Automated teller machine: (n) a machine that automatically provides cash and performs other banking services on insertion of a special card by the account holder.
I was alive when the first ATM was put into use–September 2nd, 1969, in New York.
Now, I was not present for the initial transaction, but it did not take long before these monstrosities popped up everywhere across the nation.
From the time I was 19 years of age until 30, I was at constant war with them. For after all, I never had enough money in my account to withdraw $20. And this was before the gracious era of being able to take out $10, so solvency was defined by whether you had that precious Andrew Jackson in your account.
God, there were times I was close.
- Once, $19.89 was my balance.
But no–no deal with the automated teller.
But strange as it may seem, on the night that my third son was born, I found myself in Westerville, Ohio, when my wife called, said that she was in labor and on her way to Mt. Vernon to have the baby.
I hopped in my car and realized that I did not have enough gas to drive the forty miles to the hospital.
It was late and I didn’t have anybody to contact who would have the money.
So I sat in my car, fuming over being such a damn loser, and not having the cash to fulfill my fatherly duties.
I grabbed my card, started my car and drove to the ATM machine, which so many times in the past had rejected me–so much so that I had the sensation that it saw me coming and heaved a mechanical sigh.
As I walked toward the apparatus with my card extended, I looked around to make sure no one was listening and spoke directly to my metal foe:
“Listen, fella. I know I only have $12.38 in the account. But I have to get to Mt. Vernon to see the birth of my son. I realize you haven’t fathered anything during your time on earth, but try to understand. As I gently slide my card into your slot, just this one time…give me $20.”
I hadn’t even finished my little speech when suddenly–without my card inserted–the machine made a grumble, a rumble, a spit and a flick.
Out popped $20.
I looked around to make sure there was nobody who was the true owner of the blessing, and then grabbed it, went to put gas in my car, and then traveled to see the birth of my boy.
The $20 never registered as a deduction from my account, and to this day I do not know how I retrieved it from this uncaring machine.
Was it my words?
Was it luck?
Or did I somehow get past its buttons...to its heart?
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