The Five Stages of Banking

Daily Dose of Banking - Aug 2014

The sickly glow of fluorescent tubes reflects off the scuffed tiles of the floor. Kwaya music blasts at full volume from a television in the corner, its screen filled with animated gestures and exaggerated vocals. The line inches forward and an older lady saunters over from the seat she's been occupying to reclaim her place in the line that she had somehow staked out earlier. Everyone somehow knows this and so we shuffle appropriately. One step forward, two steps back. 

Neither 'exotic' nor 'breathtaking,' this is the daily grind . . . the mundane and the real. This is the Tanzania I'm growing to know and, somehow, to love. 

This is the bank line and, leaning heavily on K├╝bler-Ross, this is how I move through it — sometimes in order and sometimes all at once:

  • STAGE 1 [Denial] You wake up early or choose an odd hour on an idle Tuesday to head to the bank. You are savvy enough to know that the lunch hour and end of the month are all "no-go" zones. You approach the bank. The line isn't out the door! "I'll get to go straight to the front and be out of here lickety-split!" you think. Oh how wrong you are. . .
  • STAGE 2 [Anger] "For the love of all that is holy and good how can a line double back on itself this many times?" The inner rant runs wild. "How few staff can they have? Did anybody else notice how that guy cut the line? Why can't they fill out their forms before getting in line and blocking a teller? Can s/he count money any slower? Of course the internet is down! Of course! Where's a manager? Who can I tell off? I have places to go and things to do! I'm NEVER coming here again." 
  • STAGE 3 [Bargaining] Eyes scan the room looking for options, different doors to try or strategies to pursue. The inner monologue switches its tone. "If I'm polite perhaps they'll give me a front of the line pass next time. If I smile or am courteous they'll look upon me with favor. If I play dumb and 'accidentally' stand in the fast lane they won't turn me away, will they?"
  • STAGE 4 [Depression] With a thousand yard stare you resign to spend the rest of the day, if not eternity, in that line. Plans for the rest of the day/week/month/year are all dashed. The man in the threadbare suit ahead of you and the woman with the extravagantly sculpted hair behind you are the last people who will ever see you alive. You always knew bureaucracy would get you in the end.
  • STAGE 5 [Acceptance] From suffering to enlightenment, the churning of the mind comes to an end as the daily dose of banking becomes a daily moment of zen. You are who you are where you are with the people you are with in line at the bank. Nothing more and nothing less. Yes, you have things to tend to but so does the farmer in front of you and the business woman behind you. And that guy who cut the line? Maybe he came into town by bus and is pulling money out of his account to pay for a wedding, a funeral, or to buy seeds to plant maize. In time, its own time, the bank line will move. You will reach the teller and complete your transaction. All in good time. . . All in good time.

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