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Art of leving noisily


Temptation is common: “Those ******* useless ******* at that ******* terrible company - I’ll expose them! In my column!!!!”

File picture: Willem Law / Independent Media.

We break a rule today, good reader, and apply the Stoep to judgement on a personal wrangle. Which is quite a step for a column. Some columns.

Temptation is common: “Those ******* useless ******* at that ******* terrible company – I’ll expose them! In my column!!!!”

A tangent: fascinating how swearing has switched, is it not? The old English mainstays “bloody” and “bugger”, originating in the formerly unmentionable topics of menstruation and homosexuality, have slipped from taboo to mere slang to invisibility. They were vanquished by the American-led onslaught of the four-letter word (and its seven-letter attendants ****ing and ****ers) that makes M-Net movies an unlistenable string of censored hiccups.

Anyway, never in Stoep Talk, or a few hundred prior columns from I think 14 inningses, have I sought to win a private squabble by whacking the other guy in public print. Why not? I like to think it’s because that’s playing dirty, like talk-show hosts surreptitiously cutting their antagonist off to give themselves the last word.

There may be a less noble factor, though; doubt that “win” is a win. Doing a column teaches you things, like that you can give a ringing public compliment to someone who you later learn never saw it or even heard of it. That keeps your feet on the ground.

But today we do the deed. Oddly I’m not in a temper, more bemused at how bad badness can get.

A month ago the Stoep muttered about banks and their irritations, old-days’ long unanswered tring-tringing versus new-days’ eternal circuit through recorded voices with absent ears. The quiet agony of re-hearing and re-re-hearing the lists of cautions and disclaimers. The rumbling agony of re-explaining yourself to one call-centre agent after another. The shrieking agony of getting back to the guy who has sorted half your problem and said, “No, I can’t call you, but all you need is to ask for me.”

Since then, more of the same, punctuated by a particular gem. A call-centre guy (no name, even when you must finger a brand you can leave individuals in peace) cheerfully said this wasn’t for him and referred me to colleagues who, he was sure, “should be able to help you by next week or so”.

And so we come to the upshot. Monday morning I write to their Actionline (sixth time): – “Dear Absa, I have to withdraw my account. I don’t want to, not because I’m wedded to you, after a month of phone calls, but because switching is a nuisance I don’t have time for. So I try one more time. If somebody gets back to me this morning who can actually sort this out, that’ll save the day.”

I think I’m being hardcore here: you’ve been my bank 30 years and I’m quitting. This is last-resort stuff.

No reply. How deflating is that.

Tuesday I write again, (not in infinite patience): “Dear Absa, I can’t believe I am pleading for you to make some small move to keep me as a customer, but I beg you again ”

Aha! A response! I’m copied on an e-mail from “Complaints Resolution Suite” to “Fraud”: “Good day Colleagues. Please see below and assist.”

Which is encouraging, if unceremonious. But silence follows, for 45 hours as I write. I take that as Absa’s way of saying “who needs you”. And I think an alarm bell is called for, is that fair? It’d be sad if Big Four become Big Three.

Though maybe Capitec moves in, à la RMB. That could push things north.