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Automated Tattletaler Machine

As I ran screaming from the office yesterday, I decided to stop at the ATM near our building for some weekend spending money. I noticed that the bank has recently put in a new cash machine.

To quote Dr. Jekyll, Bruce Banner and pre-op Melanie Griffith: CHANGE BAD! CHANGE VERY BAD!

You might think that a new machine means updated technology, with fingerprint scanning capability, maybe, or retinal imaging or the ability to identify customers based on a quick automated colon fold mapping. But no. The mechanics of the new machine are pretty much the same as the old one -- stick card in slot, *beep* and *boop* through a couple of questions, collect your cash, grab your card and go.

"To quote Dr. Jekyll, Bruce Banner and pre-op Melanie Griffith: CHANGE BAD! CHANGE VERY BAD!"

I said 'pretty much the same' because it's not precisely the same. Exactly two things have changed. And of the two things that changed, both of them are the absolute worst.

(Grammatically and logically, that last sentence is a nightmare. But getting-money-from-a-tin-can-ally, I assure you it makes perfect sense.

Yes, I'm allowed to make up my own words. Now hush up. I'm trying to explain something here.)

So what revolutionary new breakthroughs in shooting twenty dollar bills out a mail slot led to the bank replacing their perfectly functional old machine with all-new hardware? Two spanking new 'features':

First, they reversed the order of the answers to the first console question, which asks whether you'd like to continue in English or 'en Espanol. So if you fail to notice that the interface is, in fact, new, you may soon find yourself -- as I did -- adrift in a sea of unfamiliar gender-specific terminology and upside-down punctuation marks. I frantically pressed 'Cancelo' and 'Reterne a Menuo' -- or their actual Spanish equivalents, to the best of my decipherment -- but it took a while to get my card back to start over. There's a good chance I sent my balance statement to some hombre in Barcelona, or donated my life's savings to some charity for bullfighters or Spanish olive pickers or workers injured while picking grapes to make wines I can't pronounce.

(And yes, my Espanol is just that bad. We've covered this already.

And they don't like my made-up words, either.)

I slapped my card back in the slot and tried again. I got past the language barrier, continued en Ingles, asked for a withdrawal and when asked, entered my PIN number of four-nine-six-.... hey, waitaminute. Don't write this down. That's cheating. Get yer own fourteen-dollar-and-twelve-cent ghetto checking account. This one's spoken for already.

Anyway, I managed to coerce the machine into spitting cash out the slot, and that's when I ran into the other change. A 'safety feature', no doubt cooked up by some cashhole engineer who lives in his mother's basement and gets his spending cash in an envelope shoved into his sock drawer.

Perhaps you're familiar with the way many ATMs will remind you to retrieve your card when the transaction is done, by belching out a series of obnoxious beeps. And maybe you've danced with some of the more insufferable of these devices which don't have a delay built in, so they honk at you even if you snatched back your card the millisecond it emerged. And just possibly, you've dealt with the snarkiest of all, which beep for a preset time -- five seconds, say -- completely irrespective of whether your card's in the slot or in your wallet, or whether you've moved on or are covering the speaker with your hand, desperately telling the stupid machine to shush it.

I've had run-ins with all of these types of ATM. But never have I been party to what this new jobbie unleashed.

This cash machine beeped -- LOOOOUDLY -- for no less than ten seconds, not to remind me to grab my ATM card, but to announce to me and every scamming petty thief within a hundred-yard radius:


I nearly broke a toe kicking the damned thing to make it shut up. And it wouldn't shut up, until its stupid preset timer went off. I grabbed the cash. *BEEP* Waved my hand around the slot. *BOOP* Stepped away from the slot. *BRAAP* Put the money back in the slot. *BUUUH* Jumped up and danced a fast Irish jig on the slot. *BEGORAHEEEEP*

Nothing had any effect until that infernal ATM had decided that enough ruffians, highwaymen and felons of loose moral character had been alerted that I was newly flush with cash and preparing to walk out the door. Alone. At night. And without my usual Brinks escort.

I ran all the way home.

Then I remembered that I'd put the money back in the slot, ran half the way back, nearly fainted and walked slowly and sweatily to the ATM. Miraculously, the money was still there. It was a pretty slow Friday night in the neighborhood; I guess no one else had used the machine after I did. Or they got the same end-of-the-world klaxon treatment and ran off in a panic. I thanked my lucky stars, scooped up my cash and headed home again. I left the building, made it down the block and while I was waiting to cross the street a man came up to me and asked, 'Hey buddy, can you spare a quarter?'

Stupid loud ATM machine. Tell the whole world I've got money, why don't ya? Idiot box.

Still, I was up on the deal, given my lucky save. So I gave the guy a fiver and wished him a happy weekend. Hopefully, he appreciated the gesture, and put the money to good use. Like on a nice bratwurst, or a Memorial Day burger 'n' beer combo at a local establishment.

I just hope he doesn't tell everyone where the cash came from. Because apparently, now I've got a machine to do that for me. I might have to find a different bank with the 'ghetto checking' option. Ouch.

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