Skip navigation. HomeThe Daily ReportMy Glamorous Classics, 1995-2002

my glamorous life

episodes & recollections

#73 “worked for me”

Six or more years ago I’m at the ATM after banking hours, a deposit slip, bank envelope, and large client check in my hands.

My financial picture at the time is I need this check to cover my rent.

Doing everything correctly, I insert the envelope containing the check and completed deposit slip into the ATM’s hungry maw.

But there’s a malfunction. After swallowing the check, instead of printing out a receipt, the ATM says Transaction Cancelled.

The bank has just eaten my deposit. My money’s gone. My rent check and other payments will bounce.

To the side of the ATM, there’s an emergency telephone handset that connects you to live bank personnel in the event of ATM failure.

I pick up the handset, the bank’s operator answers, and I begin explaining what just happened, taking care to hide the panic in my voice. I want to sound serious and believable but not dizzy with anxiety or anger.

A reasonable customer requesting help in a friendly, professional manner.

I’m ten words into my spiel when a businesswoman behind me crowds in.

Ignoring I’m on the phone with the colorless face and wide blinking eyes of an accident victim, the businesswoman says:

Excuse me, I’d like to use this machine.”

I cover the phone’s mouthpiece. “It’s not working. It just ate my check,” I tell her.

She frowns at me like I’m some traffic jam interfering with the items on her daytimer, shoulders past me, and begins using the ATM that just ate my check. I step back to give her space, stretching the phone handset’s cord to its full length, and resume my conversation with the bank’s ATM emergency operator.

The operator, based somewhere in the city or maybe in New Jersey or Philadelphia, checks a computer to verify what I’m telling her. She asks me the amount of my check, my account number, the location and number of the ATM, my home address and phone number. I’m saying these things out loud, in public, near the ear of the impatient businesswoman whose use of the ATM for all I know may be wiping out all verifiable traces of my failed transaction.

The machine spits several hundred dollars into the hands of the impatient businesswoman.

I’m still on the phone when she turns to me with a malicious smile.

“Worked for me,” she says, slipping the cash into her purse and clicking away on sharp heels.

Years have passed since this incident — years filled with far more important events. But I still remember the impatient businesswoman, and what she said, and the way she said it, and the weird pleasure she seemed to take from the fact that it had worked for her and not me.

The bank made good on my deposit.

4 October 2002

previously: <the velvet fist>

Default text style.Alternate text style.Georgia on our minds.Watch this space.
A List Apart
Happy Cog Studios

“I’m still on the phone when she turns to me with a malicious smile.”