So, I was at the bank the other day, thinking that I will be done with my business quickly, because it was weekend and no one goes to bank on a lovely Saturday morning such as that. My surprise was a delight, when I found out that at least fifty other people thought the same. When I entered the bank, I took my number and looked at the display. The highest number was 130. My number was 172. After a slight hit of despair, I realized that I had nothing better to do, so I decided to stay and wait.
The minutes lingered, as display numbers slowly moved up. It seemed that I was going to be there for hours. Most of the people in the bank are a lot older than me, probably pensioners coming to take their monthly income. All bank windows were operating, but there we just too many of them. However, what gave me a bit of hope was the fact that it did not look like there were forty people before me. So, maybe some of them just took their numbers and then left. It certainly did not look like there were forty people before me, more like twenty. Or perhaps that was just my mind trying to find some relief in the given situation.
Standing and waiting in lines has always been the worst part of going to any institution here. It has made people postpone important tasks and events because it exhausts and drains one’s spirit. There is something Kafkaesque about it, the way everyone feels helpless and desperate out of their necessity to be there mixed with the fact that they have to go through it all.
After about half an hour, some more people came in, took their numbers, sighed and found their seat near one of the bank windows. To be honest, I have already accepted the reality that I will probably spend at least another half an hour there. And then, it started happening. The numbers were called on the display, but no one was approaching the bank windows. It appeared that I was right. Maybe now, everything would go faster. Still, after ten numbers without response, it came to a halt again. Number 143 came up, and I checked mine again, as if I was not sure it was that far away. Suddenly, I heard someone clearing their throat behind me. When I turned around, I saw the bank guard looking at me significantly.
“You should just go,” he said, a man just over middle age, in a nice white shirt with the bank brand on it, and the most keys on a chain that I have ever seen on his belt.
“Excuse me?” I replied. At first, it took me a while to understand what he meant.
“If the number shows up on the display, and you see no one responding, just go,” the guard explained. The numbers went by faster again.
“I can’t do that,” I complained.
“Why not?” he asked.
“Because… I can’t…,” I repeated and I could feel I was starting to blush. The number on the display was 148. That was not so bad anymore. The woman next to me had 186. My position was certainly at least a bit better than hers.
“Hey,” there was the guard’s voice again.
“Yes?” I replied. He signalled me to come closer, to his desk. Reluctantly, I followed his instructions, and stood behind him. He was holding a paper with number 152 in his hands, behind his back. When the initial confusion wore off, I reached for the paper and took it.
“Someone left it at my desk, so you can use it now,” the guard said.
“Thank you,” I said.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said as I quietly went back to where I was standing before. Looking around the bank, I wondered what numbers other people had.
The display showed 149. The uncomfort was increasing, as I looked over my shoulder, too see if anyone noticed what happened and what I held in my hand. Someone definitely registered what the guard gave me and what I accepted. Number 150 was called, no one responded. When number 151 came up, a woman went to the bank window and started sorting her papers and giving them to the bank clerk. Four out of five bank windows were busy, which meant that it was going to be my turn soon. Number 152 appeared in three red digits on a black screen placed on the wall. As I stepped forward, it felt wrong. Many would not have a problem with it, but I am an overthinker, and I have never done this before. Personally, I do not approve it. However, the damage had already been done. On my way to the bank window, which seemed like the longest path to cross, I thought that someone was about to stop me and say in front of everyone that I was not supposed to be next. Despite my internal overreactions, nothing happened. No one said anything, no one was even bothered.
The business at the bank window was quickly done. Maybe it took two minutes. As I turned to leave, I tried to find the woman with number 186. Once I saw her among others, I passed next to her and dropped my number 172 in her lap.
“It’s not much, but it still a bit of an improvement. It will be quick,” I said, careful not to draw other people’s attention.
“Thank you,” she said, a bit confused.
“Don’t worry about it, that’s how I went sooner,” I replied. The security green light flashed on the bank door and I opened it, with one foot already outside. Then I turned around and smiled at the guard.
“Have a good day,” he said and smiled back.
“You, too,” I uttered and the rush of the street dived into my senses.