10 Mammad Amin Rasulzadeh, Baku Tel: (+994 12) 498 2206
This week I had one of those stomach lurching moments. I’d been to my local AG bank ATM hole in the wall to withdraw my rent payment. The limit on my card per withdrawal is AZN500 but with several such transactions, I can get more than that sum. This time, however, after I had successfully retrieved the first AZN500, the machine refused to cooperate further, despite several efforts. ‘Transaction denied’ it admonished me, so I trundled off to the bank itself and there I managed to get what I needed without problem. A few days later when I requested and received a print out at the cash machine, I could see that on that particular occasion I had been debited twice instead of just once for the AZN500 I had taken. Panic stations! AZN500 had disappeared into the ether. Again, I hotfooted it straight to the bank and tried to explain my predicament. For a while, the bank lady and I went around in circles.
She: “You want AZN500?”
Me: “No, you’ve got AZN500 of mine which I want back, please.”
She: “You want AZN500?”
Me: “No, it’s lost, the bank took it, I want the bank to give it me back.”
She: “You want AZN500 from bank?”
You get the picture. Never have I cursed my inability to speak Azeri more. Eventually, with the telephone help of a kind friend who does speak fluent Azeri, I got my point across. The bank lady shrugged and told me that at this time the computers were closed for lunch, I should come back in an hour and a half. Or maybe two hours.
This was a bank, right? It was open for business, right?
“Yes, is open”, she said “but computer finished for lunch. Come back.“
It was one of those true ‘Welcome to Baku’ moments.
Too nervous to go home and wait there, I crossed the pedestrian street and ensconced myself at ‘Midpoint’. Midpoint is a nice looking café restaurant close to the Azeri Cinema and just over the road from Tommy Hilfiger and Sabina, right by the statue of Hatəbah. This statue is, apparently, of Natavan, the lady who first removed the veil. It’s an area I like very much and a perfect spot for chilling out under the big square sun umbrellas. Until quite recently there was a most fantastical luxury supermarket right next to it, Dad Evi (House of Taste), all marble floors, ceiling paintings and lustrous chandeliers. In truth it looked more like a ballroom than a supermarket and it reminded me very much of Harrods’ grand food halls. Clearly there were not enough customers who were willing to pay the inflated prices in order to shop in such a grandiose environment and it shut as quickly as it opened, after just a few months.
So there I was at Midpoint, comfortably sitting in the shade, watching the world go by. For a split second I flirted with the possibility of ordering a brandy to help restore my shot nerves but I’m not a drinker at the best of times and I rather suspected that incoherence and alcohol breath might not be conducive to my negotiations, so I thought I’d treat myself to a light little lunch instead. If the computers could lunch, then, after all, so could I. It took a while for the waiter to mosey on over with the menu which, to my delight, not only seemed to list some rather tempting food but was also in English. Thank God for small mercies! A bitter orange tea seemed like a refreshing idea and perhaps a nice little plate of carpaccio with rocket salad. The tea came but apparently the carpaccio was not available or, at least, that’s what I assumed when the waiter pointed at the menu and said “No!” most vehemently. No worries, there were plenty of other nice things on the menu. I perused a little more and then decided on grilled roast artichoke with rocket. Yum, yum! I ordered. A whole ten minutes later, another waiter appeared, pointed at the relevant spot on the menu and said “No!” This was getting repetitive.
“What do you have?” I ventured. He shrugged. More perusing. Worried that I’d get another “No”, I opted for cheesecake. You can’t really go wrong with cheesecake, I always think, especially if you need a carb, sugar and dairy comfort rush to balance out a frazzled soul. This time a girl came and took the order and sure enough, not long after, she set it before me and I tucked in. I can’t say that it was the cheesecake experience to end all cheesecake experiences. It was okay, artfully drizzled with raspberry sauce as it was, a bit dense and untangy, the type that’s vaguely reminiscent of polyfilla and that sticks to the roof of your mouth, but it was good enough for me to demolish three quarters of without any apparent effort.
Word has it that the burgers at Midpoint are good but I have not tried them myself. I have had a couple of nice evenings here, drinking wine and chatting, and the atmosphere then was always very pleasant and fun, I must say, but that may equally have been down to the company I was in. Tea and cake there cost AZN10.
When I got back to the bank, the computers, it appeared, had woken from their lunchtime siesta and could now provide the required information as to the whereabouts of my AZN500. The ATM cash machine had made a mistake, I was told, and my money would be refunded in a month’s time.
I am not a checker of bank statements but I am grateful and glad that the lovely husband is. This is now the second time that something similar has happened to us, which proves that doing this tedious admin job is definitely worthwhile if you want to keep your Gepiks together.
Just another one of those days <rolls eyes and tuts>…..