It is Saturday. My husband is away traveling in the United States (San Francisco). The kids and I are living the London life. Unfortunately, that involves the occasional trip to our local branch of *%$@, festering turd of a bank that finds itself acceptable.
Have you been to a bank in America? You get in line, go to the teller (that’s “counter service” here) and get your shit done, whatever that may be. It’s pretty straightforward. Generally. If you need something more complicated done, you see someone and sort it out. I have never had a big complicated problem. Never.
So why is it that every time I go to the local branch of our UK bank there is some problem? I mean every time. I am not exaggerating even though I am, admittedly, prone to hyperbole.
The first time I went there to pay our UK taxes and was sent elsewhere because my husband was not physically present and they needed him even though I am on the account too. Perhaps they were concerned that I was some crazed vindictive bitch who wanted to pay lots of money to her majesty’s revenue just for the fun of it, against my husband’s will. So they had better have him present.
The second time, I went to open a bank account for my seven-year-old daughter. So that we could put her modest 4 GBP/week allowance in there via direct deposit and start teaching her some financial responsibility. I had filled out the application, vetted such for what would be required, shown up with passport in hand, all pleased with myself for thwarting, in advance, any stupid English bullshit likely to ensue. But wait.
I got there and they said I “needed an appointment.” I had a mini hissy fit and then they finally talked to me and said that I could not open the account anyhow because my 7-year-old needed to be physically present in case I was trying to open an account for money laundering purposes by creating a fraudulent child.
Um, are you fucking kidding me? I informed them that I had opened just such an account for my other minor child only months before without her physical presence. “Yes, the rules have changed, madame,” I was informed.
I then asked them if they thought it would be particularly fruitful in my criminal career if I were planning to launder a mere 4 GBP per week, at which the woman allowed herself at least a somewhat sympathetic look.
I mean SERIOUSLY.
Plus it would have been an awful lot of trouble for me to get a fake passport for said child. I demanded to open the account. “I am supposed to be a premier customer,” I said. “You know us; you have all of our information. I have an account here. It isn’t like I just wandered in off the street with my fake kid’s passport.”
The woman finally agreed to help me. But I had to queue (of course).
Finally some lady beckoned me over. We got pretty far into the process and then she asked for my kid’s visa, which of course is no longer in her passport but in the form of a super convenient separate biometrics card that I did not have on me because it did not occur to me that I would need THAT to open the damn account.
So there I was, foiled again, and ended up leaving without having opened the account. I had to go back on Monday with the biometrics card to do it. At which time, of course, there was a computer “fault” and the woman had to call the help line, which didn’t appear to be a different number or procedure than had she not been internal to the bank. I sat there, dumbfounded, wondering whether Lord Nelson was at that very moment turning in his grave at the complete incompetence and breakdown that has ensued in this country since the English beat the French at the Battle of Trafalgar. And finally, finally, the damn paperwork was done and I walked — no, practically ran — out, hoping that the account would eventually be activated and that I would receive notice of such in the post.
So after a couple of weeks the damn thing did show up. Yippee doodle.
Today, said kid’s soccer match was canceled on account of rain, so I said “not to worry, dearie, we will head to the local bank branch and deposit some money for you.” Figured I would teach her a little about how it works.
I checked the hours and confirmed that the bank was indeed open until 2pm. So we counted coins (yes got a good math lesson in there to boot), put them in the correct plastic baggies which I had obtained in advance, and headed up there.
When I opened the door I knew right away that my luck with this branch was not about to change. The shades on both tellers’ windows were drawn, and there was a tired, lazy, sorry-looking bunch of people slumped in the handful of chairs against the wall, waiting to be “helped.”
I managed to get some lady’s attention and said “excuse me, but isn’t there any counter service? We have just come to deposit some cash and do a transfer for my daughter here.”
“Oh there is no counter service on Saturdays. You can’t deposit the cash today.”
I blinked, maybe a few times, and then I forget what I even said. But the response was that there had not been “counter service here for eight years, madame. Because it isn’t a working day.”
I bit my tongue when the desire to remark “well YOU are working today” rose up in my throat in a bilious gurgle. And then we walked out the door.
You know, I have lived here for over three years. And yes, I am not English, and still don’t “get” certain things. But damnation these people are ridiculous.
I can’t even fully do it justice by describing the episodes in this blog. I cannot. You would simply have to come experience it for yourselves.
And if you English readers are clucking and shaking your head and thinking “oh you just don’t understand about how things work here,” well I’ve got news for you, lads and lasses, you are RIGHT. I don’t get it. I don’t get it at all because THEY DON’T fucking work. It’s a miracle that anything ever ends up getting done here at all.
So we headed out to run other errands and have a nice lunch, plastic baggies of coins still in hand.
And to think I had that fake passport made all for nothing. Sheeyit.