Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The ATM Story

So, this is a mess of a story. 

It starts last September when I was still managing the shoe store. We were hiring and, as almost nobody was applying, I called literally every applicant I had so I could at least tell my boss (the owner of the company) I was doing my best to find somebody.

Well, I interviewed this kid. We'll call him E. Within two minutes I could see how socially awkward he was and knew that a retail environment would not be playing to his strong suits. Within five minutes, he mentioned he's on the autism spectrum and really good at numbers but not so good with people. 

He was a good kid, but it wouldn't be a good fit for a fashion company, where rude (and often rich) women are snapping their fingers and waving shoes at you to go to their beck and call. Part of me wanted to protect him from that because I knew it would be way worse for him and I didn't want him to go through that. So, he did not get the job, but I hoped and prayed and offered some suggestions of places I thought he might do well at (including my then second, now fulltime job).

Fast forward to last week.

I was going home from work Saturday afternoon and decided to take the long way home so I could go by the ATM to deposit my check at the bank. Well, as I approached the ATM, I saw a random bike just on the stand in front of it.

No big deal, I thought, the owner was probably inside one of the stores surrounding it. When I got closer, I could see that not only were all the stores but the farthest one closed, but there was a wallet and bank card just laying on the ATM ledge.

I stopped walking and automatically went into fight mode. It was a perfect setup to jump somebody and a great location, because the ATM was right there if robbery was the goal.

A man got out of his car and walked over.

"Hi, sir, is this your bike?" I asked. I never, ever say 'sir' unless I think I need to make friends with you. 

"No? I thought it was yours." He replied.

"Then we have a slight problem." I indicated the wallet and bank card and he stopped walking, looking just as confused as me. My gut said he was safe so I decided to trust that and him.

"Will you be my witness? I'd like to check through the wallet for a phone number or address so we can contact the owner, but I'm worried I might get accused of theft, with the way it's laying here." He told me.

Yes, I thought, he was definitely a trustworthy human. "I'll gladly be your witness." I told him.

After a couple minutes, he sighed. "The bad news is I can't find a phone number. The good news is that I found an ID so we have a name and an address." He showed me the picture and as soon as I saw the picture, we heard somebody screaming and loud footsteps running towards us.


I'm assuming you've already guessed that this was yelled by E.

My new bro dropped the wallet back on the ledge, probably out of fear of being accused of theft. "Hey, man, we were just trying to find a way to contact you. It's not a good idea to be leaving this stuff out here where anybody can see it." He said it a lot nicer than I probably could have managed, since I have a very bad case of bitch voice.

A new man walked up to join our little party. "What's going on here?" He asked. We probably looked a little weird. A red-faced, panicked kid leaning against his bike. A tall man in a business suit with a Rolex. And me, a grumpy looking woman who looks like she's 12, and I think I was holding some snacks.

My new business bro filled him in, as we all looked to E for an explanation.

"I was trying to deposit my first check, but I didn't know what the check looked like and I think I put in the wrong paper because now it's blinking red and jammed so I went into the store way over there to ask what to do." E said, handing me a piece of paper.

"This is most definitely a check. What did the paper look like? The one you put in the machine?" I asked, inwardly cursing because he had jammed the exact device I needed to have money.

"It had all the times I worked on it." He said.

"That must have been your pay stub." Said new guy.

Business bro stepped forward. "I'm sorry to be rude, but I'm late for a meeting. Does anyone mind if I use the ATM?"

"Well, I can't use it now. I broke it. I'll have to go to another bank and they won't fix this one until Monday. And the worst part is that they spelled my name wrong on my check." E said.

We all shared a glance and within a minute, business bro was back in his car and driving away. E got on his bike and started pedaling away in the other direction.

"Please, go ahead. You were here first." New guy bro told me.

"Thank you, but I can't now. I needed to deposit a check into my account." I told him, wondering exactly how much ramen I had in my pantry and if it would hold me over until after work on Monday.

New guy bro frowned. "Here, let me try to pull some cash out. Maybe it'll reset the machine somehow." He suggested. 

It did not work, but I thanked him anyways before going home.

And all I could think was: Why wasn't E ever shown what a check was? He's far from stupid and he's now an adult man, with a job, who would probably like to live on his own like everyone else on the planet. Why wasn't he told how to deposit a check and shown what it looks like? 

I was fucking pissed at whoever raised him. I'm still pretty pissed. They should be helping him but they clearly gendered him, when they didn't stop to teach him not to leave his wallet or bank card laying around or to not to him what a check is.

Positive thought of the day: I had my faith in humanity restorered by two people, who came together with other strangers to help another stranger. Nobody stole, lied, or otherwise tried to hurt each other. Our goal was common, to help this random kid out when he needed it.


  1. Sometimes I was surprised by the things my kids didn't know, even when they were teenagers. They were common things I thought everyone knew, but I was the one who assumed they would somehow pick up this knowledge and didn't teach them myself. I feel sorry for E. It must be hard to be so confused. In fact, at 58, a lot of things still confuse me.


    1. I am easily confused and forgetful. I can be mid-sentence and forget my train of thought. But it makes me sad that he had to go through all of that. Your kids had you to rely on but who knows if he does.


  2. Yes there should be a glass taught at school about how to manage in the world without your parents there doing everything for you too many young people go out in the world knowing jack shit

    1. I 110% agree with this.

      A class around how to cash checks and set budgets and pay bills and manage time. Because soooo many parents/guardians don't teach their kids and then they turn 18 and have mental breakdowns just trying to function as a normal part of society.

  3. I have been bookkeeping for a businesswoman for a decade or so now. She has twins who've just celebrated their 25th (?) birthday. The mom paid me to sit with her daughter to teach her to budget, because the daughter had asked for help. The son had had a part-time job once and figured out how to cash his checks (sign 'em over to mom, of course!) but doesn't use his checking account the way it's designed. Daughter wanted to do all the grown-up things, even if mom is helping financially. I'm actually really proud of the daughter, for her maturity and growth... but I have tried For Years to get the mom to teach the kids about finances and checks and stuff, to no avail. In fact, the next time I see mom, teaching HER to budget will be on the agenda!

    ... If only E. had applied to the other position! You could have been the one to walk him through checks, stubs, and how to deposit them. Speaking of which, why doesn't your bank offer mobile deposits through your phone? I thought my credit union was the last institution to join the 21st century, and I've been mobile-depositing for almost a year now!

    1. The twins will never be able to survive without that knowledge, when their mom inevitably passes away. That's the cold hard and sad truth.

      I have a very small credit union who doesn't have access to it on the phone. They've also gotten rid of branch sharing because it was bringing all the servers down. But they treat me very well and I've never had a single problem with my money so I'm happy with them.

  4. I kid you not, just yesterday I was on the phone telling a coworker who is in her late 40's that the bank would not give her money using the company card. She had to use the ATM. She sighed and said, "I'm going to tell you this. I have never used an ATM before and I don't know how.".
    So, instead of actually just TRYING (it's not rocket science) I had to facetime her through the process. I was amazed.

    1. I learned how to use an ATM with my mom on the phone when I was about 19, right after I had gotten my first debit card. In Alabama, you can't have one until you're 19 and my mom didn't have any, so it was my first experience with it. But I called for help because I didn't want to break anything or overdraft my card.

  5. I worked with autistic children for a few years and it is impossible to teach them every single thing they could ever possibly need to know. The same is true of any child. You just never know what someone may encounter and not be able to properly process.

    He may have been shown everything to do with checks, but with this being his first one from this business, it didn't look the way he expected. Or it could be any number of other factors.

    Then again, maybe he had shitty parents (just like a lot of kids without autism do) and they didn't do what they should have. There is really no way to know.

    1. Kids w/o special needs still recognize that the check part is what the bank cares about, and the paystub part is the part the bank DOESN'T care about.

      Kids w/o special needs, having never used an ATM to make a deposit, will either figure it out or get help, but they won't leave their wallet on the ledge to go get help.

      Yes. we all learn differently, and our brains process stuff differently, but the parents of this particular kid have done a shitty job protecting him from the real world, and a shittier job integrating him into it. I'm so glad Rachel and the others in this story stepped up to try to help him out!

    2. What concerns me it that the check was completely normal, but a pay stub looks nothing like that. Plus, everything was left out in the open in an extremely public area where it could have been stolen.

      His entire life could have been ruined. His social security card, ID, debit card, and numerous other cards I don't know the purpose of were all in that wallet. If I was one minute later, the very nice business man might not have been so nice and decided E would fund a trip around Europe with 10 new credit cards.