Vantage point

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Return to the ATM - A true story

He stood outside the SBI ATM in BTM Layout 2nd Stage, regarding with singular revulsion. Feelings of a desire for vengeance had still not abated. But like the man-with-an-iron-will that he was, he pushed those feelings in the nether-chambers of his mind, to co-exist with darker emotions. As his hand reached for the knob on the glass door, his mind was transported back to that rainy night two weeks ago.

Back then he was an innocent young bloke who believed in the inherent goodness of man and ATMs. An ATM and he were natural allies in his eyes, common interests governing this alliance. The ATM needed to dispense money, and he needed to collect it. Over the years, his relationship with friendly ATM machines had cemented his beliefs.

Thus that night, when it was too rainy for him to take his spanking new HDFC debit card to an HDFC ATM, he walked into the SBI ATM, which incidentally was in the 2nd stage of the BTM layout. He inserted the card into the machine, entered the PIN, and entered the amount he desired to withdraw (it was Rs. 3400, for those who thrive on trivia). Sure enough, the machine made a few pleasant rumbling noises and spat out the money. What it also did was spit out the HDFC debit card which stuck out of the slot.

Now thos modus operandi was new to our protagonist. His trusted UTI ATMs would first give him the money, following which he would pocket the same. Next the machine would politely ask if he desired to conduct any more transactions. Should he decline with corresponding politeness, the machine would then spit the card out. Hence the SBI ATM's actions struck him as odd.

Contemplating this, he took the money and carefully placed it in his wallet. At precisely this moment, his phone indicated that he had received an SMS. As he started reading that SMS, the SBI ATM made a disapproving noise and swallowed the card back!!! Our protagonist's eyes sprang out of their sockets and rebounded off the walls of the vestibule a few times, as his mind struggled to comprehend what had just happened. Why has this machine gobbled up my card?

His first instinct was to scan the surroundings to see if Cyrus Broacha was around, intending to jump in and say "BAKRAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!". But the landscape was completely devoid of Parsis of any kind. Now he knew not what to do. he waited for the machine to say something to him. Something to the effect "If you tell me your PIN, i may give you back your card". However the machine has lapsed into a state of non-transactional equilibrium.

Our protagonists' heart ached as it identified this action as betrayal by an ally. His sentiments were not unlike those of Pandit Nehru when the Chinese attacked NEFA. In a similar vein, he called up SBI's call centre to ask them how he could get the card back. His hopes were dashed when the customer relationship executive said

"Sorry sir, the card must have been destroyed by now. You will have to apply for a new one."

Our protagonist then called up the HDFC call centre, with the same false hopes in his heart as Pandit Nehru, when he took the Kashmir issue to the UN. The HDFC guy conveyed his sympathy and clucked his tongue, sharing the protagonist's views on "Big Bad Public Sector Banks". However even he could do nothing more than register a request for a new card.

It was the memory of this ghastly incident that troubled our protagonist as he stood outside the same ATM, of the State Bank of India, located in the 2nd Stage of the BTM Layout. His replacement HDFC card had not yet arrived but he had his trusted UTI card.

Should he take the risk, he wondered? Then, taking a huge gulp of the faith-courage cocktail, he turned the knob and entered the vestibule.

With the elegance of a panther, he inserted the UTI card, entered the PIn and the amount. Again, the ATM spat the card and the cash out together. Our protagonist was now a grizzled veteran in these matters. With the sleek athleticism of a Ferrari on pole position, his two hands moved in perfect synchronisation. The left hand grabbed the money and the right hand grabbed the card. Within a matter of seconds, both were safely esconsced in his wallet.

He tilted his head and gave the ATM a condescending smile.

"Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.", he sagely uttered.

The ATM machine looked at him as if saying "Okay buddy, it's 1-1. Best two out of three?"

But our protagonist now had money as well as ATM card, while the machine had neither. The confidence arising from this fact was evident in his swagger as he walked out of the vestibule, and proceeded home.

Man had triumphed over machine, yet again!