“Do I have to fill them up? All forty eight of them?” I asked the young lady.
She continued stamping the VERIFIED seal on the heap of account opening forms and nodded without looking up. A badge pinned on her shirt read, “Customer Delight Champion”. I kept standing in front of her desk waiting for a more delightful reply from the champion, or at least some kind of reply from her.
Her intense demeanour made me apprehensive. The ferocity with which she was branding the newly acquired customers of the bank as VERIFIED, gave me an eerie feeling that any further questions could steer me into troubled waters. I realized it was a devious ploy of the bank to lure ignorant customers like me with the “May I help you” sign to this young lady’s desk. Her sole purpose in life seemed to scare customers to their death so that they never came back to the bank with silly questions like mine.
But something scared me even more than her. It was the fear of filling up forms and writing cheques. I had realized through all my previous trysts with these printed death-traps, that I am incapable of completing them correctly in the maiden attempt. The thought of writing forty eight cheques at a stretch made me dizzy.
So, I was pretty much stuck, between a rock and a hard place. I knew that I would inevitably mess up if I undertook the daunting task of writing cheques. So I mustered up all my courage and sat in the chair across the desk of my newly acquainted nemesis, the “May I help you” lady. She was still busy in her monotonous stamping activity and didn’t take notice of me.
I was fidgeting with a few ideas on how to convey my predicament with cheques to her when I noticed that she looked up. Before I could utter a word she asked in a very polite voice, “Is there anything else that I may assist you with?” She was glaring and smiling at me simultaneously. I figured it was years of training and experience in customer handling that enabled her to do that.
I couldn’t find my voice to reply. I could feel my ears were red hot. In absence of any suitable response, I dabbed my sweaty palm on my trouser and extended my hand for a shake. I caught her completely off-guard. She had obviously not encountered such counter-offensive manoeuvres from any of her previous, docile customers.
However, proving her mettle as her badge suggested, she sportily shook my hand and repeated her question. The smile was still there but the glare was gone. It allowed me to get a grip over myself. I was a lot less tense by now and a lot more appreciative of her beautiful face, her expressive eyes, her lovely voice and her soft hand.
I realized that I was still holding her hand in mine and she was still patiently waiting for my reply. I needed assistance with writing the cheques. That is what I should have asked for. What I managed to blabber out instead, was, “Would you like to assist me in writing cheques for the rest of my life?”
She immediately withdrew her hand from mine and replied in a stern voice, “Please sign them, I will arrange for them to be filled up later.”
I suddenly felt the need of some kind of super power such as invisibility or teleportation. But I still was an ordinary man who had to bear the limelight of disgrace for forty eight extraordinarily long signatures. Although I didn’t dare to look up even once in between, I could feel her harsh, abhorrent stare on my entire person for the whole time.
As I completed the signatures, I placed the cheques under a paperweight on her desk and started to leave without even thanking her, as I was reluctant to look her in the eye. I heard her call my name from behind. She must have read it from one of the personalized cheques that I had left at her desk. I quickly weighed between the options of turning back and running for the door. I was frozen in my stride. A Good Samaritan fellow customer who had probably come to the bank only because he was feeling lonely at home and had nothing better to do than sit at the lobby and keep a track of the movements and gestures of every soul in the bank premises, pointed out to me that the bank lady was calling me. I managed to conjure up a smile for this overtly nosy fellow and turned back. She was standing by her desk with a bunch of papers in her hand. I was unable to make out from her expression what she intended to do, but I was certain it would be humiliating for me. I dragged myself into her range and stood in front of her. I was staring so hard at the floor that even minute specks of dirt were clearly visible.
“Are you always so obnoxious?” She asked, but in a suppressed voice. Before I could come up with a suitable comeback that would help me salvage some pride, she shoved the bunch of papers in my hand and returned to her desk. I was relieved at this narrow escape from utter ignominy. I swiftly swiveled towards the door and darted for it. Once outside and out of sight of the bank, I felt curious about the papers she had handed me. I looked at them. They were an assortment of application forms. “Had she gauged my fear of these paper monsters? Was this her cruel way to seek revenge for my misbehaviour?” I questioned myself. As I shuffled through the forms, I noticed something written on one of them. It was a phone number under the “2nd account holder details” in the “Joint account opening kit”.