Washed out Mondays and service traditions

Khuphuka Nasingeni
Monday is that day of the week that you have serious problems with, first because it separates you with the blankets before you want to and reminds you that you have to go to work or go and look for work.  

Many people believe that things start picking up on Wednesday after people shake off the rust from the weekend and this tradition of treating Monday as a hangover does not bode well for some of us, especially for believers in such, who happen to work in the service industry.

This Monday, being the highly indebted fella that yours truly is, I decided to liquidate some of the debts. This guy that owed me some bucks sent the money to me via mobile money transfer and quite early on Monday I rushed into some shop and “cashed out” the amount in slightly under five minutes.

Then my journey began. I was headed to a bank, about 80 metres away to deposit some of the money into someone’s account.  Let us call this bank, Bank A. I was already by the door when the bank opened its doors at 8am.

We filed into the bank, just three customers, and I thought I would be out in no time. Little did I know that 8am was the time when the bank opens its doors, not necessarily the time that it starts serving customers.  We asked for deposit slips, but the front office staffer/security detail was busy arranging chairs in the banking hall and collecting all sorts of stationery from this office to that in a manner that suggested that there was in no hurry, or that work was not about to start with only three customers!

Being one not gifted with much patience, I queried why it was taking long to grant us our request.  The bank teller was meanwhile twiddling her fingers while these other guys fumbled and fidgeted as we brought pressure upon them.

When the front office assistant finally emerged, they brought an improvisation of a deposit slip, did not offer an apology but felt that it was enough defence that there were no deposit slips and they were giving us these other ones meant for other purposes.

I pointed out that he was not doing us a favour but failing in his job as he had delayed us over a simple deposit slip. I had this feeling that the guy, who stared at me blankly, felt I was one of those ingrateful folks. Once the deposit slip hurdle was cleared, I dutifully joined the queue and I was the second customer in this one and only queue to the bank teller.

However, the new customer that came after the bank opened its doors was making bulk deposits, and it turned out, apart from the laborious counting of notes and coins, his banking details were mixed up as he produced rand coins while his paper work reflected pulas. After they resolved to accept only what was recorded the customer was finally served, and it was my turn. By then I had wasted 30 minutes in the bank.  This, considering it took me five minutes to withdraw the money,  elsewhere.

Indefatigably, I marched on to my next port worried that my boss would soon notice that I was not by my desk by 8.30am. Two hundred metres walk and I was at Bank P, to pay some other debt. I had to bear this as I was sternly entreated to deposit in the said banks and not wire via any other method. First impressions matter. I was impressed with the new security doors that ushered me in within seconds.

It was just before 9am and here the queues were growing longer and the same deposit slip collection ritual was repeated before I joined the queue. After waiting for a while, this big man walks up to the head of the queue playing “familiar” with the teller, and I put on such a frown Mr Ugly would have been jealous.  The teller got the message and politely told the big guy to head to the tail of the queue. I was ticking my mental service checklist. Twenty minutes later I was out, having paid my second debt.

I now had to rush to the office to relieve a colleague who also had some Monday errands to run.  I played the good employee until after lunch when I dashed to Bank C, after my friend came back to man our desk.  Here, also, I had to fill in some deposit slips that I collected from the ‘information desk’.  In the past, there were two types of slips, withdrawal and deposit.

Nowadays you get several variations within the same category, like school deposit slips, university deposit slips, corporate deposit slips and personal deposit slips… I guess this necessitates placing the slips by the information desk so that you may be informed on the correct slip, in case you slip, literally!  At Bank C, I endured 15-20 minutes in a slow moving queue and watched people play with their phones despite the notice barring the use of phones.

A mother in the queue was rescued by a crying baby and she was taken to the front and served promptly, as was the case with the giant man in new National Parks green uniform, who smiled and mumbled something that sounded like ‘senior citizen’.

The queues are not marked , just teller 1 and teller 2.  When my turn came to be served the teller(she could easily win any smiling contest anywhere) smiled me away to teller one pointing out to her colleague… ‘here is another one of the …account’.

Dear reader, suffice to say that this new account is associated with students and is supposed to offer convenience!  I had had enough of the banks experience and had agreed with my colleague at work that he would hold fort in the afternoon. My uncle’s son’s fees were yet to be sorted and he counted on me to hand over his War Vets school fees forms to the ministry office.  I was getting tired but my service survey was taking shape.

My legs reluctantly transported me to Mhlahlandlela, where in about 15 minutes a long queue was cleared by a cheerful pair that was cracking jokes with ex-fighters and their dependants.  I could not tell, however, whether this was the nature of service all day or they were this efficient towards closing since they would be preparing to go home.

I believe these guys deserve an award and Bank A would do well to send their employees to this office on attachment! Attachment got me thinking of cultural exchange and related risks, as my television told me of the threat of Zika virus.

It was the trending topic at the bar on Monday. uMzo contended that since Ebola was such a scare to westerners, should we not screen them when they come as tourists.  And the news that it has been discovered that Zika virus, discovered in Uganda’s Zika forest in 1947, can also be spread sexually, excited uMzo even more. “I have been telling you guys that even HIV research will one day discover that there are many more ways it can be spread… than we currently know.”

There was a deathly silence.  I still shall not speak…just worried over the spread of Zika virus… 30 countries affected at the last count.  India, has been affected already.. with automaker Tata, being forced to change the name of its new car, Zica, since it could be associated with the virus.  Zika or no Zika, we are a caring people and we shall welcome our tourists from all over the world in a zika-unfriendly way though!