Tuesday, 21 April 2009


Any statement that begins "My brother..." is always going to end badly. I was sandwiched between two people at the bank. The woman in front of me was trying to take out £1 - ONE POUND - using an expired debit card. Not a crazy lady, as far as I could tell, or a conceptual artist. Just some regular looking lady trying to take out £1 - ONE POUND - with a card from, I believe the stunned cashier said, 2001. 'Oh yes, that's a really old one' said the lady confirming this, then dug around in her bag for an extended period. At no point was she asked, 'why do you only want a pound?' Perhaps you're not allowed to ask. Perhaps it's beaten into you at cashier school: 'Never start a conversation - it will never be interesting'

The man behind me announced himself by gasping frequently and at an inappropriate volume. I turned around to face a man with a dangerously unkempt moustache. It was all over the place, like a neglected hedge. He was swathed in a grey sweat-suit ensemble and generally didn't look like someone who should be in a bank. This was confirmed when he reached the other cashier and started his story with, 'My brother...'. No legitimate bank transaction will ever begin with 'My brother...' To make matters worse he instantly named his brother. So it wasn't simply 'my brother did this' or 'my brother said that'. He said, 'My brother Stan...' I instantly saw the fear in the cashier's eyes when he was faced with 'My brother Stan...' followed by a complicated plot involving a mix-up with cheques, a series of different accounts, negligent postal work and possibly a Spaniel, though I might have misheard that last part.

It is a particularly good way to spook anyone involved in the service industry: cashiers, estate agents, bankers, sales assistants. Just begin your interaction with the words 'My brother...' bellowed a little too loudly. And watch their eyes light up.

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