Kaieteur News – I heard him before I saw him. I was pleased however that he had arrived outside of the bank before I did. He was prompt, not always a virtue that people are proud to display. “What happening partner? Like you still suffering from jet lag. You don’t know this is Guyana?” he bellowed loud enough for the taxi operators and the vendors to hear. They all turned in his direction to see who was so boisterous. I approached slowly. The taxi drivers waited in anticipation of the next blast. The vendors kept looking around, one eye for customers, the other for the pavement constabulary. He smiled as I got nearer and then barked, “This is not Uncle Sam. The later you come here, the longer you stay. The line is long inside. Let’s go.” And with that we strode into the foyer of the bank. Inside, indeed, there was a long line. Memories of the Guylines came flooding back. That was in the day when almost everything was short and you had to either join lines or have lines (connections) to obtain the basic necessities of life. Being inside was like stepping into another world. The place was clean, posh and air-conditioned. I heard something like a whisper and looked around to see whether anyone was behind me. There wasn’t anyone.
Then the voice grew to a faint sound. It was my friend. He said, “I just told you is this line we have to join. What happen, you have wax in your ears?
I was momentarily stunned. This same loud-mouthed brat that I had called a friend had been reduced to a quiet church mouse by the atmosphere in the bank. The same man who was seconds ago screaming to the top of his voice. He had been reduced to feeble squeak.
We stood in line like sentries. Everything was quiet. You could hear the drop of a cotton ball. The staff moved around behind the teller lines with vigour. No one seemed to be idle. Even the lady sitting behind a desk was concentrating on the papers in front of her. And unless you could read lips, you could not tell what they were saying to each other when they did speak.
Someone coughed in the line. It was like a gunshot. Everything stopped. Even the tellers behind the counter looked up to see from where the sound emanated. It was a fellow in front of us. I prayed that a sneeze would not follow. Or worse yet a fart. In this environment that would be like sending a bomber into action.
Eventually, our turn came and we went to the head of the queue. The banking operations in Guyana are now computerised but it seems to have made only a marginal impact on the time it takes to complete a transaction. But there is really no main difference between the service time here and overseas where the lines fortunately move much quicker and are usually shorter.
We completed what we went for and began our exit. I noticed my friend was walking on his toes, not wanting his shoes to squeak on the floor and disturb the peace.
As we pushed the door open and stepped onto the pavement, my friend came to life. “Whew! He said, that was an experience!”
He hailed a cab. Rather he screamed for one. His voice could have been heard right to the next corner. He was back to normal.
As I walked away, one of the vendors approached me. He was pedalling framed quotations. I was not interested. But the one on top of the pile caught my eye. It read, “Quiet speech is a mark of refinement.”
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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