The post office was just behind my office. The plan was to stop over there during my lunch break. I learnt I could access the international money transfer service there. Of course I was excited. I wasn't exactly broke, but I could do with the money.
It's lunch time, I head on over to the post office. I tell the guy at the counter that I want to use the international money transfer service. Then he asks if I'm sending or receiving. That question had me mighty confused. Simple enough question, but I didn't get why he was asking me that question. In Ghana, anytime I used the international money service, I just told whoever was in charge I wanted to use the service and then I was handed a form (receiving form) to fill out. No questions were asked. And then it hit me. I am in the developed world. Most of the moneys sent via international money transfers originate from the part of the world I was in, with their final destination being the part of the world Ghana is in. It would make sense to assume everyone using the service in Ghana was receiving. You can however not be too sure about everyone using the service in the developed world. After a whole 30 seconds of me with my blank look, I answer the guy (he was starting to look frustrated). I smile and tell him I'm receiving.
He then tells me if I want cash, I'll need to go down the road (more like take a bus) to the bigger post office, because he can only give me a cheque. Of course I wanted the cash but I had to do this during my lunch break, actually get lunch, and head on back to my office. So I tell him the cheque is just fine. It really wasn't, but my bank was right across the road from the post office, so I figured after getting the cheque, I'd dash on over there, deposit the cheque and hopefully get my money.
I pick up the cheque, head on to the bank, walk to one of the tellers (there wasn't a queue, nice) hand my cheque over to her, she takes a look at it, looks at me, smiles and says, "my dear, why don't you deposit it in the ATM. That way you'll have access to some of the money before the cheque is cleared. If you deposit it with me, it'll take you 3 days to get your money". Must have been a day of blank looks for me, because that's exactly what I gave her for 2 reasons.
1. Why does she think I need the money right away (but really I did)? My skin colour means I desperately need cash, really? Is she racist?
2. What does she mean? Who deposits cheques in an ATM? She's totally messing with me. Yeah, definitely racist!
She smiles at me again and says, "oh dear, you probably don't know how to do that (of course I didn't even know you could do that. totally racist). Come let me show you". She moves from behind the counter and heads on to the ATM machines outside the banking hall with me. Of course I'm grateful this kind lady was being so helpful, but my mind was made up. She was just racist.
She tells me what to do and shows me how to do it, and tells me I can withdraw up to a certain amount of the money before the cheque clears. Then I ask the obvious. "What stops someone from dropping in a blank sheet of paper and withdrawing the accessible amount"? She then tells me that actually does happen, not often, but it does and it's usually a minority group in the country that does that (oh yeah, she just confirmed, she is racist), but they do track some of them down (yeah, the joys of living in a country where streets are named, houses are numbered, and your bank account indicates all of that, and it's easy to track at least your house down).
I deposit the cheque, withdraw the accessible amount and skip (actually, I just walked) on back to the office on an empty stomach. Lunch time was over. Doing the post office, the bank, time spent giving blank looks and the tutorial I got on depositing a cheque in an ATM machine, just took too much time.
Moral: the fact that something is always a certain way where you from doesn't mean it's that way everywhere. Be open to new ideas. The fact that machines where you are from don't perform a certain function doesn't mean they don't do that in another part of the world. Who knows, that function just might be available where you are from sometime, so learn (I hear there are ATMs of some banks in Ghana that have the cheque depositing function now).
The fact that you have heard of racism doesn't mean just because you are a certain colour, you should be looking for racism in your interaction with any and everyone of the group that are usually accused of racism. Come to think of it, I was probably being more prejudiced and racist than this person. She was just a nice sweet lady who wanted to help (I know no teller in any bank in Ghana if they could, would leave their desk to go help me out with anything). Don't go looking for something that isn't there just because you've heard it exists in the part of the world you in. Racism in no way looks like what I experienced that day.