MARLENE DEE GRAY POTOURA
An entry in The Crocodile Prize
Steamship Short Story Award
MAISY GOT ON THE RICKETY old PMV bus in Eriku and went to top town. It was 8:40 am, but the heat of the sun plus the dust from the half sealed road was unbearable. The driver drove like a maniac trying to avoid the deep pot holes and at the same time illegally overtaking other vehicles from his right.
When the bus stopped in top town, Maisy pushed her way out of the heavy stale of sweat and grim interior of her transport. She walked around the huge bags of betel nut, which she suspected belonged to three women conversing loudly in their mother tongue and continued polluting all the passengers with their Cambridge. She squinted in the blistering sun and quickened her pace, placing a 20 toea coin in Samu the beggars out stretched hands. She avoided and ignored the street sellers, who were trying to sell her Chinese made sunglasses.
She rushed on to BSP Bank.
She sighed as she was once again greeted with the bank queue and its language.
‘Iiiaha, pliso! Bai mipla sanap go nite nating lo hia yia’ (Goodness! Please! We will stand here till its dark) a man who towered over everyone bellowed.
‘Gaige lek! Ol teller yia blary slek olsem tumbuna meri blo ol stret!’(Eat leg! The tellers are as slack as their grandmother) cut jeans who looked like he was on an errand for his aunty complained.
‘Basta! Em moni blo yupla or blo mipla, hariap o!’ (Bastard! Is that your money or ours? Hurry up!) a voice boomed right next to Maisy and she was startled to see a barefoot, long beard man with a black brief case.
Maisy joined the queue and stood at the back of a man wearing Ghandi like spectacles. He was reading the National Paper and was engrossed on the report about the PNG Power entourage, gallivanting across Europe. His mouth was opened half way and he did see a lone fly whizzing back and forth next to his lips. Maisy lifted her right hand to swat the fly but then she smiled and felt like a total idiot.
‘What is this blooming line for?’ boomed a voice behind Maisy.
‘Is this an ATM queue? BSP yia, ol lain blo kamap wantaim kainkain play up!’ (BSP is always coming up with all sorts of play up) Maisy turned around and was surprised to see that the powerful voice belonged to a little plump woman. She had beautiful grey curly hair and a pair of shiny reading glasses. There was no doubt that this woman was in the category of ‘little old grandmother with a blade for a tongue.’
‘No, this is the normal queue for Deposit, Cheque accounts, Withdrawals and Overseas Transactions. The ATM queue is over there,’ Maisy briefed the woman.
‘What? No! No! Security!’ Shiny reading glasses called.
‘Why are we standing outside, ha? Explain!’ goodness, powerful preacher like voice demanded. Everyone murmured support and mama no nonsense, puffed herself up like a peacock and strut back and forth.
‘Look!’ mama shiny yelled. ‘That security has just let an Asian in!’ she shoved her way out of the queue and faced the security guard.
‘That Asian, is from a company and they made an early appointment, mama’ the bank security explained softly.
‘Blary pipia excuses (Bloody rubbish excuses). You stupid Papua New Guinean! Playing a racist to your own people!’ mama shiny glasses pointed her short chubby pointer at the guard.
‘Sapose ol white man, bai yupla larim ol go insait hariap. Tasol mipla ol asples, maski, mipla animal o’ meri blouse lady blurted. (If there were white people, you’d let them go in quickly. But we the people of this land, forget it, we must be animals!)
‘That’s right! We are punished to wait outside as if we are not from this land!’ Mama shiny glasses roared.
Ghandi like spectacles never lifted his head once and wasn’t even stirred. The man in front of him had moved, but Ghandi was rooted to the spot, as he was shaking his head and inhaling deeply from the scent of the story on his paper.
‘Brother reading the paper, please move!’ mama shiny glasses commanded as if she was the commanding queue officer.
He moved without looking up.
The bank door opened and the next ten were called in. Maisy went in and joined the inside queue. The wall clock was right on 10. Goodness! She had waited for about an hour on the outside queue.
A mobile’s ringtone belted out Firehouse ‘I am here for you’ and broke the unnatural forced blank stillness.
‘Put off that mobile!’ the security guard commanded.
Maisy did not move for the next fifteen minutes. The indoor queue was slower, colder and silent, like a slow sickly moving serpent.
‘Please, hurry up! Hey! What are all these computers for? How come we have two tellers on all sides?’ a man in overall and huge dirty boots asked loudly.
‘Please, wait patiently!’ the security guard called out in a fed up sort of way.
‘Patient? Patient? You stupid! How much money do you have in this bank, ha?’ black brief case somehow emerged ahead of Maisy. He turned and faced the security guard.
‘I am employed to work here and uphold the bank policies’, the guard came over and challenged black brief case.
‘You close your mouth! This bank has stupid policies. You people expect us to stand for hours and hours, while your tellers dawdle and meander at this pace! We want to be served quickly! We need to get rid of this trend! Standing, standing, bah!’ black brief case finished off with a lot of murmuring, head nodding and ‘true, exactly, em nau (that’s it)’ from surrounding supporters.
By the time it was 10:30 am, Maisy had moved only twice. She counted the people in front of her. Twenty five! Good grief! This was another of those unthinkable BSP queues.
Maisy looked across to teller number three. Two years ago he didn’t bulge out, but now he was heaving humps both front and back. He must have gotten married, Maisy thought. Now and then, he’d side smiled and anyone could tell his mind was elsewhere. As she watched him; he rolled his tongue over his lips and slammed the bank stamp simultaneously. This guy was as slow as a ninety year old papa.
Another mobile rang on the deposit queue and a woman answered with a very loud ‘hello’.
‘Turn off the phone!’ the guard bellowed again.
The woman ignored the guard and continued talking on the phone, until she was well over satisfied. The guard announced, ‘Some you do not listen. You must turn off your mobile phones, when you enter this bank.”
‘That was my boss, instructing me to get a bank cheque. You shouldn’t yell at customers’ the woman told him coolly. The guard had nothing to say and stood there speechless.
By the time Maisy moved to the middle of the queue, it was 11 O’clock. Ghandi like spectacle was still deeply immersed in his paper. Maisy looked down at his shoes and saw that the guy had worn his shoes wrong on each foot. She nearly laughed out loud, but stopped instantly. Even the shoe laces didn’t match. Was this guy in a hurry because of the traditional long queue and had just grabbed what he could make do with? Maisy looked at his knapsack and saw a tag and furtively turned it around ‘Professor Wildenn Kanari. Unitech’. What the ....! Maisy inhaled and then gave a deep sigh! That’s right, ‘Never measure someone by their physical appearance.’ She looked at Ghandi like spectacle and a sense of respect overwhelmed her.
‘Great balls of fire! Another queue?’ Shiny glasses voice boomed loud and clear, as the bank door closed behind her.
‘Mama, please just join the queue’, the guard kindly instructed her.
‘Hey! Who are you? I stood on a very long queue outside in the sweltering heat and you expect me to be quiet?’ mama shiny glasses faced up to the guard.
There was a wave of complaints and murmurings that sent the bank manager out of her cubicle. But mama shiny glasses still continued on with her degraded rights as a citizen.
‘No, no, this is inhumane. How can we stand in the scorching sun outside and then come into the bank and join another queue in this freezing air condition. I will not have it!’ mama shiny complained loudly.
‘You people take our money and then we have to suffer to get it back. Totally unacceptable to me. I think, I will start to bury my money in the ground like my papa did!’ mama spectacle continued.
Maisy heard giggles and smirks from all around.
‘No, true. This banking system is worse than ever. We all should start thinking about burying our money,’ supported black brief case loudly.
Maisy looked at the clock on the wall. It was 12 O’clock.
The professor was the third from the front and Maisy was the fourth. The queue behind Maisy had gotten longer than ever, but four more tellers were now in front of the empty computers. Oh well!
Maisy looked over at number 2 teller. She was busy counting hundreds kinas and handing them to black briefcase. Maisy looked at teller 1, who was her favourite. He was fast and efficient and always greeted her first, then served her. Maisy’s eyes moved back to teller 2, who continuously handed hundred kina notes to black briefcase. Then black brief case, pulled out a one hundred kina note and pushed it under the counter and said, ‘Buy your lunch’. The teller grinned like a Cheshire cat and pocketed the money.
At 12:45 Maisy reached the head of the long queue. She looked back and saw dismal long forlorn faces. Mama shiny spectacle was now absorbed in a deep and meaningful whispering conversation with a young school student. Maisy looked across to teller 3, who was serving the silent as ever Professor. After he was served, the ‘next’ signal came on and Maisy walked over to teller 3. It was 1pm.
After fifteen minutes of watching teller 3 go through his ritual, she walked out of the bank at 1:45pm.
The bright sunlight reflected on the parked vehicles made her narrowed her eyes, as she walked past the outside queue.
She couldn’t help but overhead the people arguing with the security guard about the extra bank fees and charges and how their customer service totally sucked.
Maisy quickened her pace to Top town bus stop.
Another day, another queue.