Don't Bank On It

Shorter than a visit to China Merchant Bank

The process of transferring cash out of China can be a bit difficult sometimes. Sensible people do not even try to take wads of money onto the plane - that is just asking for trouble.

No, you should go along to the bank and do a transfer. Yes, this can take a while, so bring your copy of War and Peace. In my branch of China Merchant Bank there is a machine. You press it somewhere and a small piece of paper comes out. Great! You now have a small piece of paper.
Red means it's a ghost-free bank


First of all, you have to wait for a long time. (This means that you will be able to read the first 297 pages, up to the bit about Austerlitz and Dolohov proposing to Sonya.) Roman Catholic churches have confessionals, those wooden cubicles where you tell the priest about all of your sins. In China, you go to the bank and tell the cashier your life story. This means that you have to wait a bit longer.

Then a very pretty Chinese girl, who looks about 14 or maybe 15 years old, tries to help you. She is very charming, but she does not know how to operate the computer, so she will call her friend, who is also about 15. Then her friend calls another friend, etc. She invariably asks you for your phone number. Then she might be surprised when you try to explain that your wife will not be happy if pretty Chinese teenage girls give you strange phone calls. (Now you are on page 412. Pierre has fought the duel and Nicolai has lost a lot of money playing cards.) The pretty 15-year-old smiles and patiently explains that she is not going to call you on the telephone. So why does she need your number? 


You can't hide your lion eyes
Have you lost your little piece of paper? Well, that does not matter because no one wants to see it anyway, but you are asked for your bank card, the gold flashdrive they gave you when you opened the account, your passport, your old passport if you have had a new one issued in the last year or two, the documentation from your school's finance department, and those twelve favourite records that you would take with you to the desert island (no, I was only joking about the twelve discs). 

But it might take longer
Then you wait and wait, so that you can read up to page 653 (all about Prince Andrei getting injured at Borodino). A young man of about 19 comes along and he argues with the seven or eight 15-year-old girls that by now have collected around the computer. Finally he presses the right buttons, so something happens on the computer screen. (By this time, you have read on to page 949. Natasha and Pierrre are now married and have children. And you are fed up with Tolstoy’s Theory of History that fills up the last 200-odd pages of War and Peace.)

Well, someone thinks it's funny.
At last, you will be told that the bank transaction has not gone through and your money has not been transferred, so you must come back tomorrow. You say goodbye to the thirty or forty 15-year-olds around the computer. Tomorrow you are going to bring with you a copy of Crime and Punishment.


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