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I spent too long in a bank, yesterday, doing a routine transaction. My daughter’s piano teacher wants her to take one of the music board exams. She wanted proof of payment by today, meaning a deposit voucher. So, I stood in line for over an hour to put $4000 or so into the board’s account. The line was about 40 people long when I joined it, and it stayed about that amount as people came and went.

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When I joined three cashiers were working.

Some in the line began venting their frustration. A lady several places ahead grumbled about how the many other bank staff were doing nothing and could ease things by dealing with the line. She looked over to the customer service desk and complained how “there was no customer service”. I just happened to have been given clear advice from the person at that desk. “That’s nonsense,” I chimed in and explained why. The lady rolled on with her serial complaints. She was going to vent.

A man just in front of me started opining about how “we need to unite” and get the country moving in a better way. He chanted that two more cashiers would ease our waiting a lot. I began discussing with him the problems of slow cashiers and customers who love to talk about the world and their mothers. In the meantime, another cashier started to work. The line started to move a little faster.

I avoid going to banks. I pay every utility bill online. I use ATM to withdraw cash and now to make deposits. The limits on cash withdrawal from ATM force me to join the lines, occasionally, so that I can deal with some bigger cash transactions. Jamaica is heavily dependent on cash and I can’t change that singlehandedly. I try by using my debit/credit card a lot.

I’m not used to having to be in banks. But, most Jamaicans are. They spend hours there and I wondered about the lost man hours and productivity it caused. This is nothing new, but it seems in no hurry to change.

It’s chicken and egg. Many organizations are not set up to handle electronic payments. I recalled my long conversations with a hospital about how to settle bills other than by visiting it’s office or a bank. I felt like the archetypal alien. But, I got my way to work. Maybe, my refusal to schlep around helped.

My line was moving well and I was next to a large cardboard poster of a smiling bank employee, welcoming me and promising to serve me better.

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I felt like putting my money into her hands and asking her to call me when all was done. It was an ironic assertion.

Some comments suggested that free WiFi would make waiting more bearable. One man was using his time to make his lotto picks. I noticed that some people were in line for others, mainly businesses, as places were exchanged. That made sense. Such is life. I would have liked tea and biscuits, milk no sugar and Digestives. Banks, please note.

Just like that, I was at the front. My “unity” man was already being served. He smiled at me. “You see, extra cashier made a difference,” he said with a smirk.

Over one hour had been spent in the company of my affable compatriots. I looked over at the section of the bank where senior citizens were seated, for their special services. They did not seem to have budged. Such is life.

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