Colby Rodowsky

November 29, 1991|By Colby Rodowsky

THE bank machine ate my card, gobbled it up somewhere between transferring $160 from savings to checking and pressing "OK" to perform another transaction.

A hostile message flashed across the screen: This machine is shutting down (or words to that effect): All transactions will be canceled. And then the glass shield slid into place, the screen darkened and the white "Open" sign turned red and said, "Closed" -- rather angrily, I thought.

A feeling of powerlessness swept over me, of disenfranchisement. I wanted to claw at the machine, to dig at the slot, to pry back my card. I wanted to pound on the door of the bank (closed, of course) and turn to strangers on the street. "The machine ate my card," I wanted to scream.

I came home instead, called the bank and was told by a pre-recorded message to "call back during business hours." Leery now, I went in person the next morning and was there when the bank opened. I was told by a live, though no less mechanical, voice to come back after 1:45 (and before 2:30, of course), that the machine couldn't be opened until then.

"But I need to know," I stammered, waving a deposit slip ineffectually. "Did my transaction go through?"

vTC "Oh, well, we'll have no way of knowing that until tomorrow morning. But," added the voice as I turned away, defeated, "have a nice day."

Colby Rodowsky is a Baltimore writer.

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