I went to the bank last week. I walked down James Street passed the closed or closing shops. I thought that my Gran would barely recognise this once fashionable street. The smart, individual stores replaced by generic chains, now themselves receding into the past. We blame the council for high business rates and expensive parking; the landlords for rents that the retailers cannot now afford. We blame the online stores for under-cutting high street prices. I know that I have also contributed to these changing times, tempted by online discounts or opting for the convenience of home delivery.
My Gran would have been mystified by the bank. No Mary Poppins set here. The mahogany and marble banking halls are more likely to serve craft beer and coffee now. This bank is bright and clinical; its walls lined with cash machines. It is lunchtime, a single cashier at an open counter faces a long queue. I opt to deposit my money in the machine. It looks like the quicker option and I am on my way to a class at the gym.
It’s all touch screen. So I touch the screen to start. It wakes up. ‘Do I have cash or cheques to deposit?’ I have both. The automata cannot take both in the way that the smiling counter staff can. I separate them and start with the cash. There is whirring and grinding within the machine. I imagine it is the goblins in their carts, surfacing to collect my gold. I deposit my cash. More whirring and grinding as the cash is carried to the vaults and a receipt is generated for my records. Do I require another service? Yes I do, I need to deposit the cheques separately. That done, I am free to go. I pause only to confirm that the queue at the counter has not fully dispersed whilst I battled with the machine. It hasn’t. I smile at the customer greeter, grateful for a small element of human exchange in the transaction.