No Before Yes

I have lived in France for awhile now. One of the things I discovered during my adaptation phase was this: folks who hold administrative positions are keenly easy to spurt out “No” when, with a little effort, they could have said “Maybe” and, sometimes should have down right spurted out “Yes” in the first place.

Across the years, when we’ve debated on the topic of French administrative services and how they ain’t what they used to be, a number of people confirmed they’ve had similar experiences. And boy, have we debated this topic!

An example, you ask? Okay, here goes:

Once upon a time, when I lived in Paris and was gainfully employed (bankers usually LOVE dealing with GAINFULLY employed clients), I went to the bank to deposit some hard-earned cash.

Now, for some background details:
Yes, it was the branch office where I’d opened my account (three years earlier).
Yes, I was stylishly dressed as an on-the-go-dynamic “entrepreneuse”
(Yes, that word exists and as a French-speaking woman, I will use the correct feminine term for “entrepreneur“whilst I relate about “moi“… me, that is…lol).  And finally: No, I was not going to withdraw any money.

So back to my story.

I headed to my bank with a good book. Why the book? There are no longer several “tellers” to receive clients in French banks. There’s only one, or maybe two all-purpose windows. So, waiting in a long line, has inevitably become the thing to do at one’s local bank. Thus the book.

After waiting over fifteen minutes, it was finally my turn.


“Hello, I’d like to make a deposit but I’m afraid I don’t have my account number.”

As I saw the beginnings of an arched eyebrow, I quickly added, ” But I do have a piece of identity.”

“No, I’m sorry, I’ll need your account number.”

“So,…even though I opened my account at this branch,…”

Here’s where I slowed down the rhythm to allow this young lady, hopefully, to think while working.

“…I have my identity card,…”

After whipping out my card, I fanned my nice neat pile of multicolored bills, hoping her pupils would dilate in greed at the sight of them.

…..I want to put this onto my account,…”

Here, again, I paused. because I wanted to be sure she was with me.

Our eyes locked, I began slowly to nod my head and she nodded along with me as I finished speaking.

“…I don’t want to take money from my account,…I only want to make a deposit,… and you can not help me… by finding… my account number, is that right?”

“No, I’ll need your account number to make the deposit.”
Even here, she was unable to say “Yes, that’s right.”

“Right. Okay, thank you very much.”

Notice, I did not burst out in protest over her most illogical position. Instead, I went into my Acting 101 role. Stepping away from the window, I walked slowly, ever so slowly towards the exit, fumbling in my bag, pretending to look for something. It felt like all eyes were riveted upon me as if waiting for something. Then…

“Um, excuse me?”

I did not turn around, she was going to have to work for this.

“Madame? S’il vous plait ?”

Ah, she’s added Madam and a “please”, that’s more like it.

“Yes…?” I turned back, but did not head for her window.

“You said ‘You opened your account at this branch’?”

I took one step towards her. “Yes…?”

You have a piece of identity with you?”

Two steps closer. “Yes…?”

“And, you wish to put money onto your account?”

I was close enough by now to whip out my neat pile of bills once more. I waggled them, discretely, in front of her.


By this time, some bemused clients, began to chuckle.

“Oh… then, just a minute please…”

She rounded the corner to the director’s office then came back, asked for my identity card and all was settled in a matter of minutes.

But, the odd practice of routinely saying NO before YES marked me. And so, I’ve attempted to get rid of it by setting the experience down in a poem.

Be kind reader, it’s a work in progress.

“No” before “Yes”

Always “No”
or, rarely, yes?
Then, it’s my guess
you need to slow down…

“No ?”
…think before you frown.
No ‘s
not really that far
from “may be”

why not try it and see?
Next time
try a “Maybe”…
Where am I headed?
Make a guess.

Can’t you see?

Lo and behold,
some of your maybes
might just become “Yes”!


About emanita01

I am a Franco-american woman who hails from Massachusetts. I live in France near the Swiss border, only minutes away from Geneva. I am a member of the Geneva Writers Group and the Association La Forge, a literary group based in France. I write stories, poems and am currently working on a couple of plays, a one-woman show and actively learning how to perform stand-up comedy.
This entry was posted in Emanitawrites, Fodder for Thought, Humor, Poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to No Before Yes

  1. lifewith4cats says:

    Thats a great message for a poem. Always keep a positive outlook, I say.

  2. I agree with Sara completely, wonderful poem!

    As for no before yes, why not phrase your questions to confuse and befuddle them? For instance.. “do you see any possible reason why this can’t be done?” If they automatically say no, then they’ve agreed with you and you get what you want. If they say yes, then you at least get the joy of knowing you’ve made them miserable by having to say yes, instead of no. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the instruction. It’s a weird world. One time my wife and I were going to open an account in a Lousiana bank and after several minites it was discovered that every time I would withdraw money they were going to charge us a 2 dollor fee. It was a small town bank and they were getting away with it because the next bank was 30 miles away. I was so mad it took everything I had to walk out calmly and not berate the teller who was just doing her job. Thanks again. Weird World.

    • emanita01 says:

      Hi, thanks for dropping by 😀
      It is a weird world, I agree, but I also think that we can make positive impacts on behaving differently than we’re expected to behave. Like your walking out AND leaving the teller’s head in place.

      I probably would have used my anger to drive the 30 miles to see if the other bank was any better.
      These days, I’m a bit of a don’t get angry get even kind of woman. Look for the next banking story, where I DO get even…LOL

  4. Pingback: No Before Yes, The Story Behind the Poem | Fodder4Writing

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