I stood in line at the bank today, it was a long line, twenty five people waiting to see three tellers. In front of me was a mother and daughter, then a large man with dreadlocks and beyond him a number of normal people on their lunch break.
Behind me was a short man, overweight, middle aged, wearing black cargo pants, torn at various places and a black shirt. A bank clerk came out of a side door and walked along the line, asking people what their business was and offering them alternatives to seeing a teller. He offered the woman in front of me the use of a computer to do some online banking but not one of the people took up his offer, all of them saying they would rather wait.
He came to me;
“What would you like to do today?” he asked.
“I need a bank cheque.”
“You’ll have to wait for a teller.”
“Thank you,” I said and smiled and he smiled. It was nice.
He went to the man behind me.
“What do you need to do today?” he asked.
“I need receipts,” the man behind me said.
“You can come over to the computer on the wall here sir and print those receipts out,” the man offered kindly, with a soft non-confrontational voice.
“No!” the man yelled, “I want to see a real human, I don’t want a bloody computer, I came in to see someone,”
Shocked by the man, the bank clerk tried to calm the situation down.”
“Yes sir, no problems.” The clerk continued to speak to people further along the line.
“What you can do,” the man in black began, “Is put more people on, more tellers would help, you should put on more staff.”
“It’s lunch break sir, they have gone to lunch.”
“You don’t need to put all the people out to lunch at once do you? Surely lunch time is the bank’s busiest time, you should have more staff on.”
“There are three tellers on…”
“There should be more,” the man was yelling now, “Screw the bank profits, forget the shareholders, you should put more tellers on.”
The clerk, a little shaken by the man’s aggressive attitude, ducked through the line and disappeared through a door in the other side of the building.
“He’s ducked off,” the man began. A teenage girl in front of me was giggling and almost leaping about in joy, excited at the event. She covered her mouth and spun around looking at the man.
“This guy agrees,” the man said pointing at me as I turned. “You agree don’t you?”
“Yes,” I said, “when I think of banks I think of a boot stamping on a person’s face forever.” (paraphrasing George Orwell.)
“Exactly, they should have more staff working, not running around yapping at you. I don’t let anyone stand over me, I give them what for. I don’t step down for anyone.”
“What’s your background?” I asked.
“I’m Australian,” he said.
“What do you do?” he asked.
“This, that and the other.” I answered turning away.
“Well let me see, R.M. Williams boots, nice trousers, a little frayed here…” He pointed at a spot where I had scraped against something.
“Look at you,” I said a little angry at him. He was loud and I felt he was starting to pick on me. “You’ve holes in your pants, look at them. You should get a job and buy yourself new pants.”
“Why should I!” he yelled, “Why should I?”
“I don’t care, but don’t pick on what I’m wearing.”
At this he calmed down.
“You’re too serious, people are too serious these days.”
We stood quietly as the line continued. Then he said;
“You know these banks and all their profit, and the supermarkets and all the big businesses, they collect sales tax. They hold it for thirty days in their accounts and make all the interest off it. They pocket the interest off our money.”
I understood this and I agreed. “Yes, they are flat out making money all the time. The big businesses run the country.”
“Exactly, I tell people this all the time and they don’t understand.”
He was standing next to me now, like we were friends in a conspiracy or comrades in a revolution.
“Privatization will ruin the citizen,” he said. “The government sell off our assets, to make themselves money today, but tomorrow we are paying higher prices to private companies who don’t care or feel any need to answer to us. All our essential services are gone, out of our reach.”
I agreed. We were thick together now.
He reached into his pocket and retrieved an old badge. It had the image of Lenin on a red background.
The man was a socialist and I liked him.
My novel The Bomber will be released on June 24th 2015.
Please order a copy through your favorite actual or online bookstore today