THE WILD COOT was talking to a fellow that he met in the bank. Call him an acquaintance. “Wild Coot, you know that when I was in those sophisticated jobs, I should have taken advantage of my position.”
Hear me: “How you mean?”
“Tief! Now that things are getting harder and harder, I find that I can hardly survive. That is not fair for a man like me. And the fact of the matter is that I cannot see things getting better in my lifetime. Lord, I am 66. Here in Buhbadus the rich getting richer and the poor poorer, and the policy of the politicians seem to be that once we get our pension, let them sort out the mess.”
At first I was a bit put off by the way he said ‘’tief”. Then my mind recalled others who have been accused of tiefing (they referred to it as purloining or graft). I was always afraid to tief because I am afraid of going to prison. The things that I hear go on in prison frighten me. Besides, the Anglican Church believes in Leviticus.
“Well,” I said to my acquaintance, “come let us reason together. Come and sit besides me on this seat and let us talk.”
He obviously was distraught as I could hear the anger in his voice. There was no doubt that hard times had hit him and the decline in social status was playing a big part. We sat side by side on two seats in the banking hall.
“Wild Coot, you may not understand what we are going through because you are a big banker and you were born with a gold spoon in your mouth; but people like me so that born in poverty and had to pull ourselves up by the bootstrap have no right to be sinking onto poverty again; and those [people] only thinking about themselves.” He started to cry. Real tears!
I pulled out a hankie and offered the fellow an arm on his shoulder. “Wild Coot, you know that my landlord threatened to put me out of the apartment. This is three months that I cannot pay him a red cent and I have nowhere to go. I have no children (that I know of), and the only sister I had died year before last. My father is still alive. He is 87 and is sick . . . . He could hardly move. I went to look for him last week. He said to me, ‘Son, you wasted your opportunity. You should have tiefed while you had the chance. You have more brains than those people you used to work with. There was no way they could have caught you. All like now so you could be taking care of me, driving Mercybenz, living in the hickies with swimming pool and setting yourself up to run for a third term.”
His whimpering grew louder and started to attract stares from other people in the bank. People would think that the Wild Coot had done him something wrong or that he owed the Wild Coot money and I was coming down hard on him.
I took my hand from around his shoulder, lest people got the wrong impression. People might think that the Wild Coot had lost some of his vigour and had become left-handed. Indeed, this might be construed as a lover’s spat. He just sat there whimpering.
Then he said: “Wild Coot, when is this thing going to end? Even the boss man says that we have no option but to oil up the printing press at the Central Bank. I remember a poem that I learned at school called The Charge Of The Light Brigade by Lord Alfred Tennyson – Into the Valley of Death Rode the Six Hundred.”
I decided to be frank with him. “Friend, we are between the devil and the deep blue sea.” According to a lady, “choose your poison”. Devaluation is worse than either the devil or the deep blue sea. But there is a chance if we seize the moment (carpe diem). I am not sure if those in charge have the testicular fortitude even collectively to undertake a revival. I believe that Dr Honohan said that the worst medicine is to stand still; that home-grown medicine offered to the IMF may have results.
“But Wild Coot,” he offered snivelling, “you are a banker, and they say that bankers can split a one cent piece. How can I make the small pension buy food, pay bus fare, pay rent, electricity, water and other essentials without tiefing? You see what we citizens have been relegated to? All the captain is saying is ‘print more money’. Is that home-grown enough? ‘Cannons to the right of them/ Cannons to the left of them/ Cannons in front of them volleyed and thundered’.”
• Harry Russell is a banker. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org