When you've got to go, you've got to go, at least as far as banks are concerned. It is 11.50am and I have just received a telephone call from a lady, an unusual enough experience in itself, a Miss Leung at my bank. My bank and that of approximately four million other people, which is part of the problem and the main reason I rarely go there, for fear that all four million people will be inside, trying to convert US dollar time deposits into Vietnamese dong futures. Of course, I have never yet found four million people in my bank. Last time there were probably only 300,000. Some were depositing or withdrawing money, standard bank-like activities, but most seemed to have stopped by for an argument. If this particular bank had a counter set aside for customers looking for an altercation, the rest of us would get served in half the time. There would presumably be a service charge. Come to think of it, it would be a nice little earner. Fifty or 60 altercations a day at $100 a throw, multiplied by six days a week, further multiplied by the number of branches in Hong Kong. You can do the maths. It amazes me that a man as financially astute as William Purves did not come up with the idea a long time ago. Presuming we are talking about the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, which we are not. This lady wished to tell me there was a problem with my standing order. She said, not surprisingly: 'Mr David [Hong Kong never has got the hang of this second name business] there is a problem with your standing order.' 'A problem with your standing order' as all good fiscal retards are aware, means your account is as dry as a Gobi desert drinks cabinet and that if you don't cough up some readies pronto, this month's National Mutual payment will end up in the staff Lai See fund. Miss Leung, I must point out, was charm and light. She was only doing her job. She explained the situation and I agreed. 'I am having an out-of-money experience,' I told her. Miss Leung apparently doesn't watch The X-Files because the joke fell as flat as a meatless sausage. Anyway, the charming Miss Leung at the bank, whose name I can't mention, was worried that if I didn't get to her branch by 12 noon, unspeakable things would happen. Noon, it seems, is circumcision time for standing orders. Cut-off time for direct debits. At 12.01 precisely you could deposit three tonnes of Yameshita's gold bullion in your cheque account, but if there were 'insufficient funds' at 11.59am, too bad. Your China Light & Power payment gets the snip. But how to get from office to bank in less than 10 minutes? Miss Leung evidently doesn't believe in giving her clients the benefit of significant notice. 'Miss Leung, I'm very busy [first lie]. I can't really drop everything [second lie] and get to your bank before 12 [third lie]. 'But if you could see your way to sending over a time machine, or some other device that would facilitate the rearrangement of standard Hong Kong linear time into fifth dimensional hyper-time, then I could get there this morning, yesterday, or a week ago last Thursday and the whole sticky problem would be solved.' The bank, when I did get there, looked as it usually looks; like the departure lounge of a second-rate British airport during a French air traffic controller's strike. A gentleman standing in line at the next counter was clearly hyper-ventilating. His chest was performing that scene from Alien and one by one distended veins were bursting out of his forehead. 'I've been here seven years,' he said. 'So you must have arrived the year of the Tiananmen Square incident.' 'No. I mean I've been here seven years. In this bank.' 'Really? What is it?' 'Banker's draft in British pounds sterling. And you?' 'Standing order problems. Always a tricky one. Forms in triplicate, ledger filled in by hand, countersigned by duty manager, frenetic tapping of computer keys. Sniggers all-round when they check your bank book. I'm sure you know the routine.' A third gentleman joined us. He had already had his altercation, about a non-functioning ATM card, but the experience had left him drained. I last saw him slumped over the Foreign Currency Transactions counter sobbing 'Please, it's just a simple withdrawal'.