(Scene: Manager's office. Mr Nougat, in the corridor outside, knocks on the door.)
Manager: Come in!
(Mr Nougat walks into the office and closes the door.)
Manager: Good morning.
Mr Nougat: Good morning. I wish to complain about this bank.
Manager: I'm sorry, we're closing for lunch.
Mr Nougat: Never mind that. Never mind that. When I gave my salary cheque to your cashier Mrs Grindstone not five minutes ago...
(Mr Nougat holds the cheque up)
Mr Nougat (continues): ...she informed me that she was unable to cash it.
Manager: I apologise for the inconvenience, of course.
Mr Nougat: Inconvenience? I need my salary in order to provide the wherewithal for food, clothes and housing for myself, my wife and our family.
Manager: Your company probably doesn't have sufficient funds in its account.
Mr Nougat: Insufficient funds? INSUFFICIENT FUNDS? Listen. This cheque is signed by the chief accountant at Prodco. Prodco is one of the largest and most profitable multinational corporations in the known universe. It has entrusted to you countless billions, if not trillions of pounds in numerous accounts of various kinds. They are by far your largest customer and they are recognised as outstandingly profitable by both Gartner and the Financial Times. They are rich beyond the dreams of avarice. They are rolling in it. They have loadsamoney. How can there be insufficient funds in their account?
Manager: Well, perhaps Mrs Grindstone noticed something wrong with the cheque, then.
Mr Nougat: Something wrong with it? It's a salary cheque like thousands of others. What could be wrong with it?
Manager: Let me take a quick look at it.
(Mr Nougat gives the cheque to Manager. Manager holds the cheque up to the light, produces a magnifying glass from the desk, and then studies the cheque on both sides, saying Mmmh, Oooh and Aaah, for a long time.)
Manager: (suddenly excited, points to the cheque) It's torn.
Mr Nougat: No, it's not.
Manager: Just there. See? After the pound sign and before the number, it's torn. (Offers the magnifying glass to Mr Nougat.)
Mr Nougat (rubs the suspected tear lightly with one finger): Nonsense! Twaddle! It's a little piece of fluff, that's all.
Manager: Well, obviously Mrs Grindstone thought it was a tear.
Mr Nougat: All right, all right. Now that we know it isn't a tear, perhaps you can cash my salary cheque.
Manager: Well, I regret, I can't cash it.
Mr Nougat: And for what reason, may I ask?
Manager: Because new security rules require you, as payee of this security, to produce incontrovertible proof of your identity. It prevents terrorism, you know.
Mr Nougat: Proof of my identity? (He takes a pile of documents from his pocket and counts them onto the manager's desk) I happen to have with me my driving licence, passport, credit card, bus pass, gas bill, television licence, birth certificate, mortgage agreement, marriage certificate, disclosure certificate, National Health card, National Insurance card, a birthday card and a receipt for two suits at the dry cleaner.
Manager: Very well, but even though you have established your identity beyond all doubt, I still cannot cash this cheque.
Mr Nougat: Why not?
Manager: It is a crossed cheque. It takes three business days to pay a crossed cheque into your account and pay cash from your account to you.
Mr Nougat: Crossed cheque? This is an ordinary, uncrossed salary cheque such as millions of employees receive every Friday.
Manager: There's a crossing, there.
Mr Nougat: That's just a shadow falling on the paper. Listen. I've had a salary cheque from Prodco at the end of every month for the last ten years and neither this cheque nor any other has been crossed.
Manager: In that case, now that you've convinced me that it's an uncrossed cheque, I still can't cash it.
Mr Nougat: Still can't cash it? Still can't cash it? For what reason?
Manager: I can't tell you.
Mr Nougat: Come again?
Manager: I don't want to talk about it.
Mr Nougat (produces newspaper from under coat): Does the reason have anything to do with this? (The headline on the newspaper is: BANK COLLAPSES)
Manager: Oh, of course not. The story is nothing to do with our financial standing whatever. It refers to the Bank's office in Morocco, which collapsed during the recent tragic earthquake.
Mr Nougat (puts the newspaper on the desk): Earthquake in Morocco? I didn't hear about any earthquake in Morocco.
Manager: So you see I can't cash your salary cheque.
Mr Nougat: You can't cash my salary cheque because there was an earthquake in Morocco.
Manager: Exactly. Precisely. Quite so. A dreadful tragedy. Thousands made homeless.
Mr Nougat (pauses, then quietly): There hasn't been an earthquake in Morocco, has there?
Manager: No. I made it up.
Mr Nougat: You don't have an office in Morocco, do you?
Manager: No. I made that up as well.
Mr Nougat: Show me some money.
Mr Nougat: Just put your hand in the till and show me some money. Let me see some banknotes, greenbacks, legal currency, folding stuff, coin of the realm, dough, cash, dosh or lolly.
Manager: For what reason?
Mr Nougat: I just want to see it.
(Manager reaches into his desk drawer and holds out a small handful of coppers to Mr Nougat.)
Mr Nougat: Is that all you have?
Mr Nougat: The sum total of the bank's capital assets is eight pence?
Manager: There's more on the way. Nothing to get worried about. You've just called at a very busy time, that's all.
Mr Nougat: Busy time? More on the way? This bank has collapsed, hasn't it.
Manager: Oh, no. We have agreed a temporary bridging package which will uphold our cash flow requirements until there is an improvement in the general economic situation. It's all at the taxpayer's expense, so it won't come out of your pocket.
Mr Nougat: This bank has gone bust!
Manager: Far from it. We are experiencing a transient liquidity shortage due to undervaluation. In a bullish market our assets will return to their normal valuation, and we shall be a thriving and profitable provider of financial services, stronger than ever before.
Mr Nougat: This bank is unable to meet its commitments.
Manager: Let me put you right on that. Once our ongoing rights issue has been satisfactorily negotiated with our stakeholders, we shall have sufficient working capital to continue normal monetary operations.
Mr Nougat (finally losing it): Don't give me that guff. THIS IS AN EX-BANK! It has ceased to trade! It has wound up on Carey Street! It is on Skid Row! It is down on its uppers! It is drowning in a torrent of red ink! It has closed the doors and rolled down the shutters! It is as poor as a church mouse! It has been wiped out! It has lost everything! It has gone down the tubes! It has scarce a halfpenny to its name! It has gone to meet the Official Receiver! It has hit rock bottom! It is a lame duck! It is up Shit Creek without a paddle! It has hit the buffers and its wheels have come off! It has gone out of business! IT IS BANKRUPT!
Manager (brightly): We can let you have a credit card.
Mr Nougat: Credit card? Credit card? I already have one. In any case, how am I going to pay credit card bills if you can't cash my salary cheque?
Manager: Don't worry about that. We can issue a credit card to you, even if you can't make the payments. We wouldn't be where we are today if we hadn't given credit to customers who can't pay it back.
Mr Nougat: I want my salary in cash, now.
Manager: How about a pay-day loan?
Mr Nougat: I don't want to borrow twenty quid until Friday. I want my salary in cash, in full, on the nail. (Reads the cheque) Two thousand three hundred and eighty four pounds and five pence.
Manager: I can give you the five pence to get you through the day and have the rest on Mrs Grindstone's desk tomorrow morning.
Mr Nougat: Five pence to get me through the day?
Manager: It's the best I can offer. At a very reasonable rate of interest.
Mr Nougat: What in the name of all that's payable to bearer on demand did you do with my two thousand, three hundred and eighty four pounds?
Manager: Could be any one of several things. (He leafs through a pile of folders on his desk). Credit card losses ... stock exchange falls ... mortgage defaults ... property prices ... huge bonuses to directors ... (Picks up a small slip of paper) Ah! Here we are. ?2384.05 exactly. See?
Mr Nougat: At long last. May I have it in cash please?
Manager: I regret, no. The asset into which it was converted has declined in value since the initial investment and the Bank is unable to realise it on the spot market. The value of an investment can go down as well as up, you realise.
Mr Nougat (snatches the paper and reads it): This isn't an asset reconciliation docket. This is a betting slip.
Manager: No, it isn't. Ladbroke's is a little known expert stock and bond broker on the London exchange.
Mr Nougat: You bet my salary on Three Legged Pete in the 4.30 at Kempton Park.
Manager: It was a 100-1 outsider but we had a hot tip that morning and it seemed worth a try in the circumstances.
Mr Nougat: Does the Financial Services Authority approve of this kind of speculative equine investment management?
Manager: Horse racing is outside the remit of the Financial Services Authority, so they can't stop us.
Mr Nougat: How about the Jockey Club?
Manager: Tell you what. Fancy a game of strip poker?
Mr Nougat: Does this sketch have a punch line?