Sunday, October 24, 2010

Article in the Indian Express - October 24, 2010

The following article appeared in my Sunday column 'Un Intended' The New Indian Express today.


Harimohan Paruvu

Among the various types of intriguing human behaviors, some occur only in ATMs. For example, there is a sect which tends to believe that ATMs serve as private phone booths as well. The moment they step in, they shut the door securely behind them and call long lost friends, girlfriends or business adversaries and engage in long, animated conversations. Any signal from you to get on with the ATM job irritates him and he only talks longer – wait, it’s my ATM time! 

Then, there are the techie types who use ATMs to broaden their technical knowledge. The moment they get near the ATM they press all the commands on it, pull it, bend it, unplug it and only after they have convinced themselves that they have mastered it, exit. By now the machine is sparking or bouncing about from the torture that it has just endured, making it difficult for the next guy to use.

Some young lovers use ATMs as secluded zones to exchange sweet nothings (and other stuff if possible). Once they go in, you can be assured of a leisurely tryst, as he helps her with her bag, her ATM card and explains how the ATM functions, while she gazes at him as if he invented the ATM. They surreptitiously touch hands, brush against one another, look deep into each other’s eyes  and smile knowingly - and if you make any unhappy noises or peer through the glass, they dart venomous glances at you, as if you were a third rate voyeur. And when they exit, it is with the air of a couple returning from their honeymoon and you better lower your eyes.

And then there are ATM lovers who love the ATM itself. They touch the ATM, caress it and do all sorts of things with great tenderness that you wonder if they are making love to the ATM and making little ATMs by the side. On the opposite end of the spectrum are ATM abusers who beat up the ATM at the slightest provocation. They bang it, they insert the card violently and punch the numbers so hard that the ATM goes into trauma.   

Some use the ATM as a mini hotel where they can perform private duties such as dressing up. So, you find young men quickly readjusting their shirts, pulling out their belts and trousers and tucking them back in. And, there are some, who view ATMs as public places and barge in to join you in what they think is a community activity. You try to shield your pin number from their inquisitive eyes, while they get angry at you for withholding valuable public information.

However, the most dangerous lot are the technically challenged chaps who have no clue about the ATM, They look at their ATM card as if it will bite them, they hover suspiciously around the ATM machine wondering how to approach it without upsetting it, they insert the card in all the wrong slots and wring their hands helplessly as the ATM swallows and digests their card. And then everyone, from the security guard to helpful bystanders, line up to extricate the card, thereby permanently damaging the ATM in the process of educating the chap on how to use the ATM.

Obviously these activities are best watched if you are first in line. But be careful, because there are insidious characters who stand beside you posing as helpful bystanders, only to move in ahead of you, as you watch. And if by chance you end up enjoying watching them as well, welcome to the gang of ATM voyeurs.

1 comment:

Rajendra said...

Little ATMs would indeed be cute..