At The Moment

The following story is based on true experiences.

Ever had one of those moments when you get lost in an observatory mode? When you watch others around you so acutely that for a fraction of a second your existence seems obliterated as you see the world through their eyes? Sometimes it happens perchance, a poetic pause in your body’s metabolism. Most times, you’re just plain bored and have nothing to do but stare at others and try to imagine what they are thinking. Poetry aside, it’s boredom that’s the cause of this present séance I’m about to narrate. And I doubt this would last for only a fraction of a second, or of a minute, definitely more than just a fraction of an hour- I think the phrase ‘multiples of an hour’ would do the trick. I have abundant idle time to spend today. Wonder why? Hey, that’s what I’m trying to gist you here.

At the moment I’m at an ATM- and even though that sounds like wordplay, it’s not. I’m literally at an ATM machine, me and about twenty other people (I haven’t gotten bored enough to count the exact number). You know how these things work, some go, more come. The good news is I’m about halfway up the queue. The bad news is- the 20 body count I just mentioned consists only of people ahead of me, I considered those behind negligible. The reason for the traffic? There’s a 3-day public holiday starting tomorrow, I believe we all correctly guessed no one would be servicing the ATM during that period. Furthermore it’s the only ATM machine in the area, the only other bank being kilometers away, and moreover, with the new CBN rule for charges on ATM withdrawals from a secondary bank it would seem most of us have decided enduring is better than forfeiting (N100 is it?) every transaction.

After years of using ATM machines and cumulative countless hours of watching other people while waiting my turn, I’ve come to classify people on ATM queues into eight categories. Today’s queue is quintessential for my class system. I’ll list the classes and then classify people as they come… How about that? A perfect way to pass the time. You could try it sometime when you get stuck up like this.

  • Class A: The Quiet

I mostly always fall in this category. I usually have my headphones on, even if the music isn’t on. It’s a decoy to keep strangers away from trying to strike a conversation. Well, there’s really not much interesting talk on this class. We just come to ATMs, wait patiently for our turn, withdraw and out we go.

  • Class B: The Loud

Sometimes, it’s a blessing not to have them around, sometimes it’s a blessing to. These category, in stark contrast to Class A never seem to keep their mouths shut. Sometimes, they aren’t even conversing with a physically present person, they’re on the phone, screaming at the top of their lungs as though mobile networks are facilitated by vocal prowess. And worse still, such phone calls are always long as hell.

At the moment, there’s a perfect example, three heads away from me. He has tried to strike a conversation with nearly everybody within a five body radius. I don’t know whether it’s joviality but it seems to so far have been generating more hatred for him than likes.

 There’s another four heads behind me. She’s luckier than the dude in front for two reasons: Firstly, she’s actually getting responses from people around which might be due to the second reason which is plain and simple- she has boobs!

  • Class C: The Humorous:

Always a blessing when they are around. These guys can light up the mood. Of course, like everything good, they are a rare commodity. Most people trying to be this class just end up being in Class B. Sometimes it isn’t even really their fault, they might be really funny but the standing under the sun and queuing could take out the sense of humor from anyone.

At the moment, this class is lacking in my vicinity. A bloke in front has tried a couple of times but the laughs he has generated consist solely of a guy by his side who he probably came with and the class B dude who seems to just be happy at every chance to get his voice heard.

  • Class D: The Plaintiff:

Enter a woman in her late forties.

She got here a second before me so I have the unpleasant pleasure of being directly behind her. In the minutes I’ve been here, she has managed to complain about the not functioning machines (the bank has three, the other two are out of service.), about the functioning one for its network being too slow, she’s complained about over six persons being too slow in withdrawing too. She complained about the bank for not providing adequate shelter, also complained about someone at home who seemingly delayed her from calling earlier. Of course, she’s aired her vexation for CBN’s new ATM policy and even had some choice words for the FG- I can’t really recall what for.

Do I need to explain this class further?

  • Class E: The Foolish:

They come in various forms and sizes. Here’s an example you’ve probably witnessed.

We’re all queuing behind the one working ATM, patiently waiting our turn. Enter this man in a suit and tie, he stares at the queue, extracts his card, and walks confidently to the other ATM machine. Class E people show up all the time, makes one wonder- does he assume all of us here are so daft, we’re lining behind one machine while another one is working and free?

Like I said, they come in different forms. Some are polite enough (and wise enough to save themselves the embarrassment of walking to the podium) and ask. “Are the other machines not working?”

Perfect Answer: They are, this one allows you vote for President.

  • Class F: The Ignorant:

We’ve all been unfortunate one time or the other to find ourselves directly behind such people. Basically, they are ‘ATM illiterates’ and can spend minutes on a transaction that should have taken seconds. Some would spend time, taking receipt after receipt from the machines like though its paper they came for not currency.

The worst kind however are those who after seeing the inglorious message “Insufficient Funds” still try repeatedly to withdraw.

  • Class G: The Advocates:

Most of them are usually Class A candidates till someone tries to break protocol, shunt the queue or something like that, then they arise. Though mostly always chasing a ‘just cause’, these citizens have the habit of speaking for everyone else.

Enter a youthful dude.

He knows a guy up ahead in the queue. He works up to him and they start conversing. He stares down the queue and realizes there’s absolutely no way he can shunt with all these people watching. So he develops an ingenious idea, he slips his card to his friend in the queue and whispers to him the password.

But lo! Advocates are watching.

“My friend! If you try and put in that card ehn!”

“Young man! Go and join the line, don’t try and cheat us. And you, if you try and use that card he just gave you we’ll remove you from the line!”

If you ever want to go shady on an ATM queue, you need to watch out for these Class.

Good news! I’m one person away from taking the stand. Mrs. Plaintiff is making her transaction, and for all the talk, she seems to be a class F member too.

Enter Miss. Gorgeous.

She’s pretty, tall and with good curves. She seems to be in a hurry though with a sullen face. She walks up to me- Class A, next on the line and testosterone possessor. She pleads, her brother is sick, she needs to take him to a hospital urgently… Honestly, I didn’t get the whole tale, she had me at hello! But just seconds before I agree, an Advocate a couple of heads behind interjects. “Mr. Man, if you let her withdraw you have forfeited your space. We can’t be waiting here and someone will just come and withdraw. Oga (talking to the man behind me), if she withdraws you are next.”

Of course, a girl with a pretty face can work wonders. She turns around and pleads to nobody in particular stating the same story she narrated to me, though now I think I hear her say it’s her fiancé who’s sick. I don’t think she won over Mr. Advocate, but she did win over a majority, and so he, like most people in the Advocate class do, when he sees he has no support, backs down.

Miss Gorgeous withdraws thrice, or was it four times? Either way she leaves with a lofty sum, giving a benevolent smile to me despite the angry stares from a couple of people as she departs.

Alas! The time is here! I want to withdraw a total of N12,000 from two different cards. I’m pretty fast on ATM machines. Within 30 seconds, I have withdrawn 10grand from the first card, slotted in the second and typed the request for two thousand naira.

“Temporarily unable to dispense cash.”

I slowly turn around and stare at the multitude of dark faces behind me. That is when I truly take note of the man who has been directly behind me this whole time. He’s a member of the final class.

  • Class H: The Violent.

The following scenes may contain extreme violence, reader discretion is advised.

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