Sometimes I fume inwardly but occasionally I retaliate – well, today it way HOT in Cairo, I had walked to the bank, got my number 550 and waited patiently while the number progressed from 420 to 498……..then the number board went blank! I ask an official who tells me “don’t worry, it will re-start”. Well, it didn’t and the next thing I see is a security man telling people to go stand in front of any of the 18 or so cashier windows. I took a quick look along the lines being formed, noticed one window with about 8 women only forming a line and noticed other windows with men and women going to queue up in the same line, saw one window with only 4 men and moved quickly to take my position in that one and a few men fell into place behind me.
1st. in the queue finishes, second in the queue finishes, 3rd in the queue is in the middle of his transaction when this big, fat, rhinocerous ambles her way past me and positions herself next to the man being served! (nothing against fat people, I’m not exactly lightweight myself so calling her a rhino is referring not to her size alone but to her attitude also) Nobody says a word…..I take a deep breath as man no. 3 moves away and the rhino moves to take his place and, in arabic, at the top of my voice I demand “where do you think you’re going?” To which the rhino snorts “What’s wrong with you?” “What’s wrong with me?” I retort! “This man (pointing to the one in front of me) was here before you, I was here before you and so were these men behind me!” the rhino’s answer “so what? you want to go next – go!” I said “no, this man is next then I am after him”
By now the men behind me and the people in the queues on either side have woken up and are adding their two cents. But rhino isn’t moving – it has to do with having thick skin you see, if it was me in her place I would have bolted from the bank in red-faced embarrassment. The young lady behind the counter is looking helplessly from the rhino to the man in the queue as both have put their bank card in front of her. She goes to take the rhino’s card and I squash the little man in front of me against the counter as I grab rhino’s card back and push his card toward the teller. “Security! security! I want security – this is not right” I scream. Re-action from rhino? none, she ignores me, gives the little man a shove to the side and thrusts her card in the window opening to the teller.
Now, I really lose it because the teller starts to process rhino’s card! I could not believe it! Security arrives, hears the story from those around me, takes my passport and bank card from my hand and goes to put it in the window opening to the teller (God love him, he thinks he is helping me!) He beats a hasty retreat when I intercept the documents shouting “no! no! this man (little man) is next and then me! It’s no good, I have lost the battle because the teller is now handing rhino her card and money. Rhino waddles towards the exit under my baleful stare. The men around are smiling at me and nodding approval. “She thinks she is a queen or what?” I demand of them. “No, no more queens in Egypt!” comes the chorus “Mubaraks are gone!” “this is free Egypt!” – got quite patriotic and revolutionary there for a couple of seconds!
But it’s not over yet, by the time the little man in front of me finishes his business my temp. is still up. I tell the young lady behind the counter “you were wrong!” “I was wrong?!” she questions in disbelief. “Yes, you were wrong” I said, “you took her card and you should not have. We have all been waiting here for over an hour and a half, she walked in off the street, pushed her way in here and you did her business first, so that makes her what? A queen? and the rest of us standing here what? – rubbish? “You can’t talk like that to me!” the young teller exclaims “I can and I am!” I retorted. She leaves her seat and appeals to whom I presume is a senior management gentleman in the glass office behind her.
Mr. Senior Manager comes out to investigate and is inundated with loud explanations from those around me (we have now all bonded emotionally together in true revolutionary spirit against the departed rhino). He quickly disappears back into his glass office telling the young lady to get on with her work – now she is the one with the red face. She is also now seeing my quite considerable transactions with the bank on her computer screen and realises she is not dealing with a petulant tourist but a businesswoman!
I sign my bank receipt and she slams it back up on the counter telling me to write my address – this is the first time I have ever been asked to do this in a bank, the passport usually suffices. I write the address and slam it back on the counter with the same force she used in presenting it to me, take my money and walk away – head up, shoulders back – “Don’t mess with me!” was probably written all over my face! Yes, I speak enough arabic to start a riot!