The ATM Machine

by T.D. Reid
Dallas, Texas, USA

The ATM Machine

It had been another long and hectic day. Work was stressful as usual, and the hot Texas sun baked down on the cars waiting in line at at my bank’s Automated Teller Machine (ATM). Despite having my air conditioner on full blast, sweat crept down my temples. I had a headache, I was late for dinner and needed to put gas in my car. Then someone three cars behind me started honking their horn, raising the tension another notch.

When it was finally my turn, I whipped out my card and slammed it into the machine, banging on the keys, somehow hoping this would speed up the whole process. Looking in my rearview mirror, I was bothered by the distance — or lack thereof — of the car behind mine. I always keep my distance from people using the ATM, as a common courtesy, to give them some privacy as they type in their password.

The machine spit out my money, I snatched it up and sped off with irritated arrogance. I turned the corner and pulled into the closest gas station. Jumping out of my car and slamming the door behind me, I jerked the nozzle out of its slot and shoved it into my car. I reached for my wallet and dug through it for my ATM card, which doubles as my only credit card, to pay for my gas. It was gone! I couldn’t find any cash either — in my hurry to get home, I had misplaced the money I had just taken out of the ATM machine! There I sat, with missing ATM card, no cash and not enough gas to get home.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the car that had been behind me at the ATM. The driver got out and walked over to me, holding out my card. He told me I had left the card in the machine, which was flashing “Another Transaction?” as he pulled up. He could have cleaned out my bank account, but instead chased me down and returned the card to me. He told me that he had to leave the ATM right away because he was afraid he would lose me.

I couldn’t believe it! This man not only brought my card to me, but he lost his place in line to do so. He would have to wait through that awful line again for doing a good deed. I tried to get his phone number to give him a reward, but he just smiled, waved and drove off.

In my haste I made an error that could have cost me in several ways. The honesty and courtesy of a stranger showed me that people do still care, and showed me how to slow down and be a part of my own life.

Originally published as HeroicStories #227 on 20 August 2001

2 thoughts on “The ATM Machine”

  1. Beautiful story! I hardly ever use the drive through ATM at my bank branch just because it takes some customers minutes to dig through some purse or something to find their card AFTER reaching the machine. Bank of America ejects your card immediately after PIN approval so you can extract. Then there is a short elapsed time to press the “New Transaction” button before it cancels, preventing an event like this story. Never tried to continue with the card in the slot, but I don’t think it will. Great story though that reminds us that most people are still good not evil!

    • The ATM ejecting the card after your PIN is entered is a relatively new procedure. I was surprised the first time that happened to me. It never used to work that way. It is definitely a good procedure for ATMs to have thought.


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