I've already bored you with a tale of an athletics match where just three of us covered all the events over the course of an afternoon, and came third out of the four teams. My perspective on this is that the three of us performed valiantly and deserve a deal of credit. Simply by knowing the rules and being bloody minded we achieved a small victory. But, I was back in circulation on an athletics track this weekend and the folklore is slightly different. The folklore tells the tale of the team that managed to be beaten by a team made up of only three competitors. No valour, no determination, just ineptitude.
A story I haven't told before also highlights the vantage point effect.
I have had in my possession for some time now a cheque for a small amount of money. Obviously I want to pay this in and spend the cash. I have an account with a nation wide building society. I won't specify which one, but they have a local branch. Now, the way my days have been working for quite some time is that I can typically only leave the house when someone else gets in, about 5:30ish, so I can't get to the branch to pay in at the counter during opening hours. But that's alright becasue the primary means of operating the account is with a card at an ATM. To pay in a cheque one goes to the ATM, inserts the card so the machine can identify the account, specifies 'deposit' on the screen and pushes the cheque, in an envelope, through the slot. Next time the branch is staffed the box of cheques is emptied, a clerk ties up the cheque with the account number and processes it through the system, somehow. So the branch definitely has the ability to deal with the deposit.
The problem arises in this case, because the ATM has been "temporarily out of order" for all the weeks I have held the cheque and have tried to pay it in at about 6pm on a number of evenings. This situation arose once before, some months ago, and on that occasion I got to the branch when it was open, queued up and handed the cheque to the clerk, who paid it in.
On Saturday morning I got to the branch when it was open. The ATM was still 'temporarily out of order'. I queued up and handed my card and the cheques through the slot and explained about the ATM. The clerk handed the cheques back and said she could not pay them in. I explained again about the ATM, handed them back and explained that she could. She said she couldn't. I know very well that she can. I have been waiting six weeks to pay this cheque in. She says would I like to go to Muswell Hill where they have an ATM that works. I explain that I wouldn't, that she can process the cheque, that this situation is their fault and please would she rectify it, and that the ATM ought to jolly well work if that is the mechanism thay insist upon for making deposits. A voice from the by now quite large queue calls "Hear, hear" and I can tell I am not alone in my frustration with the workings of this branch. The clerk said she'd ask the manager. I wait. The clerk returns and says she can't pay the cheque in, but the manager can, would I like to wait 20 minutes. I explain that because of their defective machine I have already been waiting 6 weeks and would she get the manager now, or just write down the account number on a piece of paper, the value of the cheque, give it to me as a receipt and sort it out herself with the manager. A second member of staff approaches me from the customer side of the armoured glass. She says they can't pay the cheque in. My arguments are quite well rehearsed by now. I run through them again. I am more convinced than ever of the validity of my position and the simplicity of the solution. A woman customer approaches from the back of the room and says words to the effect that it is unpleasant to hear this exchange, and complains of my harrassment of the clerk. I refrain from any comment to this interfering busybody. I have exercised great restraint and patience and have determined a very simple solution to the problem of the defective ATM. I am the victim of this organisation, a licensed deposit taker, authorised by the Bank of England, which is unable to take a simple deposit as per its licence. If anyone is being harrassed it is I. My polite insistence certainly does not constitute harassment. By this time the manager has emerged - she writes down the account number on a piece of paper, together with the value of the cheque and gives it to me as a receipt. I think I suggested this some time ago. The manager(ess) then tries to sell me some additional services provided by this organisation. She does not succeed.
As I turn to leave, the interfering busybody is still waiting for her appointment. I look at her, my expression, I guess, a smug glower. I consider passing a comment, but think better of it. From her vantage point she probably believes she was right.