Relying on my wife’s ATM card has been quite convenient, over the years. I got turned off the idea of having my own card, many years ago when I had one but did not get alerts. I was a bit laid back then and was in the unwise habit of giving my ATM card to friends to help me draw cash. Do not misunderstand me. My friends are honest folk but without account balance alerts, e-mailed or texted, I behaved as if my stash was inexhaustible. It was bound to lead to trouble and this came in the form of a rude shock one day. It was the day I decided to visit the cash point myself. I slotted in my card, punched my pin, demanded a balance and almost fainted when the numbers popped up. My balance was not good enough for a decent lunch at any standard fast food restaurant. I had blown several millions in just two weeks. It was a devastating experience. It is never fun to be broke and I determined that it would never happen again. I stopped using the ATM card.
It was not an easy decision and soon enough I began to change my mind about the ATM boycott especially whenever I found myself in the belly of a monster queue, glaring at an indolent bank teller. I am ashamed to admit that sometimes I have been part of a mob of bank customers wishing we could be brutally frank with a bank teller, who prefers chatting up his colleague to attending to customers already pushed to the limit of endurance by being stuck in a snail-paced and lengthy queue just to pick up some pocket money.
Eventually, my wife who had always been the more pragmatic kind, landed her own state of the art ATM card and this ironed out the years of inconvenience which I had been suffering for refusing to do the needful…get my own ATM card. So, anytime I needed a bit of stash, I would make a transfer to my wife’s account and then ask her to please go get the stash from the ATM. She indulged me for a while but soon enough, she started extending the card to me with the words that would become familiar. Go get it yourself, she would say. More words would soon be added. Why don’t you get your own card? Each time, you draw money, they debit me. You are owing me, you know. Why don’t you put some real money in my account instead of all these bits and pieces of chicken feed. And whenever she said those words, I would tell myself that there must come a time when a man has just got to do what a man’s got to do. Get my own card so that my wife would stop ‘chancing’ me. She had made it quite clear that the use of her ATM was a service that I should be paying for.
After several years of my wife’s longsuffering in letting me use her ATM card, she said to me oneday, ‘why not get an Access Bank ATM card. It will only take five minutes. For two days, her ATM card issued by one bank, quite well known for constant network issues, had been reading ‘issuer inoperative’ everytime it was slotted into the ATM machine. It put us in a quandry. We could not pay for fuel or shop. It was evening. Banks were closed. The next morning, I whipped out my Access Bank cheque book and stepped out to go and sort things out, the old fashioned way. It was then my wife had said, ‘Access would give you a card in five minutes.’
‘Impossible,’ I said but I found myself thinking that even if they could give me a card by the end of the day or next, it would end my decade-old self imposed ATM boycott and the concommitant inconvenience. So, having about an hour to kill and stuffing my check-book into my back pocket, for back-up purposes I drove to Access Bank on Olu Obasanjo, P.H, switched on a smile and headed for one of the customer relations ladies.
‘Hello,’ she smiled when I stood before her.
‘Hi,’ I said. ‘Can you do me an ATM card in five minutes?’
‘Yes,’ she smiled and directed me to another desk occupied by a young, obviously twentysomething year old chap. He looked up at my approach.
‘Can Access do me a card in five minutes?’ I threw it like a challenge.
‘Yes,’ he smiled. ‘Please sit down.’ He pointed me to a chair, gave me a form which I promptly filled and returned to him. ‘One minute gone,’ I told him. He smiled and started working on his desk top.
‘Two minutes gone.’ I said, looking at my wrist. He continued working. Soon, the minute hand on the bank’s wall clock crept past three minutes and the seconds continued to tick. He slid something into an envelop and passed it to his colleague.
‘Four minutes up,’ I said. I got up, waiting for five minutes to be up and his colleague came forward and put the envelop in my hand. ‘Your ATM card, sir,’ he said.
‘Aha,’ I said, impressed.
‘It will take a minute to activate,’ he said, pointing me back to the customer relations lady who immediately beckoned to one of her colleagues but that one was on the phone. Six minutes. Seven…The customer relations lady got up, dragged a POS machine over to her, inserted my card, went through the rites of activation and it was over. I looked at my watch. Just under ten minutes. It would have been done in eight minutes if the other lady had not been on the phone. I took my card and walked out to the ATM machine. If I had not experienced it, I would have never believed that a Nigerian bank could issue me a card under ten seconds.
My wife had returned her ATM card to her bank because the ‘issuer inoperative’ sign had continued. Her bank had been in the possesion of her ATM card for more than a week. I have asked her when her bank would return her card and she complained that when she spoke to the bank, they simply said that they would send her ‘a text message’ when the card is ready. No need to name the bank.

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