An incompetent doofus, a machine, and Canadian solicitude – a volatile recipe with diabolical consequences.
The plane lands in Toronto. I proceed through “Immigration”, collect my luggage, pass perfunctorily through “Customs” and enter the airport concourse.
My first order of business is to procure Canadian money. Though I had retained a couple of slippery twenties from an earlier visit – yes, Canadian paper money is slippery; it’s a surprise the Queen’s picture doesn’t slide right off of it – being no better a driver north of the border than I am south of it, I knew I would be taking a lot of taxis on this trip – and as it turned out, the subway as well – and I would therefore require more disposable spondoolix. * (* 1930’s slang for money.)
I find an ATM machine on the concourse. I am not afraid of these machines. I have been using them since I was fifty.
I slide my bank card into the machine. From the available language options, I judiciously select “English”. I punch in my identifying PIN number. I select “Withdrawal.” I ask for three hundred dollars. There is a question concerning, “Do you want ‘conversion’, or don’t you?” and I am not sure what they are talking about. I arbitrarily respond that I want it.
There is then a message on the screen,
“Thank you for using the blah-blah company’s ATM machine.”
And I am given a receipt for my transaction.
I wait, like, ten or fifteen seconds.
And no money comes out of the machine.
I am now officially confused. Having already been “Thank you’d” and receipted, my assumption is that the machine has somehow skipped a significant step in the procedure –
The step where I am supposed to receive the money.
What do I do now?
Being me, I assume that, perhaps the machine but more likely – recognizing my well-documented technical ineptitude, myself – have made some kind of mistake during the ATM money-eliciting procedure.
So I try again.
(As I typed the above, abbreviated sentence, the Ren and Stimpy imprecation, “You Eediot!” began ringing in my ears.)
Why did I try it again? I needed that money. I am Figuring there was just a glitch in the procedure, and that this time, I will succeed.
Even if I do things exactly the same way.
Or maybe a little differently, offering a different response to the “conversion” question. Maybe that’s what the problem was.
He imagined, illogically.
I work my way through the procedure: “English”, PIN number, “Withdrawal”, “Three hundred dollars”…
The screen says, “Thank you for using the blah-blah company ATM machine…”
And provides me a (second) receipt.
Then I wait.
And once again…
Not a single penny comes out of the machine.
I am understandably frustrated. I am following the precise procedure that I follow and home,
And, as Mick Jagger famously lamented,
I can’t get no satisfaction out of this machine!
Rather than trying it a third time, I decide a take a hopefully ameliorating hiatus. I walk over to a nearby (“Old School”) pay phone, and I call my brother, to inform him that I have arrived.
During our conversation, I feel a polite tapping on my shoulder. A young man is telling me that there is a stack of money over at the ATM machine, and he believes that that money is mine.
I hang up with my brother, and I immediately race back. In the interim, however, I am informed by the young man’s young companion that, after some programmed “Delay Period”, my stack of Canadian twenties has receded back into the machine.
Meaning – again – no money for yours truly.
What do I do now?
I scream inwardly at my predicament.
I then request the two young fellows to stay with me…
As I make yet another attempt at using the machine.
Why not? I appeared to be getting closer.
This time, after receiving my “Thank you” and my receipt, I wait attentively by the ATM machine, having determined that, in Canada, they are so eagerly solicitous of your patronage, contrary to my experience at home, they thank you before delivering the money.
Which, on my third attempt, dutifully arrives.
I am finally in possession of the funds I have requested. Less happily, however, I now hold three receipts for a single transaction.
The question is…
Will my bank account be debited nine hundred dollars when I only actually received three hundred dollars?
On the bright side, the exchange rate on my American money is sensational.
And you know what? Being me, I am actually relieved to have received anything.
Postscript: The day after I return home, I visit my bank, carrying two receipts from that single transaction, the third receipt having been temporarily misplaced. I detail my difficulties at the Toronto airport – “You know, in Canada, they say ‘Thank you’ before they give you the money?” – requesting an appropriate adjustment in my account. To their credit, the bank eliminates one of the debited withdrawals.
Later at home, I discover the third receipt in my “carry-on.”
But I am too embarrassed to go back.