Tuesday 17 March 2009

Meanwhile, back in the Bank branch, I’m trying to be nice and remain calm!


It’s official. The word ‘iconic’ has just become iconic. It’s an iconic word. Pure iconic.
Our 21st century culture craves ultimates as if there indeed is no tomorrow. The God of Greed no longer sits up high on Mount Olympus, so you need to find a new inspiration, seeking hyperbole and exaggeration where adjectives and a varied vocabulary used to do a fair job. It’s no longer sufficient for anything to be unique, special, vital or extraordinary.
If it’s not iconic it’s not worth a busted light bulb.
In the past few days I have heard Salt and Vinegar being described as an iconic crisp flavour; Granny Smiths declared an iconic apple variety, and Charlie Haughey referred to as an iconic leader.
Tell me pray, where does cheeky Charlie’s iconic photo fit on the iconic Irish dresser? Somewhere between the Pope and Jacks Kennedy and Charlton?


Rain or shine, rich or poor, every time I undress I have always emptied any change in my pockets into my coin jars. The €1 and €2 coins go into the Jameson Twelve gift-set bottle holder, and all the smaller ones clish-clash into the regular Jameson bottle holder.
Living as I do on a 24 hour financial cycle, as soon as I have notes in my wallet I break them into change, which I empty into my jars like a man possessed, or to be truthful, like a man who knows only too well how quickly those crisp notes disappear and how great it is to have a replenished coin jar when the cash is no longer flowing in.
I dip daily in and out of the Euro jar, but never ever touch the change jar. When that is full it's mine to use as a special treat, maybe a meal out with the Snapper or a new pair of walking boots.
So it was with a smile and a spring in my step that I set out to the bank to swap my carefully-counted coin bags for lovely fresh folding notes.
Thankfully the bank was really quiet. I always seem to be the bloke in queue stuck behind the bloke with the bloody bag full of coins that need sorting, and that day I was that bloke with the bag of coins, and didn’t want to hold anybody up.
But cushty, straight up to the counter and having established that it’s okay to swap coin, I put my bags on the counter, a thrill running through me about the €163 about to fall into my eager palm.
The teller was a 50 year-old woman who I think was having a bad day. Hey, I’m a compassionate guy, and well aware how hard it must be working in a bank these days. As the major point of contact between the bank and public, tellers have been subjugated to abuse from punters who need to vent their anger at the banks’ greed and ineptitude.
I knew this, and have worked many years in retail, so I sympathise with the workers’ plight. I smiled and engaged the woman, like
“...oh yes I must say we really seem to be into Spring now the evenings are drawing out and the mornings well it’s so light so early now...”
kinda thing, d’ya know, to ease her load and show her I’m not angry with her at all, because I never kill the messenger, and am sure that her worst crimes concern a fleeting kiss with Mikey round the back of the barn when she was 22 and going out with Seanie and should have known better, and awarding herself an extra 25 points when she was playing Scrabble with her sister-in-law who she just cannot stand, sure isn’t it terrible, but she just can’t seem to stop herself thinking she’s a conniving cow that one is, so she is, not even close to worthy of her brother, so she isn’t.
An evil investment banker who has fraudulently robbed millions she was not.
But for once my smile and social skills failed miserably.
As the teller turned to look at my coin bags, the first words out of her mouth were:
“That one is short. Hmmph, and that one looks more than a tenner.”
Having sat for two hours at my kitchen table with aching back, blackened fingers, pen and pad, I felt pretty sure my bags were all correct, but nevertheless my heart sank. Yer wan behind the counter was way more experienced at spotting errant coin bags than I ever could be, so maybe it was all about to go horribly wrong.
But no. All the bags were taken off, weighed and counted, and she came back and stated simply:
Sadly and rather embarrassingly, this made me feel instantly and ridiculously proud and as happy as if I had just been awarded the Nobel prize for Literature.
I had made the miserable teller eat coin bag, and now she was going to give me three €50 notes, a€10, a and three €1 coins.
“Now, that’s €163, less €2 charge, so €161.”
“Oh, when did you start charging?”
“We always have charged if you are not lodging.”
“Oh well, in that case I must have enjoyed a great deal of goodwill up to now, as I have been doing this about once every six months for years, and nobody has ever charged me before.”
And then came her weird and basically nasty reply:
“Oh, you never got caught yet?”
Caught? Pardon me? I’m well aware that the task she just performed took a little time, and that the bank made nothing from the transaction, but well, bloody hell, pubs don’t charge you for a glass of water, do they?
It’s just seen as common decency. I was a simple bloke emptying his coin jar, hoping that the bank would swap coins for notes, on a non-formal non-commercial level.
I wasn’t a robber, or a criminal pervert, or god forbid, a banker!
Let’s face it, right now banks surely need to learn some Public Relations skills, drastically and massively. Where is Max Clifford when you need him? Goodwill as ever comes from the banks in the form af accusation, impatience and disrespect.
Meanwhile back in the branch your colyoomist was trying to remain calm.
Be nice.
Don’t seethe.
Don’t curse.
“No, madam, I could never have been ‘caught’, because I wasn’t trying to get away with anything!”

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