By something after three o'clock, having already done seven impossible things but failed to get lunch, I was whistling down to Saint John for a four o'clock appointment that I knew I was going to be late for but not extravagantly late. If you are going to be really absurdly late there is no need to push so hard on the accelerator as to cause a deflection in the fire wall, but if you are only going to be awkwardly late there is rather a tendency to apply the spur to your mettlesome steed. As it was I pulled up in Saint John and was only halfway to the building before the sound of my approach caught up with me.
Something told me even then that I was going to be too late to get to the City Market, before it closed, to get the fish I said I would bring home for dinner. Then I thought of my pocketbook and the errand to the bank that I had been supposed to do before I got to my appointment so that when I emerged from the appointment I would have the needful with which to negotiate the transfer of ownership on a couple of fillets of cusk or whatever. (Why do fish get saddled with such appalling names? Cusk! I ask you, where did Adam get that one? And how would you feel about being called a flounder? We should have a Be Nice to Fish Week somewhere between the Rehabilitation of Arch Supports Week and the Slime Mold Festival Week.)
Fortunately, I had with me my little plastic friend which, when inserted (right side up!) in slot "A" followed by a lot of flimflammery with instructions that do not align with the buttons I have to push, and I really have no idea whether I have power chequing or not, dispenses money the way Horn and Hardart used to dispense sandwiches. My real trouble started when I got to "my" machine (we are on first-name basis, this machine and I, except that I do not go by my first name), and not only would it not give me any money, it wouldn't even take my card.
There was, however, another machine two blocks over which I eventually found - behind the shoe-shine kiosk, just across from a very transient-looking shop selling paintings on velvet. What ever happened to the conservative banking image? Next thing you know these machines will be selling you hot tips on the third race at wherever while they process your request for - pant, pant - cash.
Truth to tell, I hate banks, and banking machines. As I approach the wicket, clutching my brash request for a little of what I let the bank play fast and loose with, I know that the teller is going to look at me over the little screen she is always peering into and she will say, in a whisper that causes the potted palms at the far end of the counter to rattle, "You are overdrawn." Involuntarily, I assume the furtive air of the criminal caught at his nefarious trade and feel the impact of a thousand eyes looking at me.
So I really wasn't surprised when I had keyed in my secret number that only I and Captain Marvel know, and the machine told me that my card wasn't set up for a quick shot of cash and would I like to do any other banking? I thought of pointing out that I hadn't done any banking yet, but decided not to. Four insertions of the card later, and four keyings-in of my secret number now known only to me and the dozen or so patrons that were watching this black comedy routine, the machine lit up and said, "This terminal is now out of service. Have a good day."
Glancing over my shoulder at the little company assembled there, I took my plastic key to the good life out of the jaws of the nasty little machine and said, "Bad luck!" to the on-lookers. As soon as I said it I knew each of them was thinking I was trying to put one over on the machine and had been foiled in the attempt.
It was only as I tottered away, re-enacting Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, that I remembered the clutch of Loonies that have been making me walk lop-sided for ever so long. The Lord be praised, they even take them in the supermarkets.
Hullo, cusk! Good-by, plastic man!
Words & Images
We moved to our farm in Sussex, New Brunswick from Toronto in 1977, only moving away in 2014.