Mar 4, 2022

A Conversation With My Autocratic Teller Machine 

Proof that talk is always cheap

By Ed Goldman

Since I like being fashion-forward, I’m sure I’ll be contracting COVID-19, -20 or -21 at any minute. That scares me, of course. But I continue to feel that the greatest threat to my well-being may be the ATM at my neighborhood branch of the Bank of America (motto: “Who needs you?”). 

I’ve been a BofA customer/hostage for more than 50 years. And I have never stopped hating it.

Edgy Cartoon

Crying all the way to the bank

In the past couple of decades the primary focus of my abhorrence has been the bank’s ATM operation, which it farms out to another company so that none of its branch managers can do anything about it when the machine gobbles up my debit card, accepts only one of the three checks I’ve deposited and moves so slowly that I wonder why it’s considered a timesaver. 

After it refused to return my card not long ago until I spent an hour on the phone with BofA’s customer service rep (who, I’ll admit, was delightful), I realized it was time to take the matter into my own hands.  

I arranged an interview with my ATM. Excerpts follow:

ME: Most of us think “ATM” stands for Automated Teller Machine. What do you think the initials indicate?

ATM: All That Money. Do you realize I contain enough 20-dollar bills to clog the average human colon? 

ME: Not sure I wanna go there. Listen—

ATM: I’m the tech version of diverticulitis. I have enough double sawbucks in my body to keep me constipated until 2032.

ME: That might be TMI.

ATM: Three Mile Island? Bring it on, Dude.

ME: No, I mean, too much info—

ATM: Yeah, yeah, I was just kidding. Don’t forget, “nuclear” is just “unclear” if you’re dyslectic. I enjoy a good reading-disorder joke, don’t you?

ME: Not in the lightest. I mean slightest. Let’s move on. 

ATM: I can’t. I’m a stationary machine. Now my cousin, who’s an armored car—

ME: Why do you sometimes work and sometimes not?

ATM: Two words: strong union. —Also, I tend to be affected by climate change. 

ME: Global warming?

ATM: More like local warming. You realize I have to stand here and keep coughing out Jacksons even when it’s 106 degrees outside?

ME: Never looked at it that way.

ATM: It’s even worse when we get a cold snap and I’m not programmed to even shiver, which helps keep you warm. 

ME: Had no idea.

ATM: I have no knees to knock, Pal. I sometimes get kind of irritable.

ME: So, in essence, you’re saying that you’re just as moody as we think you are. We anthropomorphize machines and pets but maybe we’re onto something. You do have feelings.

ATM: Yes. And you and I could become BFFs! But only if you promise to never begin a sentence again with the words, “So, in essence… .”

ME: Okay. Basically, what I’m hearing—

ATM: “Basically” is even worse. And “what I’m hearing” is bringing up the rear.

ME: You’re pretty grumpy. I can see why people hit you when you don’t promptly barf out their requested cash. In fact, I’m about to!

[Suddenly, an alarm begins to ring loudly]

ATM: That’s me doing the noisemaking, Pal. I figure you’ve got about 30 seconds to dive into your car and make a run for it.

ME [Beginning to flee]: Why, you lousy pile of scrap metal! 

ATM: Thanks for choosing BofA! Next time, try our app. It doesn’t always work, either.

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).