A financial expert once told me arithmetic is the only part of the banking system that can’t lie. He clearly never tried to withdraw money from my Instant Access account by going into a bank and asking for it. Or at least, I hope he didn’t. Maybe he had better luck than I did, he was an expert after all, although I couldn’t help noticing he didn’t seem particularly wealthy. Perhaps other parts of the banking system had lied to him.
“You can have up to 5 Access accounts,” the posters in my local branch advised me, “and name each one to help you save for different things.” In my case that would mean accounts called Sausages, Charcoal, Petrol, Matches, Wooden Skewers, and Metal Tongs. And before you point out those are 6 things, the petrol is for my car. Otherwise — whoosh! — what a barbecue that would be.
How well do we know people nowadays? Well enough to lend them large amounts of folding stuff? For a modern bank manager to ever meet the people to whom he is lending money is about as likely as him knowing the person who signed the banknotes. In the larger world it hasn’t helped that we have hardly been at large in recent times, sequestered at home, our interaction limited to nodding acquaintances on sparsely populated pavements, rubbing elbows with very few of our fellow travellers, especially not the bolshie ones who didn’t give us a wide berth.
Pandemics — stop me if you’ve heard this before — engender a variety of alienation that is quite different from our ordinary everyday feelings of anomie, estrangement, isolation, existential angst, detachment, withdrawal, disengagement, emotional nullism, and my analyst has only been practising for a few weeks. Probably why he still refers to himself rather grandly as a “psycho analyst.”
When wearing masks, people spoke with their eyes as much as speaking through their mouths or talking through their hats. Masks don’t smudge mascara, even if they do fog up spectacles. Pedestrians also voted with their feet when you narrowly avoided a collision on sharp corners and they danced away from you — a quick two-step rather than a slow waltz. (The Hesitation Waltz, if you’ve retired to Spain you may be old enough to remember that.)
Mentioning sunshine reminds me of the definition of a banker as someone who lends you an umbrella when the sun is shining and asks for it back when it starts to rain. Often they even want two umbrellas back, plus galoshes.
I was sitting fighting thirst under a tilted beach umbrella when an elderly lady put me in the shade of her parasol, and asked, “Don’t I know you from somewhere? Or do you just have one of those faces?” I wondered if she was about to produce a series of Interpol identikit photographs, but before I could stop looking furtive, she added, “Oh, no, I realise now that you are someone else.” Strangely, I wasn’t wearing a mask during this brief encounter.
Alienation, you see. Uncertainty, confusion, insecurity. I am someone else. My psychoanalyst will be pleased. He’s cured me.