The Land of Kafka

Dear Czech people:  Franz Kafka  was being SARCASTIC.  He didn’t actually mean for his books to be taken as a guide for how to run your society.  It’s like the Star Trek episode where Kirk  and Spock beam down to the planet that’s like Chicago during prohibition because they’d found some kind of a book about it which, when  you thinkabout it , is really a stupid plot.

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka

I went to the  bank this  morning.  I went  directly after dropping Isabel off for the first day of school (4th grade – I find  it really hard to believe), so I was there when the doors opened.  My mission was to deposit  a check  into our account.  Pretty standard stuff, I would have thought.

I went up to the main counter and she said ‘Oh.  A check.  You have to  go to services,’ and she pointed the way.  There were two clerks in services.  One occupied, one unoccupied.  The unoccupied one was unoccupied because he didn’t know what to do with a check,  either.

I took a seat to wait for the other  one, and he came around his desk to straighten out the chair  I’d sat in.  Czech bank clerks  are  probably the best in the world at straightening chairs.  Not so much at anything  else.

15 minutes later, and wishing  I’d brought a book with me, I got to talk to the one  person  in the bank who’d seen a check before.  And  she looked at it funny.  You know, the kind of look the checkout woman at Albert gives a 1,000 crown note, holding it up to the light like you might be an expert forger or something.

She asked me for identification, which is no big  deal, and spent 5 minutes typing and staring at her computer screen.  I suspect she was playing Candy Crush.  Then she said “The  name on the check is different than the name on the account.”  Well, the last name isn’t.  The account  is in my wife’s name, the check was made out to me.  I was depositing it, not even trying to cash it.  Why should they care who puts money into the account.  If there are people trying to deposit checks into my account (O.K., my wife’s account), we have no objection.  Their name could be Zonkbletter T. Pukelthong.  Money’s money.

So,  I did what I usually do when Czech bureaucrats are behaving unreasonably.  I called my wife.  She talked to the lady in Czech, her tone seemed to be much more helpful, but…

The  resolution was that I could cash the check – not to get cash right away, mind you, it will still take three weeks.  Then, when we  have the cash, we can deposit that into the account.  I thought that was the stupidest thing I’d heard in a long time.  I didn’t state that out loud, but I’m sure she could see it in my expression.

So, I signed four sheets of paper, one of which was my receipt but they were all identical and, as I was leaving, she explained: “The reason it takes so long is because we have to send the check back to the United States.”

“That,” I said, “is why computers were invented.”


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