It was with a little apprehension that I left home that afternoon. Wish that I did not have to go, wish that there was a way to be done without even going, wish that my reason for going had not arisen in the first place… For all the wishes in the world, I still had to go and be brave too.
Going to any branch of Guaranty Trust Bank, I have heard, can be testing. Going to the branch in my hood, I know, is nothing short of war; an all out battle between man and the elements.
I got off the okada, squared my shoulders and strode purposefully towards the door. It crossed my mind, even as I walked, that something was different, but it was not until I got to the entrance that it occurred to me what it was: No queue.
The banking hall was not much different and within minutes of walking in the door I had cashed some over-the-counter money, and was standing in front of a customer service agent. “Good afternoon ma’am, may I please get an ATM card requisition form?” I asked as pleasantly as I was beginning to feel. Without a word she riffles through a file on her table and pulled out a form which she handed to me. “Thank you,” I said.
“That’ll cost you a thousand naira,” she tossed after me as I walked to a desk to complete the form. “I know!” I threw over my shoulder.
Form completed, I returned to her desk and waited my turn – again. After about a minute or a shade over a minute there was a break in her ‘busyness’ so I asked her who I should drop the form off with.
“I can’t collect the form from you o,” she said.
“That’s why I asked for who I should drop it off with,” enunciating every word.
“Ehn, nobody here will take the form from you.” She made a sweeping motion with her right hand to encompass the other two ladies at the table with her.
“And why is that so?”
“The systems are down and there is no way of verifying if your signature is irregular or not.” She offered by way of explanation. “Even if you leave the form, nobody will attend to it.”
Breathe Franque, breathe. I told myself. “So why did you give me a form then?” I wanted to know.
“You see, some people even after all the explanations still insist on collecting the form, so in order to avoid all that, I just gave you the form.”
I snorted. “So you have avoided all that, but now you have to deal with this: why did you give me a form?”
“Am sorry,” she said grudgingly, and from the missing ‘I’, it was clear her apology was given by rote.
“The form is no good to me really,” I told her. “I will leave it with you and come in another day to have you verify the signature,” and handing her the form, I bade her a lovely day and left the banking hall.
From the GT bank I went to a UBA branch, I had a payment to make into a friend’s account. I was already expecting drama from the bank’s security men. It always amuses me how much grief security men will put you through on your way into a bank, and how very deferential they are to you on your way out.
“Off ya phone.” “Hold ya phone up, hol’ am flat.” “Come out fest.” “Oya gimme the phone. Anyting dey ya pocket?” “Oya enter. Wait fest. Oya take.” Honestly, no surprises there.
Upstairs at the desk, I picked up a deposit slip and filled out the blank spaces. Halfway through, I realised I had written name where it said amount in words. I walked back to the counter to pick up another slip. As I reached into the holder, the teller pointing to the table I had just come from asks me “What’s wrong with that form?”
“I started filling it and decided I didn’t like the form anymore,” I wanted to say, but instead I smiled and explained about my mistake.
I was heading home when I remembered a mail I got from Access Bank, and since I had just walked past one, I retraced my steps and went in.
“Good afternoon ma’am,” I greeted the girls behind the customer service desk. Girls, because that was what they were, young. One, more so than the other. “I will need you to do me a big favour,” I said flashing her my most winning smile. “I can’t seem to remember my account details, so if I give you my name and signature, will you be able to help me pull it up?”
“What’s your account number?” She asked. I felt my smile start to wane.
“I don’t know it, that’s why I said ‘account details’,” I said looking her square in the face.
“Ah, which branch did you open the account at?” She asked me.
“I think it’s the Adeniyi Jones branch. You do have a branch on Adeniyi Jones, right? I am not familiar with names of some areas, but it’s around there somewhere just off Oba Akran.” I told her, hoping she would just check and knowing she didn’t exactly need the branch to check – in my experience, a branch code is usually incorporated into the account number.
“In that case there’s nothing we can do for you.” She said the words I loathe to hear, and I was about to tell her how silly that statement was when another older lady asked her to go and do something else before sliding in behind the computer and punching a few keys. She wrote something down on paper which she handed to me; my account number. I smiled and thanked her.
PS: This is a week later and I have been to that same GT bank branch a total of four times, and each time I have met the same lady, Moyosore is her name. Each time she has turned me down with an excuse that doesn’t make any sense to me: My signature is irregular. What I find amusing is that each time I have gone to her, I have had to do an over the counter transaction, and each time the tellers have paid me without a murmur. I even had to go dig up documents from six years ago – and I see that the signature has evolved in that time – but still Moyo won’t process my ATM card application because there is a swirl, or a whorl, or a loop, or a dot out of place.