I wake up at 5:30 am. Open up the office, answer a few emails and then meet the car and driver I hired for the day to take me to the bank in Shenzhen, which is an hour away. I don’t drive in China. I don’t have the patiences for it.
I typically enjoy a long car ride because my usual commute is five minutes in a golf cart. I use this time to catch up on my blog reading (convenience of the iPad).
I arrived at the bank early, grab some coffee at a nearby Starbucks and enjoy some free wi fi for 45 minutes until my appointment at 9:00am. Productive morning.
And, that is where my productive day ended.
Now, I am not one of those people who walk into a situation blind, if I can help it. I do my research. I prep. I call ahead and ask questions. What I am trying to do at the bank isn’t simple and I understand that. But, I trust that the people who the bank hires to organize the debit and credit of billions of dollars would know more about this stuff then I do.
I go up to the counter and hand the bank teller my paperwork. “Oh, ma’am, I am sorry, you are in the wrong office.”
“Ok, which floor?” I say.
“No, you are at the wrong office. You need to go to our office in Dongguan.”
“Dongguan?” Did he say Dongguan? The Dongguan that is an hour in the opposite direction of where I just came from.
Let me back up for just a second because I want you to understand my predicament. To go anywhere specific in China I have to have my assistant order a car and driver, she has to google search the location and print out a map in Chinese to give to the driver. I can’t just jump in my car and go.
This new turn of events was not in the plan, but I have to get this stuff done today.
1 hour and 45 minutes later, I am at the Dongguan Bank office. I head up in the elevator to the 11th floor. I walk in the office and ask for the bank representative I am supposed to see. “I am sorry ma’am. That representative is in the transaction center across the street.”
I am still surprisingly calm when I say, “Well, can she come over here and help me.”
Apparently, she could not. I go back out to the elevators.
It is lunch time so every elevator that stops at my floor is full.
After the 10th elevator stopped, I decide to be smarter then the elevator. I push the up button.
I get on the elevator and ride it up to the 30th floor and then back down to the ground level. It stops at every floor going up and every floor going down. Did I mention there is no air con in the elevator? You know what 40 people crammed in a elevator smell like after 20 floors. Not good.
I get off the elevator and proceed across the street where I have to dodge, dogs, cars, bikes, scooters and dump trucks to get across this four lane road. I feel like I am in a game of Frogger.
I go into the bank office, find the person I am supposed to talk to and hand her my paper work. In broken English she proceeds to tell me “The person who handles these type of transaction is in the building across the street.”
One of the cultural differences between China and America is that our facial expressions sometimes don’t translate. Because, if you had seen my facial expression at that moment, you would have known to get as far away from me as you possible could. She didn’t get it.
So, off we go. Back across the street, dodging dogs, bikes, scooters and dump trucks to go back to the building, back to the 11th floor and back to the same office I left 35 minutes ago.
They put me in a room with no air con and give me a cup of warm water (it’s a China things). “She will be with you shortly.”
10 minutes later, a young girl walks into the room and sits down next to me. She looks like she is about 10 years old. I thought is was someone’s daughter. Is it take your daughter to work day? Do they even have that in China? “What can I help you with today?” she says.
As calmly as I can, I say, “I would like to convert and transfer this amount and then get this amount in cash.” I even manage a smile because I am being lulled into submission by this innocent child.
“We can’t do that today.”
You have got to be kidding me. “Yes, you can.” And, I proceed to explain/educate her on what and how to do exactly what I needed her to do.
Then, she says, “Let me get my manager.”
At this point, I was about to throw myself out of the closest window. And, if I happen to live, I would be in significantly less pain then the pain caused by talking to these bank employees.
The manager comes and again I repeat my request.
“Oh, no problem, ma’am. Just sign this, fill this out, copy this, stamp this and you will be all set.”
OMG! Finally, someone who knows what they are doing.
I sign, stamp, copy, and give them an ounce of my blood. I am almost giddy with the realization that someone is finally able to help me. “Ok, come back in 3 hours and you can have your cash.”
3 hours? 3 hours! My left eyelid starts twitching and I notice that my jaw is starting to hurt. It takes all my strength and my desire not to be thrown in jail today to refrain from throwing her out the window.
I gather all my bags and walk out of the office. Do the elevator trick again and go next door to a little cafe outside the bank and wait. The cafe has bad coffee and no wi fi. And, I sit and wait, for 3 hours.
I return to the transaction center across the street in exactly 3 hours. I called ahead this time. See, I am learning.
I am signing and stamping and she is explaining and smiling and I am not listening to a thing she says. I am chanting to myself “It is almost over, It is almost over.”
I find myself day dreaming about following this women home and suffocating her in her sleep. Then I started to get concerned because I seem to have gone to a very dark place.
The bank representative pulled me out of my day dream and handed me my money. It took a little effort, but I did say thank you and walked out of the bank. As I was getting into my car, my phone rings. “Ma’am, you have one more document to sign, can you come back?”
I turn to my driver and say, “When I walk in front of the car, please run me over.” He doesn’t speak any English so I felt fairly certain he didn’t understand me. And, if he did, I really didn’t care at this point.
I walk back into the bank, sign the last document and hand it back to her. As I was leaving this time, she says to me, “Have you enjoyed your service today?” With the biggest smile on her face. Was she mocking me?
I looked at her and the darkness returns instantly. A montage of images of death, war, and destruction, run through my brain. My eyes glaze over and every muscle in my body tenses up. I take a deep breath AND I SCREAM.
It was the loudest, craziest, gut wrenching, psycho sounding scream I have ever heard. I surprised myself. Everyone in the bank turned to look at me. When I was done screaming, I smile at everyone, took a little bow and walk out the bank.
I feel much better. Sometimes you just have to scream.