The Magic Money Machine

[Received via e-mail: March 30, 1997]

My first attempt to get money from the Magic Money Machine was on a beautiful clear day. A day when everything seemed right with the world. We needed money to get gas, and so, armed with my plastic and repeating my PIN number to myself the whole way, I ventured out to the bank.

It looked so innocent. One person at the single machine and no line. This had to be great. So I took my place far enough behind the user not to have them think I was watching, but close enough that people would know that I wanted to use it.

As I was waiting, several more people came up, so now we had a real line. The first person finished, and I stepped up boldly to the machine. After all, I did not want the rest of the line to know I was a neophyte. I positioned myself in front of the machine, moving about so that the bright sunlight would not make the small screen invisible.

I then discovered the next problem: the machine had been installed by somebody who clearly thought the world is populated by people no taller than about five-foot-three. As I am taller than this the buttons on the side of the screen didn't line up with the questions, which I discovered when subsequent instructions appeared in Spanish. This slowed me down, somewhat, while I cancelled the transaction and started again.

I sensed that the rest of the line was getting restless. I could hear the tsks from the young mother behind, who just wanted to get her weekly cash to pay for groceries.

I persevered. Can't let a little thing like this bother me, even if it is real money that we are dealing with, and for all I know it could dump my whole account out on the sidewalk, like I'd won the jackpot from some Las Vegas one-armed bandit. So I followed the instructions. (Even the one that asked which account I wanted to take the money from. Who remembers account numbers when under the eye of an increasingly restless and growing crowd?)

Unfortunately, just as I thought I had it licked and the money was about to appear, I felt a wet, cold, clammy hand creeping up my leg and just about to enter the gap between my leg and my shorts. At this point I nearly panicked, but managed to retain my composure enough to discern that the young mother had let her two-year-old loose; he was eating an ice-cream cone in his left hand, but he had clearly transferred it from his right hand, which was covered in melted ice-cream that he was now wiping on my leg.

I finally got my money, and left a shattered person who did not try this again for almost two years.