Midday At The ATM

Scene: A queue for the ATM on New Year’s Eve at Midday. An older man and a younger woman are at the back of the queue.


ALEXANDER (to the young woman in front him, speaking loudly on a mobile phone): Excuse me.

She doesn’t hear and maintains her conversation at the same volume.

ALEXANDER (louder this time): Excuse me.

She still doesn’t hear.

ALEXANDER (angry this time, too): Excuse me!

FIFI (surprised): What! … I mean, what did you say? She covers the phone receiver. Can I help you?

ALEXANDER: It’s just you’re being awfully loud. Is it really necessary …

FIFI: I’m talking to my sister. It’s important.

ALEXANDER: I didn’t realise. I’m sorry.

FIFI: That’s OK. Perfectly alright. You weren’t to know.

She goes back to her phone call. Says: “So I’ll be there in about fifteen, yeah? Does that work? As soon as I can. It’s a pretty long line at the bank. Yep, I’ll bring Baileys …”

ALEXANDER: That’s not an important phone call.

FIFI: What?

ALEXANDER: I said, “That’s not an important phone call”. You’re going to see your sister in a few minutes. It’s hardly an emergency, is it?

FIFI: I’m organising my day. And what’s it to you?

ALEXANDER: Those things are very obtrusive, you know. He points at the mobile device.

FIFI: They’re very convenient actually.

ALEXANDER: Is that what you call it? Convenient for peaceful people to be assailed with other people’s private conversations.

FIFI: I’m finished anyway. See, I’m hanging up.

ALEXANDER: Thank you.

FIFI: Don’t mention it.

ALEXANDER: Look, I didn’t mean you to stop talking.

FIFI: That’s pretty much the impression you gave me. Couldn’t have been clearer really.

ALEXANDER: I just meant if you could reach the conclusion of your conversation a bit faster, you know.

FIFI: You can’t change your mind now. I did what you asked.

ALEXANDER: Oh, but I didn’t mean …

FIFI: Too late. I only hope I can get my sister’s medication in time now. She has to take it in under half an hour. She was going to tell me which chemist to go to.

ALEXANDER: Oh god! I’m sorry. Call her back. Can you do that? I’ve got a car. I’ll drive you to all the pharmacies.

FIFI: I can’t call her back. Battery just ran out.

ALEXANDER: What’ll we do? I mean, what’ll you …

FIFI: I won’t do anything. I was mucking around.

ALEXANDER looks relieved, then angry, then exasperated.

FIFI: Had you going there for a sec.

ALEXANDER: That’s not funny.

FIFI: Yeah, it was. A Bit. You need to be more careful what you tell strangers to do.

ALEXANDER: I didn’t tell you to do anything. But the real issue is that bloody thing. He points at FIFI’s handbag, where she put her mobile phone. It’s an invasion of privacy.

FIFI: They really are very useful, you know.

ALEXANDER: How? It’s just making yourself available for all manner of people to bother you at any time during the day. Why would you want that?

FIFI: You’re a bit of a grump, aren’t you. It’s New Years. The Milennium. Cheer up.

ALEXANDER: But what use is it? I mean real use.

FIFI: I can call other people on it. I can call my sister and get the medication she needs to treat her terminal illness if she is running short.

ALEXANDER: Don’t be smart.

FIFI: Yes. OK. I was being cheeky. But it is very useful, in fact. If you get lost you can call a friend and ask for directions. If you’re meeting someone and you’ll be late you can call them and tell them. If you’re expecting a phone call you know you’ll never miss it.

ALEXANDER: I’ve sat by the phone before. I know what that’s like.

FIFI: Waiting for your sweetheart to call?

ALEXANDER: Don’t be silly. Kate and I were never mushy like that. And that was a long time ago. No, I mean waiting to hear about a job interview.

FIFI: See? Convenient. Shame about the romance. Or lack of.

ALEXANDER (allowing himself a smirk): That’s enough out of you.

FIFI: I was just mucking around. Again.

ALEXANDER (a small giggle this time): You do a bit of that.

FIFI: Yes, I do. A Lot of that in fact. I’m a clown doctor.

ALEXANDER: Well, that’s very interesting. You work with sick kids then?

FIFI: Mostly. But their mums and dads could do with some cheering up too. We just try to be silly. There’s an awful lot of serious at the hospital and we force a bit of silly into people’s lives. It helps you know.

ALEXANDER: I’ve heard. Your mother and father should be proud of you.

FIFI: Oh, they were. Before their accident, that is.


FIFI: No, I’m being serious this time. There was an accident. A car accident.

ALEXANDER: Oh, god! I’m sorry. I’ve done it again.

FIFI: That’s OK. You weren’t to know. It was years ago. And you haven’t done it again. The first time didn’t count, remember?

ALEXANDER: That’s right. I feel a bit better. But I am sorry.

FIFI: Forget it. Truly. What do you think of this Y2K thing?

ALEXANDER: What, the theory that all the computers on Earth will reset themselves to the year 1900 at Midnight? That planes will fall from the sky? That all of our computerised, automated lives will come to a violent halt? That perhaps we should have been stockpiling food in the bush somewhere for this eventuality all along? That theory?

FIFI: Yes, that theory.

ALEXANDER: It’s drivel. I could use a few other words as well, but I won’t. It’s impossible for those things to happen. I work with computers.

FIFI: You understand computers?

ALEXANDER: I didn’t quite say that. I work with them. I’m the chairman of a dotcom. We’re working on a new search engine. It should be ready to roll out very soon. Much better than Lycos, and we hope to be able to compete with Yahoo as well. But enough about that. My tech guys tell me this Y2K stuff is garbage. I pay them to know what they are talking about and that’s what they tell me.

FIFI: Nothing to worry about then?

ALEXANDER: Nothing. Except ATM queues which last forever. Are all of these people withdrawing all their savings?

FIFI: Yes, it feels like we’ve been here forever. Your hair was black when we started this conversation.

ALEXANDER: Hey, steady on. I thought ladies liked a bit of grey on an older gent.

FIFI: Gent, are you?

ALEXANDER: I was mucking around that time.

FIFI: You should do that more often. You’re good at it. You were very grumpy when we first started talking. But you’re calmer now.

ALEXANDER: That’s right. I am. Thank you.

FIFI: My work is done here. And look, it’s your turn at the machine. FIFI indicates the ATM.

ALEXANDER: Oh, Happy New Year then.

FIFI: Happy New Year to you too.

Published in: on February 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

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