Ajijic Cash Machine Personalities
By Ed Tasca
Not long ago, the local bank ATM (on Ajijic Plaza) ate my debit card. And for a frantic half-hour I tried to retrieve it. I spoke amiably about how reliable and agreeable the machine had been in the past, and how it almost always drew great, standing-room-only crowds.This, while in the glass wall beside me, I looked like the model for Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream.
Regrettably, this all happened on a Saturday, so there was nowhere to turn for help, unless the man selling the cacahuates on the curb could spot me a 5,000 peso loan until Monday, a possibility that clearly defined my desperation.
Eventually, I must have accidentally cracked a code by squashing all the buttons at once, while, in obviously perfect harmony, uttering several profanities at just the right pitch. Suddenly, the screen changed and slowly, slowly, from the little card insertion chamber my card slid out like the tongue of a twelve year old learning to French Kiss.
The Madam Cash Machine
It was then that I realized ATMs have personalities. This particular one always seemed so engaging, even flirtatious. “Welcome,” would scrawl against its large screen. It would then say in its sassy, come-hither way: “We take all debit cards.” “You are fully protected.” “Please insert your Card.” At the same time, its card insertion chamber, puckered out like puffy glowing lips, is pulsating with a sultry green light. The Heidi Fleiss of ATMs.
BUT… when it ate my card, it turned nasty, clearly telling me, “You shove that card into me without so much as a “Hi, how ya doin?’” and you expect me to jump and dish out! Don’t you dare take me for granted! Got it, Mister?” Needless to say, given the machine’s obvious foul mood (confirmed with the reminder: “Please do not let anyone help you.”), I didn’t reinsert the card as it suggested, even though its card insertion chamber was still throbbing and trying to seduce me.
The Master Sergeant Cash Machine
Instead, I rubbed my card clean on my shirt and hurried to the broadly popular main farmacia ATM, Ajijic’s warhorse cajera, with its big chest and hard-working air of rugged and masculine dependability, probably an over-compensation for the fact that it sits next to the dish detergent rack. Its soldierly stance and instructions are all business:
Insert your card.
Cost: 69 pesos.
Now, please insert your card again.
We’re reading your card chip.
Stand up straight and look like a man.
While I watched the green chip-scanning bar progress, I also got the feeling this ATM was reading me, too, with bio sensors measuring my pupil dilation for hints of larceny. Then came its dispassionate judgment: “Your card couldn’t be read,” it told me, shoving my card back out at me as though it were disgusted with my shabby attempts at identity theft. I tried it again, and again it gave me the same snotty reaction. This machine, I thought, has the personality of a stuffy bureaucrat whose wife hasn’t touched him in years.
Okay, it’s getting late and now I’m desperate for some machine, any kind of machine, to prove that I’m not in some quantum technological lockdown. So I weigh myself on the farmacia scale outside, and I find I weigh 104 pounds. Not only am I penniless, but I seem to have shrunk down to the size of a Rhesus Monkey —until I realized, in my panic,I had converted the kilos to pounds using the peso exchange rate.
With nothing but pesos on the brain, I’m forced to move on. This time to a machine I found by accident. The ATM at Ajijic’s venerable supermarket two blocks further east.
Macavity, the Mystery Machine.
This ATM is a character out of Film Noir. You don’t see it right away when entering the store. And most customers have to have it pointed out to them. It sort of lurks in the shadows in the right-hand corner behind the plastic water carriers. It’s thin and hungry-looking but with an amicable pot-belly that welcomes you and a scrawny screen that’s a dull shade of muted. It couldn’t be more surreptitious, and gives the appearance of a con selling “Rolex watches.” All it lacks is a cape and a cocked fedora.
But I was so desperate I took a chance and inserted my card. To my surprise, without grandiose displays of service promises, chip-reading bars, stodgy instructions, people waving money at me, it efficiently popped up a screen that asked for my PIN and went on to dispense my 3,000 pesos (which I counted twice before leaving, or maybe it was three times), while it then went back to being the Macavity of Cash Machines.
Next time you approach an ATM, remember that, in a cash economy, they can be the entire banking system, and they have no obligation to you, except to hand out cash. And, if you give off the right vibes, not eat your card.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com