Thursday, December 9, 2010

Who wore their patient pants today?

Living here either grants you patience . . . or takes it away.  Let's use a popular example:  You need money.  It is par for the course that when you need money, the first ATM you visit will either be "finished" or "spoiled."  This is a roulette game, and it seems that no matter which way you roll the dice or spin the wheel, your prize is a 30 minute trip around town in a hot taxi, on a dusty road and through traffic, holding onto your card and approaching each machine as if you are walking up to the well after the first rain of the season.  Often, to add insult to injury, the machine will tell you to extract your cash when it offers nothing for the taking, the winner of this hand being anyone but you.  We know that in Ghana you cannot wait until you are in dire straights to fetch anything, let alone a few dollars to buy dinner when you're hungry.  It takes patience, this hunt to earn your own money.

This afternoon I fell into the trap.  I put off a visit to the ATM knowing that it was going to require more energy than I had on reserve this week, but I arrived at the point where I must have money.  With only 2 cedis in my pocket, I needed to eat dinner, pay for a taxi (the very one that I was taking on this scavenger hunt) and buy a ticket to the school play.  I set off on my journey expecting the usual, but got something worse.  The ATM ate my card!  I pleaded with the machine.  I gave it puppy dog eyes.  I pushed its buttons in offer of a gentle reminder.  I pounded on it in an attempt to intimidate.  Nothing.  I got nothing in return. The man who "watches" the machine said, "Oh, it will come.  Just wait for some few seconds."  I could wait until seconds turned to minutes or hours, but that card wasn't going to see the light of day.

I know this story will seem anti-climactic to you my friends, but to me, like watching the Titanic sink, I know the ending.  My next 36 hours will be filled with teeth grinding tension as I have conversations with blank stares and make my rounds inside the bank.  Anything is better than the bank.  I will make several trips, most of them ending with no results.  It's going to be a wild ride.  I hope my patient pants are clean.

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