Hannah and Christina’s Trip to the Bank

An amusing anecdote that will make any American used to a semblance of urgency squirm in their seats. Hannah and Christina’s trip to the bank. (Joey and Janice’s DAY OF FUN). I had to get to the bank in town (was surprised to learn there was one) so I could take cash out to purchase my internet hookup and add value to it. The internet key looks identical to a flash drive, and rather than topping up minutes, the way you do a phone, you top up MB, or KB or whatever, so that you pay for the amount of information you download from the internet, rather than the amount of time you spend on it.  For example, uploading photos and watching YouTube will run down your credit very fast, while sending emails and browsing uses almost no space.)

We arrived at the bank, which is located in an area of the village that until that point we had no idea existed (we also now understand why the people of Njabini are insulted when we call it a village – it’s a town) at about 3:45pm.  The bank  closed at 4.  Awesome.  We saw an ATM and went to get cash.  Apparently they put a certain amount of money in it each morning (or whenever they get around to it) and when it runs out, you’re SOL. We then proceeded into the bank, where there was a line of about 10 or 11 people waiting patiently.  This is most definitely a line, but it’s certainly a manageable one, especially when it’s 15 minutes to quitting time and everyone pitches in to get through the line so they can get home for the evening.  There were three teller windows. One was unoccupied. At the second, a man sat counting money and sorting through papers, at the third, a woman was assisting a customer.  They have computers, but I get the impression that not everything is done on them, as there was a lot of carbon paper lying around and I saw one of those machines from 1970 from which you obtain the impression of a credit card by sliding a lever over and back.  After a few minutes, the woman finished with her customer, but did not summon the next person in line.  At this point, we had been waiting for probably 5 or 7 minutes. While that’s not an intolerable amount of time, the fact that we had not yet moved up even one customer was slightly alarming, as was the fact that no one seemed at all concerned with this.

We waited for a while longer, incredulously watching as people who weren’t even in line went up to the teller to retrieve forms she was handing them, chatting and laughing as if none of this was out of the ordinary.  Bank employees walked in and out of the teller area, as we waited with baited breath to see if any of them would sit at the empty window.  At one point, the man counting money and stacking forms stood up, and simply left the room.  We assumed he would come back, but no such luck.  We could see through the glass to the back of the bank where people were chatting and milling about, oblivious to the line that sat at a standstill in the front.  20 minutes, andcountless unnoticed passive aggressive glances at my watch later, we gave up.  The internet would just have to wait. The security guard who let us out of the locked front door (they had shut down shop at 4, but presumably those of us still in line would be helped before C.O.B) he looked at us with a confused expression.  We explained that we would be back in the morning when the bank opened at 8:30am; his expression didn’t change.  We explained that the line was not moving and that we didn’t have time for this (although, really, what else are we doing with our time here). Still confused. Ah, well, the American sense of urgency may be lost on the town of Njabini forever.

Incidentally, when we arrived at the bank bright and early the next morning and walked right up to the teller, he told us to use the ATM to make any withdraws. Fortunately, it must have been stocked up overnight, so I was able to complete my transaction. It’s a good thing we left when we did the night before, because had we waited for the hours it would have surely taken until finally being helped the previous evening, only to be told that I had to wait for the ATM to be filled in the morning, the security guard with the rifle might not have looked kindly upon my jumping over the partition and grabbing the money from the drawer myself.

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