Nowadays, ATMs are part and parcel of our daily lives. In spite of that, we do get occasional surprises from simple activities such as withdrawing money out of an ATM. Today morning, i went to the nearest ATM to withdraw some money. There was a cypriot couple at the ATM and i could see that they were looking very worried and frantically discussing about something. This went on for few minutes as i saw the guy pressing all the buttons on the ATM, like what i do when i see any toy with buttons while shopping at the supermarket. Of course, the reactions were quite different from mine at the supermarket.
So, i offered to help, very well knowing that a Cypriot would not approach an Indian or any other non-cypriot for help and that i didn’t have the entire day to wait for them to solve their problem. Neither this guy nor his companion knew english. The only english word they know was “card”. This, along with his frantic hand waving, was enough for me to conclude that their card was stuck inside the ATM. I tried, in vain, in trying to know the cause for the problem, explaining to them about three attempts of wrong pin numbers, expiry of the card etc. Finally, i advised them to go to the bank (just behind the ATM) to get their problem solved.
Then, this guy asks his companion to do the same and so she leaves for the bank. But, this guy doesn’t move from his place. I asked him to step aside so that i could withdraw money from the ATM. But, he gave me a worried look and said something which included the words “my”, “card”, “ATM” and he literally pushed me aside. I understood that he was worried that i was going to withdraw money out of “his” card and explained to him (showing the flashing green light), that the next person could use the ATM. But, whatever i spoke was greek and latin to him !
Then , his companion came out of the bank and called him inside. I took this chance and put my card inside and typed in the details. In the ATMs here, the card is completely drawn inside rather than the “swipe” ATMs i have seen back in India. Once my transaction was completed, the card started to come out of the ATM.
Let me go in slow motion. I put out my hand to take the card which was coming out the ATM. I almost grabbed the card, when suddenly, the whole section of the ATM where the card is taken in, started moving backwards inside the ATM. Well, my card was in that unit. So, i instinctively followed the piece back into the hole-in-the-ATM. I then realised this and pulled my hand back and bent down and peered into the hole. My eyes were met by another pair of eyes looking outside through the hole.
For a second, my days at BITS and my experiences at our computer center flashed before me. When i was in BITS, they were in the process of setting up a new computer center and in the early days of the center, there used to be many jokes going around that there really is a person sitting in the control room doing all the calculations, as the speed of the PCs were horrible. Then i thought, maybe there really is a person sitting inside all the ATMs counting and handing out the money!
Well, it was not to be so. The guy whose eyes i met, explained that he was the bank manager and that there was a problem with the ATM. All these explanations, through the hole in the ATM. I hope that no one on the road saw me talking to the ATM !