Sunday, February 16, 2014

Me and My ATM

Sometimes I scare myself.

I called my son in an absolute panic. "Richie, I think I may have screwed something up." Having been subjected to this announcement in various forms on countless occasions, I knew it was hard for my oldest child to control his frustration.  Any rational being, no matter how compassionate, must be left with one overwhelming thought: "This guy is an absolute idiot."

Less than an hour before, I had been euphoric. I had entered a mystical, wondrous land, and emerged triumphant. I (and I warn those under age to turn away) utilized an ATM without assistance. 

I understand that for anyone over the age of three, this would be of no moment. But not me. It was too confusing, having to put the card in the machine with that silver thing in the right direction, push buttons, remember numbers, read instructions. It was all a maze I could not navigate.

But this was Saturday afternoon, my mom's caretakers had run out of cash, my own supply had dwindled precipitously low, and worst of all, I was alone in my car. "Courage" I repeated as I headed towards imminent danger.

I slipped the card into the slot, expecting there would be immediate rejection. But it must not have recognized me, and it moved on.

"Yes, I do want to proceed in English." This was going swimmingly.

Then everything seemed to get a little confusing. It asked if I wanted a receipt. How could that possibly be, since I hadn't even received anything yet.  As soon as I said "no", I regretted my decision.

Yet, onward we traveled, now seeming like two friends conversing easily. I remembered my pin number, only slightly concerned that someone was taking this information down from some remote locale. 

The questions increased in difficulty.  How much did I wish to remove from the bank's coffers? My answer moved unnaturally on the screen from right to left. My finger seemed to stick on one number, repeating it in error. I erased my directive and began again.

And then, without warning, the money appeared. I was even congratulated on a successful transaction. It was an emotional moment between two who had clearly bonded.

Off I drove, ready to reveal my triumph to the world. Only minutes later, as I was visiting my mom did I consider the possibility that I had not "logged out" or done whatever had to be done to erase everything about me from public exposure. It is how I feel each time I leave a station where I am forced to pump my own gas and expect the next six people in line to be charging their purchases on my credit card.

I gave my mother a hurried kiss good bye and rushed back to the scene of the crime (or at least, potential crime). I was praying no one had been to this spot in the intervening minutes so I could rectify my mistake. But, seconds before my arrival, some woman WALKED up to the machine and began the process of extraction. Various options flashed before me. I decided I could not run her down, or even scare her off.  I imagined the headline in the next day's paper.  

I was too late.

I tried to detect any sign of wrongdoing by the lady as she finished her transaction and strolled past my car. There was nothing easily discovered in her gait or her manner. She was very clever.

I pulled up to my former ally. Whatever connection I had felt earlier had clearly been misplaced. Despite my pleading eyes begging for information, I was greeted with stony silence. Righting my wrong was now an impossibility. I fumbled for my wallet, grimaced as if I had forgotten something important, and drove away, despondent.

"No, I didn't get a receipt. No the home screen did not appear before I wandered off." My son spent the next several minutes talking me down off the ledge,  gently assuring me this did not mean the entire universe was now at work depleting every account that had ever been in my name and extracting the silver from my fillings.

In the end, victory became something far less. While I may not have caused the calamity I imagined, it  was not because of anything I did of my own volition. I understand it is just a matter of time.

Sometimes I scare myself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is the exact reason I do not have an ATM card. You are not alone... there is more then one idiot left on the planet.