The Rite of Details

Por: Antonio López Sánchez

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s everlasting bitch, among other memorable phrases, gives her little prince an unanswerable sentence. The raposa, lends hes to being tamed, affirms to her friend that the heart needs rites. On the other hand, there is an old maxim, widely used in film or literature, which prays more or less that in the small details rests the greatness of a work. Both ideas, in more practical frameworks but without stripping them of their inner meanings and poetics, return me to mind after witnessing an incident.
There are institutions whose tasks involve a certain image, in their properties and even in their staff. They are unimaginable, contradictory per se, a dirty hospital, a bustling funeral home, a surgeon in a T-shirt or a policeman in his underpants. The unfulfilled rigour of their presences could disqualify the worth and seriousness of their actions, barely because of what they communicate at first impression. Those who comb gray hair will remember, although luckily we can still see some, the royal buildings of ancient banks and temples that are in this city. Just by entering, architecture refers us to security and power, in some, and to God’s giant presence everywhere, in others.
However, the conditions of the island have forced many institutions to refer to various sites, not always ideal. The banks themselves abound in buildings already far removed from those great images. It should be said fairly that citizen security levels on the island allow a bank to have no more than a few simple bars and a custodian to protect its values and vaults. Let us not forget that protection was one of the lines that also required this constructive magnificence of yesteryear. However, although the rite of the first architectural impression is no longer always fulfilled, other details, more based on the efficiency of the operation, are still needed.
This scribe recently needed to cash a check. At the bank closest to my home I set out to manage. Fortunately, there were only four people in front of me. For those who aren’t aware, here’s an amateur explanation of what the process is like. The cashier receives the check and ID of the interested party. Enter the number to your computer or scan it. Check the machine for valid authorized signatures and verify carrier data on all seats. It then makes the payment effective, gives a copy of a paper that records management and needs to be signed a couple of times. Depending on the cashier’s ability and the operation of the online system, this operation should take about five or ten minutes.
A gentleman who precedes me, up to the box where a young companion is about to pay the two checks the old man carries. My optimism is glad, because a young cashier will make the procedure faster, although there is another cashier operating out of the various possible ones. However, our reality is undoubtedly optimism-proof. The girl, first of all, needs to raise her voice to communicate, because her window, surrounded by modern dark glass, does not have the round hole of the medium that allows them to dialogue client and bank. Since the gentleman is not well-statured, he cannot speak above the panel. The words are then replaced by a false and impertinent nail with which the companion hits the glass whenever it needs to ask something to the interested party.
We soon discovered, as the tail increases behind my back, that the cashier has a constant exchange, nail through, with a trio of lads waiting for her from the side of the box. The companion, given the high number of nail blows, sorry, inquiries at every step, obviously does not know how to process a check. Of course, each clarification was accompanied by laughter, jokes and taunts from his makeshift advisers. As were two checks, this scene was repeated many times.
There was a moment of speedy efficiency. The gentleman received a call on his cell phone, and the fingernail, without his holder turning from the consultation he was making at that moment, immediately called him to order with repeated blows to the window. You can’t use your phone in a bank, even if you haven’t seen any signs in place that alert you to this.
I witnessed everything closely, because the adjoining cashier dispatched three clients, plus this editor, and started with the one who followed me, right at the same time. Meanwhile, an employee, in friendly tones, asked the public for silence (and discreetly her subordinates, I presume), because “we have no air conditioning”. There must be some scientific precept that silence mitigates heat, I suppose. In the end, the gentleman, with a general’s face in a wary victory, left the bank with me. Large total of the operation: twenty-seven minutes. And that, because the companion was in a hurry to go to lunch.
Why does a staff serving the public have to learn their work right on the ground? It is inevitable that an apprentice physician should practice with a patient, but he will never do so where a life is risked and without supervision and rigorous prior training. Is it so hard to learn cold to process a check before entering the box? Or learn in hot, but with serious supervision and previous knowledge, settled, that streamlines the process? In fact, is it that hard to process a check? In addition, although it must be in a bank and everywhere, a money-handling site must train its staff in two or three minimal attitudes to treat their customers and in the image they should show. How do you feel safe knowing that our funds and savings are handled by nail punches and giggles? Why does learning time have to be about customer time?
Anyone can add missing details to each day’s institutional rites. We can add a couple more, sample stew. In several habaneros banks a modern system has been installed where everyone, at the entrance, receives a shift number and is guided to the site that touches him, according to the management required by each client. This is very useful. You follow the screen with the numbers and you don’t have to be aware of anyone, front or back, if you left or stayed, if he came to the same thing or something else. It also eliminates the possibility of someone “sneaking in.” However, chaos engies when an employee comes out of an equis section and, not knowing the shift figure displayed on the screen, asks who it is. Why implement a functional and useful system if the improvement is ousred by the self-action and disrecognisment of workers?
My mother, before she could study Accounting, for a time was dependent in a store called Inclán, of women’s clothing. Back then, employees were required to wear makeup and hairdressing hairstyles. The property made a rebate so girls could buy suitable clothes to work with. They were allowed to wear only sayas and blouses, in white for summer and black for winter. They could only sit if there were no customers in the store. Of course, they should try to please and treat people with all kindness and their task was, above all others, to serve the clientele.
It is not worth listing the causes, material and social, which today degrade Cuban institutional functioning. Some duties and acts do not depend on the deficiencies or quality of uniforms and hairstyles, although also the good image is part of a good service, anywhere. Without looking at the wearing of uniforms, list how many places of public service, employmentmany has no kind ways; listens to music, and almost always bad music, at superhuman levels that prevents communication to employees and customers; conversations or answers the phone or makes accounts or jokes before attending to people, among a thousand other inefficiencies. Tell yourself in passing that with a kind word, with a good deal, with making actions agile and conceited for the public, you can replace or alleviate heat, inappropriate places, shortages, lower quality products and less showy presences.
Someone will be able to say, quite rightly, that, totally, for the salary you earn, who wants to work well. Who cares. Maybe I am. However, when oil appears, agriculture flourishes, the blockade runs out and wages and conditions improve, so much root will be the bad way to do that it will no longer be right. It will be like a second skin the desidia, which I care about, even with good working conditions and salary. Look around, in private businesses, in some foreign-invested works and you’ll notice that it’s already starting to happen. Not to mention human, moral, citizen value, to oneself and to one’s neighbour who simply represents working well and doing what everyone has to do.
That day, back at my place, on a nearby baseball field, I stopped a little to watch some kids play. It was some kind of official tournament, as they were all uniformed and there were referees and so on. Besides, they were all very young, maybe seven or eight years old. It was nice to see how they gave therself up, how they were watching each move, how, in every detail, they showed their love and dedication to the team and the sport. All for one and one for all, they were shown in vivid rite, full, not at all forced but enjoyed. Despite the realities, a blade of fire tried to ignite my optimism again. Who knows. At best, there’s still a remedy. Ω

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