Back in the day, when Boris ruled and I didn’t know enough Russian to tell someone that their mother enjoyed having sex with orangutans, I used to work morning and evening in a bank. Two times a day five days a week I would arrive at the flashy new building with my cheap suit on and my passport in hand to explain English conditionals to a convicted fraudster from Siberia who had done rather well for himself after the breakup of the USSR. After some time I was asked to explain stuff to his daughter and his son in law, and then to his nephew who all had senior positions in the banking empire, nepotism being a standardized HR strategy in the late nineties. All in all I would go to that bank ten, fifteen or more times every week, and ten fifteen or more times a week I would hand my passport to the security guard on the front door.

 And ten fifteen or more minutes was how long it took him every single time to examine that passport, and to check it against the computer he had in his little glass box and make a couple of calls to double check that it was OK for me to do the job his boss was paying me to do. My face must have been more familiar to him than that of his wife, if he had a wife: my suspicion was that his heart had more likely been won by a cockroach or a potato.  Let’s do the maths: 50 weeks, multiplied by 5 days, multiplied by  3 times a day would make 750 times a year he looked at my face and my passport, and still he had to force me to wait in the cold for 10 minutes before he pressed the button that opened the door to his kingdom. Maybe he hated foreigners, maybe I was the spitting image of a man who had brutally killed his entire family 10 years previously or maybe he had been badly duped by a shape shifting monster that could assume any form it chose. The only other option would be that he was a spiteful cretin accorded so little responsibility in life that it had driven him to employ power crazed techniques of pettiness and obstruction against innocent teachers in order to feel himself a man.

I had to leave home fifteen minutes early every time to account for this routine. I complained to my bosses, but they were making too much from my work there to want to upset the apple cart.

 So all I could do was talk to him, through his little window, but my Russian then was negligible and he didn’t understand English at all, except for “fuck” and “Yo Momma” and so on. Which was how I discovered the release valve of looking into a man’s eyes and explaining to him calmly and in detail that his cretinism was a result of his having sucked so much dick throughout his life. Or, that if he could just manage to resist the temptation to let stray dogs perform anal sex on his person then his IQ might one day rival that of a brain damaged squirrel. The creative possibilities were endless. Granted it was pointless, utterly pointless, I know, for he understood nothing and, as my tone remained courteous however puerile I got, he never really grasped what was going on. But I felt better, the minutes passed pleasurably so that in time I came to quite enjoy the exchanges and it was certainly less frustrating than silently fuming in the ice and snow.

 And then it all ended: the fraudster asked me one day if I was having problems getting in to the building, I told him the truth and after that my dog raping subhuman friend would buzz me into the building before I even had my passport out of my pocket and graciously wave me through into the lobby taking care to avoid my eye, but I had one more technique to help me deal with the travails of this place.