Friday, November 23, 2012

The ATM that ate my card


         This morning, I was rushing to the bank before I had to be at the studio. I had a cheque and a wad of cash to deposit. It was a steady downpour so I opened my umbrella to walk a few blocks to the bank. I missed a couple of chances to cross a busy street which delayed me. The walk signal changed to red too soon. Finally, I was able to cross at another intersection and a fellow raced ahead of me to enter the bank first. I shook out my umbrella and followed him in.
         Patiently, I stood waiting for him to finish using the bank machine. In anticipation, I fished out my wallet from my handbag and took out my debit card. After he left, I inserted my debit card. I had only five minutes before I had to be at the studio.
         A sentence came up on the screen which read, "This bank machine is not working or available at the moment." 
         At the moment? What does that mean? Were they servicing it for only a moment? It seemed rather bizarre. I hesitated. Do I pull out my card? Or do I wait for it to clear itself? I waited ten seconds at the most, then the machine ate my card.
         Horrified, I pressed the 'cancel' button, but there was no response. I pressed 'correction' but still my card wasn't ejected. I've never experienced losing my bank card to an ATM before. How could I not have my debit card which to me was as important as my keys? I needed to deposit the money right away because I didn't want to carry around a large amount of cash.
         Feeling lost, I looked around for assistance. Thankfully, the bank was open. I asked an employee in a black suit for help and he directed me to a bank teller. I stepped up to the counter to speak to an Asian woman. "The bank machine ate my card. I didn't even enter my pin number."
         "We will reissue you a new one."
         "Couldn't you just take it out of the ATM?" It seemed simple enough. After all, it was my card.
         She waved her hand. "We can't do that. The alarm will sound."
         I checked my watch, worried I was already late. "Will it take very long?"
         "Not long," she said with a smile. After I presented two pieces of identification and confirmed my address and phone number, she typed information into the computer, asked for my signature on a form and passed me a new card to sign on the back. "The new card will duplicate all the functions of your old card and your pin number will remain the same. Please validate it on your way out."
         "What happens to my old card?" I asked nervously.
         "It will be destroyed when they check and service the ATM," she said.
         I thanked her and waited to use the bank machine again, thinking about what she said. Would my old card really be destroyed? Would it fall into the wrong hands? Will it pop out when another customer uses the ATM? Who really knows? I figured I'd be checking my balance for the next ten days.

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