Oh, the bank. I know The Mom’s local bank well, and whilst I was studying up in Glasgow and spent my summers at home, The Mom would send me in for the traditional ‘wire all the money the bank lent you to your UK account so you can pay you tuition’ trip.
At first, The Mom accompanied me, but after we’d done it once, she decided that she couldn’t bear doing it again, and so I was left to my own devices.
“It’s time,” she’d say.
“No, not yet,” I’d reply.
“You have to go now or you won’t have any money when you get there.”
“Don’t need money right away. Am staying with friends. They will feed and water me.”
“And how will you get from the airport to their house?”
“I am being picked up.”
“At 5.30 in the morning?”
“N is a school teacher. He is up early.”
She always thought my early arrival time would help spur me on towards the bank. But I loathe going to the bank – so much so that when I had to pick a main branch to do business at in Toronto, I chose the one where I was least likely to get a teller who spoke English, surmising that in that way I wouldn’t be asked any annoying questions.
The Mom would roll her eyes.
“You’re going to do this today if it kills me.”
“Can’t you do it?”
“Please! I can’t cope with the bank!”
More eye rolling.
“You are a grown woman. You can wire yourself money.”
“I don’t know any of my account details!”
“How do you function?”
“You’re basically my PA.”
Lots more eye rolling. I consider the option that The Mom may be having a stroke.
“Do you smell burnt toast?” I ask.
“No,” she would growl. She would grab a scrap of paper and write down all my account details for two bank accounts in two countries. From memory.
Shamed, I would ask, “Okay, so what’s the lady’s name? The one who, when my card didn’t work my first year in England and I was stuck in Glasgow needing to get back down to Cornwall said she’d have her son, who lived in London, come pick me up and drive me back down? I like her. She seems helpful.”
“Larissa,” The Mom said. “Go to her. Do not speak to anyone else. They will not deal with you well.”
“Tell her you’re wiring money for tuition. Nothing more. Act the way I taught you to act in customs.”
“No jokes? No editorialising?”
“Yes.” She would hand me the scrap of paper.
“This is your Canadian account. This is your UK account.”
“You will have to do the thing where you sign and say it’s not money laundering. Bring the letter the university sent you just in case. And your passport. And your student visa.”
“I don’t think I need those.”
“Just in case.”
She would hand me the car keys. “If I don’t see you in half-an-hour, I’ll assume it’s gone tits up and that you’ve been arrested.”
“That seems fair. I’ll meet you at the cop shop in that case.”
“Well, seeing as how you’ll have my car and I told you ages ago I will not pay your bail, I think you’re out of luck.”
“To the bank?”
“It’s twenty minutes.”
“Take the car.”
“No, I’m preparing for re-entry into the UK where I do not have a car.”
“Suit yourself. May I remind you that it’s 35 degrees C?”
“I’m soaking it up. It’s 12C and rainy in Glasgow.”
Eventually, off I went. I would find Larissa because upon arrival at the bank, like a five-year-old lost child, I would present myself to the information desk and announce myself as The Mom’s daughter.
“Oh hi!” would come the trill.
“You remember me!” she’d squeal.
And I’d think, I’m in there. This will work.
I would explain my purpose as succinctly as possible and she would get the forms. I would recoil and try to steady myself. It doesn’t require as many forms as getting a visa does, but it’s a close second. I do not cope well with forms.
“I don’t know my address in Glasgow.”
“You don’t have a flat, love?”
“I’m doing that when I get there.”
“Put your friends’ address then.”
“I don’t actually know it. Well, I sort of know it, but it might be a bit off. How important is this part?”
Larissa would consider this. “I know! I’ve got last year’s form here somewhere. Shall I just fill it in with all the old information?”
“YES! That is an excellent idea!”
And within moments, we would be done, my money winging its way to Scotland. But, as I’m sure you know, there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Once the business was done, Larissa directed me to the coffee and cake station which the bank seems to always have going. It’s next to the weird book sale table that is also always in session. She’d sit next to me, after serving me a slice of supermarket cake (my favourite dirty treat) and a cup of hideous coffee. And then we’d chat for a bit.
“How is your degree going? What are you studying again, I can’t remember? Oh, yes, writing, of course! How exciting! And how are you liking Glasgow? I’ve been before, it’s beautiful.” And on and o and on. Well past the time I’ve finished the cake and coffee.
During the chat, I prayed to The Universe that some other sad customer such as myself might appear, and require information, which would mean that Larissa would have to abandon me. This was rarely the case. Apparently, everyone else really has their shit together when it comes to banking.
Eventually, I’d make some excuse about The Mom being in desperate need of the car and walk out. I wondered if she ever noticed that I never got into a car, but my trips to the bank were twice a year, so I suspect my method of transport was easily forgotten.
Upon arrival back at The Mom’s, there she’d be, at her spot at the kitchen table, waiting anxiously to see if all had gone well.
“So?” she’d demand. “Broke in this country, half-flush in the other?”
I’d nod. “Larissa did it, but I had to pay for it.”
“What? They charged you money to wire your money?”
“Well, they always do, but I mean, she did the whole thing for me. I had to pay with chat.”
The Mom has this mirthful grin that creeps across her face when she can see I’ve been easily outwitted by helpful people and have had to endure something most normal people wouldn’t mind.
“So, does this mean you’re finally going to learn how to deal with this yourself?”
“I’m thinking of switching banks, so my banks are the same here and there. That way I can just do this over tinternets.”