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Cash, Please–Take 2

June 2, 2010

On Second Chances

Yesterday I made my second trip to the nearby Bank of China, confident that this time, at least, I could pick the right machine from which to withdraw cash. I slunk past the lady with the mop–the same one whom I apparently harassed last time–without making eye contact and entered the proper booth. I inserted my card. I selected English. I typed in my security code. Increasingly encouraged, I raised my finger to press ‘Withdrawal’…and found no such option.

I could ‘Check Balance’ or ‘Make a Transfer,’ but I could not, would not get cash. Not on a boat, not in a car, not with a fox, not with a crowbar.

Just for fun, I checked the balance. Sure enough, there was money in the account. Sighing, I ‘Cancelled Transaction’ and with great joy received my card back promptly.

Then I peeked my head out of the booth. And who should approach but somebody with a helpful smile? I started to explain in halting Chinese, and she smoothly replied in English, “You cannot withdraw cash from the ATM machine?” I could have kissed her. Until she went on to suggest that I probably don’t have sufficient funds in my account.

Now, as anybody who has had a credit/debit card transaction rejected will know, the mere suggestion that you are trying to obtain money or services with inadequate resources calls up a variety of strong, unpleasant sensations, not the least of which is acute embarrassment followed by a self-righteous ‘how dare you suggest that I am either insolvent or so clueless that I don’t know how much money I have in my account?’ kind of feeling.

However, having JUST checked my balance, I could certify that ‘insufficient funds’ was not, in this case, the problem. The bank employee gave me a half-disbelieving, half-sympathetic smile and suggested that I try my card in the OTHER machine. You know, the one that ate my card last time. With a vague feeling of panic, I did so–ultimately, she was right there to help me. What could go wrong?

‘Ah,’ she said wisely over my shoulder after I had entered my code. ‘I see. There is simply no cash. Maybe you can try later.’ And with a reassuring glance (‘See? You’re not broke after all’), she walked off.

Right. There is simply no cash. Naturally. I mean, on a Monday morning at 9 o’clock, who am I to think that I can go into a bank and get money? Silly, silly me.

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