Thursday, April 3, 2008

Cash Machine Conundrum

There was the time I asked for thirty dollars and out came three hundred. As my daughter laughed hysterically, I pulled up to my bank's drive-through and deposited the strange sum of $280, all in crisp twenties.

Then there was the time I erred in the opposite direction. Standing in line with a few items at the grocery store, I decided I could use a little cash that evening. So after the cashier rang up my things, and I slid my debit card through the machine, I answered the screen yes, I'd like cash, then entered the amount of ten dollars.

But when the cashier turned from the register with my receipt, there were no bills in her hand.

"I asked for cash -- I think," I said uncertainly. The cashier said nothing, completing her motion of handing me the receipt.

I wondered if she was hard of hearing. I wondered if my checking account could have somehow been empty. I wondered if my request for cash had never really happened....

Then I noticed that, pinched between her fingertips that held the receipt, hiding beneath the receipt, tiny and ridiculous and ashamed, was a dime.

Now I thought about this: What could the cashier have been thinking? What could I possibly want only ten cents for? It wasn't enough to buy a postage stamp. It wasn't even enough for a little green Martian guy from the gumball machine.

A line was forming behind me. Bravely, holding my shiny new dime, I said, "I'm sorry. I thought I'd asked for ten dollars."

I expected her to say something like, "Please try it again, ma'am." But instead, kindly trying to relieve my embarrassment (or knowing I'd only botch it if I tried it again), she said, "Oh, someone else did that the other day."

Well, at least I had company in this problem of lost decimal points. Seeing the line growing longer behind me, I decided not to pursue it. I also decided, driving past my bank's cash station on the way home, I'd better just skip the cash thing altogether.

At home, I dropped the dime into my daughter's money jar, a little something toward the tax on her next lip gloss.

published in the Hometown Herald Winter 2004

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