In those days, banking wasn’t well-paid enough to live on, so bankers were forced into subsistence tasks to make ends meet. Some became artists, specifically opera singers. Very popular on stage, they fulfilled this chore purely and sadly just to get by, the public unaware of the anguish behind the facetious antics, the graceful arias, the affected murders with the prop swords: how many unpaid rents, dud cheques and denied loans had been reluctantly left behind, how much murky laundering and how many toxic investments had to wait, obediently, for their master, the great one, to reappear at last and lovingly revive them?
Opera houses offered a bonus at the end of the show, “hit the banker”.
When the opera was over, the backstage area was sealed off, emergency exits closed, and the banker left alone on stage, at the audience's mercy. Then, it was over to the poor: from the gallery, they could throw whatever they wanted at the idiot, who five minutes earlier had been strutting around in tight costume and now grotesquely hurdled, galloped and cowered in his cardboard armour to avoid knives, hoes, shovels, arrows and all kinds of blades. The audience noise, joy and shrieks were a far cry indeed from the dusty old airs inflicted until then on deaf old biddies!
The first salvo over, it was the parterre's turn to toss the bluntest projectiles it could. It must be said that this privileged bunch didn't put their heart into it as much. But generally the banker was either already injured or at least exhausted, which helped make up for this.
It’s worth mentioning the casual singer-banker was unlikely to get out of it. Indeed, had he tried to flee he would have been caught and immediately lynched by the screaming crowd: out of the arena there are no rules; he would be shredded by the audience, with the teeth if necessary.
If, after a while the projectiles had fallen around him without mortally wounding him, if he could move to stage front without limping, victory and freedom were his. He would stand for a long time, close to the tamed audience, smugly out of danger, while the cries reached a paroxysm of hatred. But by then he was too far to be reached by the spit raining down thick before him. Then the doors opened, and there he slowly removed his cardboard armour, his William Tell hat, uncovering his baldness and the dark suit he is never without.
Picking up his briefcase, adjusting his tie, he walked towards the exit with dignity, exiting majestically, enjoying up to the very last centimetre of conquered space, walking head held high, already borne aloft by dreams of mutual funds, stock options and other succulent bankruptcies.