With the line still doubled around the rope, one of the tellers stuck a “POSITION CLOSED” sign in her window and walked to the back of the bank, where she leaned against a desk and began to pass the time with a man shuffling papers. The women in front of Anders broke off their conversation and watched the teller with hatred. “Oh, that’s nice,” one of them said. She turned to Anders and add, confident of his accord, “One of those little human touches that keep us coming back for more.”

Anders had conceived his own towering hatred of the teller, but he immediately turned it on the presumptuous crybaby in front of him. “Damned unfair,” he said. “Tragic, really. If they’re not chopping off the wrong leg, or bombing your ancestral village, they’re closing their position."

Dose it mean: He imagine the two women's behaviour like a crybaby and said it is very unpleasant if the tellers don't behave corectly or shut your mouth up. and if they close their position.

there is some expressions I could not find by searching and I guess what I understant I would be thankful if you help me.

This text is from Bullet in the Brain.

3 Answers 3


Wow, this is quite a layered section! I can see why the meaning might not be immediately obvious.

The main thing to be clear on is that Anders is being sarcastic. Whatever his intended meaning is, it is not what his spoken words mean literally. In fact he is saying precisely the opposite.

Notice, too, that Anders does actually agree with the woman who speaks to him. Like her, he is annoyed at the teller’s actions. In fact, it sounds like he is even more annoyed than she is. As the text says, he has “towering hatred” of the teller! Nevertheless, no matter what he feels towards the teller, rather than express that to the woman, instead he turns his anger towards her.

So the meaning of the section in bold is roughly that Anders feels the woman is being unreasonable and rude (presumptuous) by complaining out loud (being a crybaby) about the teller. And he makes that clear using sarcasm that builds in intensity, all the way to where he appears, on the surface, to be placing the teller’s actions, which are a mere inconvenience, on the same level as catastrophic events that are potentially as life-impacting as being the victim of a botched limb amputation, or having one’s home destroyed in war!

  • Katy, why did you remove my footnote? I was using it very much on purpose, to help explain the particular phrases the story’s character was using, without having to go into a full-blown elucidation.
    – tkp
    Jun 22, 2019 at 8:19
  • Thanks for your answer. But still the last part is unclear to me I don't get the meaning of "If they’re not chopping off the wrong leg, or bombing your ancestral village, they’re closing their position." clearly. I would be thankful for your help. Jun 22, 2019 at 10:37
  • @tkp As the author, you are free to disagree with an edit and roll it back to the original version. Jun 22, 2019 at 11:52
  • Thanks Jason. I do understand that, but Katy’s reason for making the edit may be a compelling one. So I wanted to know her thoughts before deciding whether or not to revert.
    – tkp
    Jun 22, 2019 at 16:09

Hyperbole (Merriam-Webster)

extravagant exaggeration (such as "mile-high ice-cream cones")

Anders seems to be taking out his frustration (about having to get in a different line and wait longer) out on the woman standing in line ahead of him. He does this with hyperbole. He distorts and exaggerates what the woman said.

What's ironic is that he is trying to show that one needn't get upset about a small frustration (having to start fresh with standing in a different line) -- but then he ends up showing that he has gotten upset about a small frustration (the woman in line annoyed him).


The meaning of "If they’re not chopping off the wrong leg, or bombing your ancestral village, they’re closing their position" is that compared to having a healthy leg amputated or your original home destroyed, having a bank teller go on a ten minute break is really not a big deal. He is sarcastically suggesting that these things are all the same to show that he thinks she is being ridiculous and overreacting to the closed line as if it were as bad as these terrible things he is making up.

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