ABC… Easy as 123654

ABC's Imposing Edifice of Imposingness! (Please ignore the big broken patch top right).

ABC’s Imposing Edifice of Imposingness! (Please ignore the big broken patch top right).

I really needed to learn these words before today.

我忘记了我的密码… That’s… easy enough… or
Wǒ wàngjìle wǒ de mìmǎ… which I can almost pronounce… very awkwardly.

And those both means… “I’ve forgotten my PIN.” Actually mima means password but… in the bank they knew what I meant.

I’ve not had access to my money in the two weeks its been in my Chinese bank account. My mother kindly offered to try to help me out… and while I love her nurturing instinct I have absolutely no idea how she envisioned somehow getting money in my pockets without flying it over herself. Thing is… if I’d asked… she’d likely have done it.

But no!
Monday finds me trekking down to my local ABC Branch (oh, you thought the title was just a reference to some classic Jackson 5? Oh no!) ABC – Agricultural Bank of China – and if my brother, Ian, actually read this blog, he’d laugh at the irony of me banking anywhere with Agriculture in the title.

Lively happenings in the bank.
Since I accepted it’s okay not to be Politically Correct, my life became much easier. Here’s how. In the branch what appears to be two dwarves – one male, one female – attack the bank clerks and other customers while their mother dwarf tries to restrain them. I have no idea what caused the mini-meltdown but the bank’s temperature resides in toasty… which for winter in Binhai may make it the hottest spot north of Hong Kong. I go nowhere. The woman’s voice sounds cartoonish, so high pitched it may crack glass. And the two are IRATE, for at least 15 minutes I watch as first one, then other tries to ream out some vile offender. Looking at the amount of money they were collecting, this whole exchange began over about $200. It’s not just me. The whole bank halts to watch these ongoing and escalating exchanges.

Mother dwarf finally shoves both outside, and even through tempered glass that high pitched screech invades the atmosphere.

I line up to talk to a teller I know speaks some English. This fails, when I’m kindly escorted over to another pre-teller? (China has a LOT of people, some of the jobs are jobs to have jobs for people who need jobs). He speaks no English. We do not communicate well. He writes some Mandarin. He writes some Pinyin. I pronounce the Pinyin. I do not understand the pinyin. He can not explain.

A woman, not with the bank, just a random woman gathers me up and leads me outside.
I’m fairly certain this is NOT what I want to be doing.

I follow her, madly texting to my contact in Nanjing. She leads me through the pedestrian area of Binhai. I do not want street food. Okay, I do. I cannot *afford* street food. She guides me on. I continue along with her, but inside I’m seething. This is perhaps me at my most dangerous. I remain calm but I can feel the tension encircling my neck like a vice and I’m just about ready to snap. When I do. It will not be pretty. I know this. I want to avoid this.

About ready to break, she points to a building ahead, a MUCH bigger ABC Branch. Some of the tension evaporates.

Inside she escorts me to the VIP section where it appears one of the girls speaks passable English.
There may be hope yet. She asks me to wait. Not a problem. I spend my time flipping through my phrasebook, wishing I could just implant understanding in my head so I could communicate without feeling like a toddler learning to speak.

She escorts me to a teller who will help me. I explain that I don’t know my PIN number, in China a six digit PIN number is required. I’ve never used six digits before. One of the downsides of setting up accounts without comprehending what’s being explained is… I’m pretty sure I set up my PIN without knowing it needed six digits so I didn’t bother.

The girl kindly informs me that if I can’t sort out my PIN, it will only take 3 days to get a new one. The tension returns with friends. “No, that’s not going to work. I have 2 Yuan to my name so…. no… just no.” Still seethingly barely in control.

In front of her friend, one of her first questions is, “please enter your PIN”. Grr. I try. Randomly hitting six digits. 123654. See, my title more clever now! Obviously it fails. After what must be 15 minutes, and a lot of back and forth banter for the tellers, I move from girl number 2 to girl number 3 in order to change my PIN. Maybe.

I repeat the process, sharing my bank card and my passport and they take a great many pics and scans and photocopies, duplicate and triplicates but after nearly 2 hours from the time I entered the first branch to the time I finally finish in the second bigger branch I now have a new PIN (it’s not 123654 -suckers!) and I withdrew a cool 1000 Yuan (not quite $200) so I should be good for the next few days.

ABC… Easy as… 我忘记了我的密码
Baby you and me!

(And my PIN).

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