrocious handwriting.

“Ever thought of a career in medicine? You know, writing prescriptions?”

I turned to look at him one last time as I left the station, and he was still laughing, and nodding his head, and now he had his arm around the shoulder of a fellow officer. I thought I heard “dating his teller,” and then guffaws, as the door whooshed shut behind me.