“You have to sign again.” The bank teller tells me from behind the glass screen. So I sign again. She looks at the bank withdrawal slip for a while and looks up at me with a smile. “Will you please give me a moment?” I want to say, “No, you can’t have a moment. I refuse to give you a moment because I have been on that bloody queue for 15mins and I have to go before the butchery closes. So you will excuse me if I’m not too generous with my moments.” Instead, I nod meekly and say, “Sure.” What can I do? The tedium of banking can’t be understated, even when you are getting your own money you sound like a beggar.
You take a number and you hang around waiting for number 128 to be called. You take the only seat available. It’s coming to four in the evening and you want to get the hell out of there before half of Nairobi pours into the roads from the office. You are on your phone when suddenly this pregnant lady shuffles in, dramatically dragging her feet on the floor. One look at her feet and you take back the word, “dramatic” because her feet are the size of an old cactus tree. Poor lady. She stands against the wall next to these dreadful people who simply ignore her because they are on Twitter or Facebook or Whatsapp. You stand up to offer your seat and a gentleman, this short balding guy with sausages for fingers, makes to take your seat and you say, “It’s for her,” pointing at the pregnant lady, “unless you are also expectant.” He grins with embarrassment as the pregnant lady drags her feet towards you. “Thank you so much,” she whispers with a smile as she slowly lowers herself in the seat.
You feel good about this gesture. Your mother would be so proud of you. You have also effortlessly made the guys who were seated as the pregnant lady stood look really uncouth and douchie, a bunch of savages planting their asses on the seat as the pregnant lady stands. She could be carrying a future leader for chrissake. Or, to be objective, a politician. Still.
“We seem to have a problem with your signature, Mr. Ougo.” A gentleman who seems to be a supervisor is telling you through the glass partitioning. Standing behind her, as moral support or backup, is the lady teller you had been dealing with.
“What’s wrong with my signature?” you ask defensively.
“Well,” the gentleman looks at the slip again, “It’s different.”
“But you can tell it’s me surely. You have my national identification and all!” Your voice is getting high pitched -not a good thing because now you are sounding like a hurt girl.
“Yeah, we have your ID, but we also need to verify this signature before we release your funds,” he smiles with embarrassment. “It’s purely protocol. All to protect your money.”
“I just gave a pregnant lady my seat guys,” you say, “I can’t possibly be a thief. Thieves don’t give away their seats. Do they?”
They look at each other. “Would you be kind as to sign on this sheet of paper again?” says the gentleman. He slips the blank sheet of paper under the glass partitioning. I sign thrice and send it back. They gather their heads together to study my signature. I turn to look at the pregnant lady and she avoids my eyes, maybe thinking I’m trying to steal money from someone’s account.
“They still don’t match,” the gentleman announces, “all three of them.”
“OK, so clearly I can’t sign to save my life.” I shrug, “So what now? You want to call the police? Am I being detained by your bank for trying to withdraw my own money after I have offered my seat to a pregnant woman?”
They laugh and say, “No, Mr. Ougo…”
“It’s Biko.” I snap.
“OK, Mr. Biko, we might have to ask you to get a new signature and try and use it consistently.” He slips another piece of paper under the glass partitioning. “Do you want to sit somewhere to practice your signature?”
I don’t want to practice anything. I want to leave early so that I can find the butchery opened but at this rate, Macharia will be closed by the time I validate my parking ticket from this mall. I really was in the mood to eat some meat for dinner. Tough chance at this rate I’m being told to practice a signature.
I grumpily go to a corner to practice my signature like a primary school child who didn’t finish his homework. When I’m done I head straight to the counter and someone in the queue says rudely, “Boss, we are in the queue here!”
I turn to stare him down only to realise it’s Macharia. Oh, at least I will be getting my meat after all this stress.
By Biko Zulu