Metropole Magazine

Today's Weather: Abuja NG: Partly Cloudy, Day 360|Night 260

29 Aug Written by  Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

The Bank Job

You rushed to the bank so early you should have been there before the bankers.

They were there anyway— you had underestimated the existential appeal a certain class of humans has for counting other people’s money. Apparently, some people would do anything to count other people’s money even if it means coming to work before resumption. You have never belonged to that class; even as a kid you’d only count your uncles’ money if you could have at least two notes.

It took years to realize why they only gave you coins to count after a while.

Looking around, the usual suspects were there, busy, or doing a good job of its mimicry: the eternally helpful guards; two bankers at the customer desk— both gazing at computers, one longingly the way a man would a beautiful woman he wants to misappropriate, the other with a ‘bother not my anointed’ frown; two tellers stood, one smart and unremarkable in the generic suit of bankers, the other from previous interactions a scowling misanthrope was scowling. Once, you had asked the scowling madam with considerable charm, “Why don’t you smile?” to which she responded with a scowl. Clearly, her range of facial expressions ranged from scowl to scowl. While some bankers are to be courted, this one is to be avoided.

So you elected to ask the longing young man about the state of your ATM card.

“When did you apply,” he asked.

Of course you couldn’t remember.

“10th August,” you said confidently.

He smiled. “I remember you. It isn’t ready.”

He got you. And minutes ago, the dude looked vacuous, like he would take six months to remember what he had for breakfast.

You fold. “But you guys said a week.” You had been alerted via email that they had withdrawn the card replacement fee.

“Ok, I’ll check.”

As he checks whatever it is bankers check, you leave your backpack on your seat and visit the toilet. Surprise, it isn’t an equal opportunity toilet: there’s a kettle, not a shiny electric kettle, a kettle; and no toilet paper. Luckily, once a boy, always a Boy Scout. You are not above giving yourself credit for having some serviettes on you.

Another problem soon shows. The pressure is low. You’ve been there before— sometimes one try doesn’t do it. It’s a perfect way to start the day, accumulating embarrassments per second. It’s bad enough to use a bank’s toilet…

Before the thought fully forms, someone enters.

He or she is using the sink just outside the door. It’s a she. She’s humming some song— could be anything from Akanchanwa to Billie Jean. She is also oblivious to the crisis taking place a few metres from her: literally trapped in a closet, a man is trying to decide whether to split or to wait for the miserable trickling valve to feel the tank. Of course, upon reflection, you know it can’t be the latter since you have just written your full name and account number on a piece of paper. The computer would readily spill that passport with the shrine-like background you took years ago. And anyway that genius-disguised-as-vacuous-banker would remember you.

You wait. And wait. And wait. Between the droning melodies of Akanchawa or Billie Jean and the drip, drip of the toilet’s water supply, you want to stuff your ears— but what would you use? There’s no toilet paper, or serviettes. So you wait.

It takes a while but by some lavatorial synchronicity, the tank fills same time as the singing stops. It is a miracle! One more turn of the lever and mercifully the evidence of misdemeanour, like sin, was washed away. A sigh escapes from your lips. You wipe the nascent sweat on your temple.

You crack the door open a little. The humming madam has just left, so you are free to use the sink. You scrub eagerly like a child about to eat with elders. Satisfied, you make to leave but you notice, on the door, a roster for cleaning: below several signatures is an NB stating “the toilet must be clean and fresh.” For some reason, ‘clean and fresh’ reminds you of newly baked bread. In addition, it states, “there must be toilet paper at all times.” Now out of quasi-voluntary incarceration, you feel you have all the time in the world; so, you look for the day’s date. Right beside the date, someone has signed. Someone has signed that he or she has indeed provided toilet paper. You shake your head.

In the banking hall, the banker who, it becomes apparent, wasn’t waiting for you announces to you that the ATM card has not arrived. He smiles smugly, and says, I told you. You smile back and pray he inputs wrong figures before the day ends.

This means you have to queue to withdraw funds. You pick your backpack and do just that. A few minutes later, now just two people away from salvation, your bag elicits a song. You don’t believe it at first. But it continues. You know what has happened: your considerably old, and reasonably derided, laptop, in its infinite wisdom, has overridden the standby mode to the glory of soul music.

It is the Manhattans. Some guy is in the middle of a breakup and agonising over the decision, singing, “let’s just kiss and say goodbye.”

The banking hall comes alive as it looks for the source. Some people on the queue look in your direction. You check: the ground hasn’t opened to receive you. Thus, you’ll have to walk the three kilometres to the exit.

You want to sprint out into the open and holler expletives in the general direction of the ceiling as you run. But you don’t. Instead, you take one heavy step after another. You make out a line from the Manhattans’ song, ‘It’s gonna hurt me, I can’t lie...’

It is an apt line. But, of course, you don’t realise it at the time.