So we arrive at the bank in Cobano at 8:30, full of dread, but in desperate need of some cash. We take a number: 16. They’re “Now Serving” number 86. Max watches for an hour, and they’ve only gotten to 97, so we decide to wander around town and stop into the internet café. We check back in at the bank an hour and a half later, and they’re only on 3. That’s seventeen people in two and a half hours, and we have thirteen more people to go before our number is called. We decide to go home for lunch, and come back in an hour, expecting to have to wait about an hour after that.
Of course, you can see where this is headed: we get back to the bank to find them “Now Serving” number 42. And the next ticket? TWENTY-NINE. That would be eighty-seven people in line ahead of us.
I wonder about the lane marked something like “Servicio Rapido.” Max had told me that meant you stood in line for two hours instead of sitting down for four. I ask the security guard for his take, and he says it depends on what number you have for regular service. I roll my eyes, and show him my #29 ticket, and he gives me a sympathetic eye roll.
At this point, I enter into a world that is very familiar. Yes, there’s something about it that I picked up when I lived here, but there’s also something very Texan about it that I’d never thought much about until today. There’s this sense that light-hearted chatting with a perfect stranger over misfortune can bring us together. It’s a kind of small talk that generally annoys Northerners, or makes them pretty uncomfortable…unless it’s about severe weather, right? That’s the only thing I can think of that Northerners just chat with strangers about. Anyway, feeling very southern and certainly very Tica after this brush with bureaucratic inefficiency, I launch into my story about our wait in the morning, and the security guard gives me a “boy-I-can’t-believe-it” shake of the head as I take my chances in the express lane.
I stand there for just a couple of minutes, when my security guard pal sidles up to me, and hands me a ticket that says “47.” Max and I later hypothesize that people got fed up at lunch, or as the afternoon was wearing on, and just threw their tickets on to the floor. I make a mental note to check the litter on the sidewalk outside the bank the next time I go in. Anyway, how he got it, I’ll never know, but dang, he must have saved us hours and hours of waiting.