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Posts tagged ‘bank’

Hereby awarded the bridesmaid’s official Seal of Approval

For some reason, I thoroughly enjoyed London City this time around. I lived there before relocating to the Middle East in 1998, and had fun because I was 24 and it wasn’t Ireland and I was earning my first salary that wasn’t fake money. But after two years I was glad to move on.

After nine months in the Middle East, I passed through London. I felt completely displaced. The city doesn’t ever really change, but I had. Whilst on the surface the sights and smells were familiar, fundamentally they were not.

Since then I’ve visited London once or twice a year. I catch up with friends, sit in a park, do some shopping (mainly window-based), and look forward to leaving.

This time, it felt different. London is the same: the ever present soundtrack of sirens and car horns and wheezing bus brakes; the smell of horse dung and the acrid aroma of lightly sautéed rubber; the menacing stalk of accountants armed with The Financial Times. It is still possible to feel absolutely alone in the swarming hordes of commuters.

The Tube may be a miracle of underground engineering, but it remains a grimy pit. You are tackled to the ground by charging bankers trying to make the closing doors, and you’re thinking: “DUDE! There’s another train in ONE MINUTE! It’s not like your entire day – or the REST OF YOUR LIFE which, let’s face it, is going to be empty and meaningless ANYWAY – will be ruined if you don’t make this one.” And you still don’t say it out loud because that would be quite unspeakably, dreadfully, quintessentially rude; although the sequence of events leading to your broken collarbone and a crisp packet in your hair is not.

(I nearly talked myself out of how much I dug London there, but don’t worry: I’m back on track now.)

As usual I stayed with Róisín, who lives in Clapham with her fiancée, Tim. The day after I arrived, I arranged to meet Róis at St Bart’s Hospital. She provided Irish directions, which don’t work that well outside our homeland, so I was armed with my trusty A-Z.

When I emerged from Bank Tube Station, London looked fabulous and the bells of St Mary-le-Bow were tolling. I wandered down Cheapside breathing in the fresh carbon monoxide and marvelling at the architecture. After nine months living in a wilderness, I was completely unused to such volumes of people, and stumbled around like a human skittle, grinning like a blithering idiot high on the joys of life. It took five minutes on average to cross from one side of the pavement to the other.

When I reached St Bart’s, I reached the centre of the hospital by way of an antiseptic labyrinth.  There is a small fountain in The Square, looking a bit shabby against a backdrop of scaffolding and skips. Yet as I sat on a cast iron bench mentally diagnosing passers by, with sparkles of sunshine playing on my face, I felt ridiculously and inexplicably pleased with myself.

Two days later I met my agent for lunch, then wandered through Regent’s Park: the Queen Mary’s Gardens, the Inner Circle and the boating lake. Then I sat under a tree wriggling my toes in the moist grass and deterring dogs from weeing on me (it’s easy as long as you don’t impersonate a lamppost).

My fabulous friend Róisín looks terrific and happier than I’ve seen her in years. Tim is terribly posh and rather English. Everything is ‘jolly good’, ‘quite so’ and ‘frightfully <insert choice of adjective of no less than four syllables, unless it is the word ‘shabby’>’. He always eats at the table, sits up straight, never talks with his mouth open and doesn’t throw food.

Róisín’s new yardstick for assessing people is Tim’s reaction to them. It quickly became apparent – to me, at least – that this unit of measurement is virtually useless because Tim likes EVERYBODY. His life closely resembles a musical. (I regret to say it often sounds like one too.)

Tim would almost be too good to be true, but for a sly sense of humour which is unexpected, bloodthirsty and occasionally vicious. Therefore, he is hereby awarded the bridesmaid’s official Seal of Approval

Chances are this is a building on Baker Street

Cheapside/Poultry

Door and mysterious package

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Operation Muppetation

Over two years ago, I closed my bank account with HSBC because they were not so much unhelpful as scrupulously useless. You can actually smell the apathy and unfulfilled potential from the street.

I wasn’t looking forward to persuading the bank to give me a clearance letter stating that my car loan of six years prior was closed. However, contrary to expectations, it took only minutes to make the request and sign a form. The document was ready on the appointed day; I paid Dhs 50 and left triumphantly waving my letter. Whilst marginally tedious and failing to qualify as a Kodak Moment, the whole experience was not fulsomely awful.

Until Husband told me it was the wrong letter.

Since I had agreed to transfer the car yesterday evening, there was no option but to return to HSBC. It was mid-day. I had to park the car in a tree and hike three miles on pavements that were melting in the heat. Having already spent the morning at the bank, and had my brain tortured by HSBC’s Customer Neglect Centre for ten LONG minutes, I arrived at the bank in what you might call spicy humour.

The lady who processed me was still in situ.

“My dearrr-”

“Don’t you my dear ME!” I snapped. This, it turns out, is not a prologue to constructive conversation leading to better mutual understanding and personal development.

Ten years in the Middle East has taught me that the louder one shouts, the better one is understood. Within a short period of time, the entire bank understood me pretty well – with the exception of its employees. Eventually, after working my way up the ranks of management to a dizzying level of ineptness, it turned out that the HSBC Bur Dubai branch did not issue clearance letters for car loans. For that, I had to go to a totally different building, which closed in an hour.

“Is there anything else I can assist you with, Madam?” enquired the Branch Manager as he fingered his comb over.

“Yanno, the question implies that you have already assisted me, whereas in fact all you did was charge me Dhs 50 for a useless letter and remind me EXACTLY why I closed my bank account with HSBC in the first place which, although possibly counting as significant personal achievements, did not actually ASSIST me AT ALL.”

“Please do not hesitate to call-”

“Oh like yeah and I’ll have a nice what’s-left-of-the-day, will I?”

In Deira, I arrived at the relevant office 40 minutes before closing time. At this point, I projected the personality of the Incredible Hulk in a pique or, if you prefer, a raging bitch.

“I’m here for a clearance letter. Car loan, six years ago-”

“Six year?”

“That’s correct. Here are the details: model, registration number, chassis number-”

“Sorry Madam, is closed.”

“You’re not. You shut at 3pm. It is currently 2:12pm.”

“Yes, but the letter, it take time-”

“Thirty seconds to access my record on the computer, twenty seconds to print out the letter, five seconds to sign it. I calculate that at less than a minute altogether – now, that’s what I call customer service.”

“But this file, it is old file-”

“So what?” I barked. “It’s on the computer system, isn’t it? Not as if you have to rummage around in a pile of boxes under the stairs-”

“But the man, who get the file, he is in meeting-”

“You’re telling me there’s nobody else IN THE ENTIRE BUILDING who can access my file?”

“Yes but no, the department, they are in meeting-”

“I’ll wait.”

“The meeting, is long meeting.”

“Listen,” I leaned in confidentially – although this proximity came with an inexorable urge to grab the front of his dishdash, scrunch it into a ball and staple it to his face. Repeatedly – “I’m not leaving here until I have a clearance letter clutched in my five sweaty fingers. I’m. Not. Leaving. You see that yucca over there? That’s what I will eat. You see that corner? That’s where I will sleep. You see this stapler? Don’t tempt me. For the moment, I’ll wait here. Ok?”

As I threw myself into a chair, my mobile rang. It was the HSBC Bur Dubai branch.

“Ms Niam? This morning, do you pay Dhs 50 for a clearance letter?”

“Yes.”

“There is problem. Our system will not accept this payment.”

“Woah, back up. Just- ok- would you- sorry but- could you remind me exactly why I give a toss?”

“<silence>”

“You know I paid cash, don’t you?”

“Yes. But our system, because your account it is closed, it will not take the money.”

“So you want to return it? Great! I accept cheques – with the appropriate amount of interest, of course – let’s say 8%, shall we? I’m feeling generous. You can make it out to Niamh Shaw, and mail it to One, Upyer Bum. That’s U-P-Y-E-R space B-U-M.”

“Maybe I will call you back.”

“Oh, please don’t.”

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