Murder at the ATM

I’M standing at the ATM.


There is a bloke in front of me. He’s been there half an hour. I thought he must have died standing up, but no Ñ you can tell he’s awake from the occasional sigh of frustration, bewilderment, irritation and… what? Stupidity?

How can it take someone half an hour to extract money from an ATM. More precisely, how can it take someone that long to NOT extract the money. Because he hasn’t!

It’s a good job they bolt those things firmly to the floor, otherwise I would by now have ripped it from its fittings and clubbed him with it.

He got there just before me. He stood and fumbled through his pockets for his wallet. Then he fumbled through his wallet for his credit card. Then he fumbled it into the slot and punched in his code. That’s four numbers, for God’s sake. I could have punched in the value of pi to 33,000 decimal places in the time it took him to punch in four Ñ and even then he got it wrong.

So we went through the whole process again: extracting the card, inserting the card, punching in the numbers. I say we, because while he fumbled, I waited. I willed him to let me inside his brain and beat it a little with a whip, but it didn’t work.

It’s a remarkable thing, but when I find myself stumbling at an ATM, and there’s people waiting, I try to gather myself privately, off to one side. In this way no one is witness to my incompetence and I earn brownie points for vacating the machine and letting someone else have a go. But when I’m the one who’s waiting, this never happens. I wait, End of story.

Anyway, he finally got it right, and the machine whirred and clicked and I relaxed a little. He’d soon grab his money, possibly his receipt, if he asked for one, and he’d be gone.

Wrong. The machine whirred and clicked. I watched his shoulders hunch, and a gasp, or possibly a simian utterance like “Uh?” escaped him. There was no money in the slot, but the machine regurgitated his card, thank God, so he could get on his way and leave me to my turn.

But no! He went at it again. And a third time! And when that didn’t work, he must’ve asked for a receipt, because when it gave him one, he stood there uttering guttural sounds and scratching his ear, the idiot, as if he didn’t understand.

How could he not understand? I was behind him and I understood Ñ he didn’t have any money in his account!
Why do they do this, these… these… ATM loiterers?

Don’t they know when there’s money in their account? And what do they imagine the machine is going to say on a second and third attempt … “Oh dear, I’m so sorry; I can see you’re desperate; here’s a couple of hundred to keep you going. You can pop in later to settle up.”

My wife says I’m being unkind, and yes, I suppose it’s possible he thought he was depositing library books, but I’ve been here before, and not with the same bloke.

I’ve reached the age where my faculties are supposed to be crumbling, but even I can punch in four digits, tell the machine how much I want (which will be there, because I keep a record of how much money I have in my account) and be gone, with my receipt, in 15 seconds. And, as I said, if I meet any unforeseen hiccups, I stand aside and let someone else have a go.

I know we’ve had road rage and restaurant rage and Rudd rage, but mark my words, ATM rage is on its way.

“Yes,” said my wife. “You should know.”