Strange things happen when you go on leave. You come back married, with a brand new name and absolutely no idea who your new husband might be. Going online, your bank cheerfully welcomes you with a “Welcome Arja!”, but your name is now Mrs A Coetzee.
The customer care woman at the other end of the line is not only mystified, but also doesn’t seem to care. You tell her there’s no Coetzee in your family, never has been and you’ve never been a Coetzee – how could this happen? She doesn’t know, suggests you get in your car and drive to your nearest branch to sort it out.
The cheery poppie at the counter assures you it’s nothing to worry about, it happens all the time when a bank updates its software and records and, not to worry, her colleague is going to sort it out. You still have the same amount of money in your account, don’t you?
Yes, alack and alas, you do. The new name didn’t bring a rosy glow to your bank balance, and the last thing you want to do while you’re supposed to be away from the hurly burly of life is to encounter it at your nearest bank.
Back at work, a colleague asks if you’ve checked your status at home affairs. What if you have been married off secretly somewhere offshore?
You turn ice cold for a minute. It’s nightmare territory – proving you’re not married is like proving sky is blue. Holding your breath, you check – no, home affairs hasn’t married you off; it’s only the bank that is determined to see you with the knot tied.
Friends don’t understand why you are not livid with rage, why you haven’t demanded to see the bank manager... Truth is, you’re tired. When you’re not fighting name changes, you’re fighting a cellphone company over their 3G service that doesn’t work, or holding on to the phone while a bored oke at DStv is telling you to pull out the red plug and replace it with a yellow.
No, it’s your Jewish mother who comes to the rescue when she tries to deposit a cheque for you and the bank won’t accept it because it isn’t in the name of Coetzee, she goes into action. Thank God for Jewish mothers who don’t take no for an answer.
Days later the poppie from the bank phones to say that your name has been changed but now they can no longer investigate the matter because it would be too difficult because you are no longer Mrs Coetzee.
You stare down the phone. You can just imagine the face on the other end and barely manage to splutter out that you don’t care how difficult it is, you still want the matter investigated. As you put down the phone, a messenger brings you a little black box. Inside, with a press release inviting you to a bridal expo, a fake diamond ring in a black velvet box winks up at you, and nestled further down is a little plastic statue of a man and woman in wedding regalia, the kind that you plop on to a cake.
Finally, you howl.
(Published in The Sunday Independent, October 2008)