By Hannah Berman

I have always had trouble using the ATM in my bank. On several occasions I have been given instructions — two of my kids, as well as a friend, have shown me what to do, and when they’re with me I’m fine. But the lessons haven’t taken because as soon as I’m left to my own devices I forget what I’m supposed to do.

Recently, a check was sent to me by a state government organization. It wasn’t the first time I received a check from them and, as usual, things were messed up. Not only was my name spelled incorrectly, but the check was made out to both my late husband, Arnie, and me. Hubby’s name was first on the check and mine was the second name. The check, as always, was for a bit less than $300.

The first time I received it I attempted to cash it, but I got nowhere. The bank teller said she couldn’t cash it because she needed two signatures. At the time, Hubby had been deceased for three years, so, knowing that he wasn’t going to be signing it, and since I was not getting anywhere with the teller, I was forced to take it to the bank’s vice president and duke it out with her. It was anything but easy and, just as was the case with the teller, I ran into trouble.

She insisted that I show her proof that Hubby was no longer alive. I went home and returned with the death certificate. Apparently it wasn’t enough. She still did not relent. She suggested that I contact the party that had issued the check and have them make the appropriate changes by spelling my name correctly and omitting Hubby’s name entirely. Trying to get in touch with a government organization and getting to speak to the right person is next to impossible. It would be easier to nail Jell-O to the wall! Since I knew that in the future I would likely be receiving more such checks, I kept at it and eventually I was connected to the right person. But I got an unpleasant surprise. The gentleman told me that the changes could be made — but only if I filled out several forms and paid a fee of $1,500. There was no chance I was going to do that.

Instead, I went back to the bank and tangled once again with the VP. Given the fact that I am a longstanding customer, she finally relented and agreed to accept the check, but for deposit only. That was fine with me. The same thing happened three years later when I got another such check and went through the same nonsense of the teller refusing to accept the check and again having to approach the VP. She wanted proof of this and proof of that; there seemed to be no end to what she needed from me. She made so many demands that I expected that at any moment she was going to ask me for my firstborn child!

This time I had started out by asking only to be able to deposit the check, not to cash it. Eventually I got through to this tough lady by reminding her that this wasn’t our first rodeo and we had been through this once before. She vaguely recalled that we had, so she relented and finally agreed to accept the check for deposit.

Just recently, I received another of these checks with the same errors. I groaned in anticipation of having to go through the same ordeal at the bank. And I prayed that the same VP was still there because the last thing I wanted was to have to deal with someone new on this matter. I mentioned all of this to a friend, who made a logical suggestion. “Forget about the teller and forget about the bank’s vice president. Deposit the check though the ATM and it will go through just fine,” he said.

I didn’t want to tell my friend that I wasn’t sure how to use the ATM. There was no reason for him to know how incapable I am of dealing with machines. People are my specialty, not machines. And there was also no way I was going to ask anybody to show me yet again how to use the ATM. As it is, I’m reasonably sure that my offspring think that I’m challenged. So, instead, I went to Plan B. It’s always good to have a backup plan.

Plan B was to ask one of the bank’s workers to come out to the lobby with me and show me what to do. It worked like a charm. The worker, having no idea that I had been given previous assistance on how to use the ATM, gave me instructions and stood by my side as I did what she said, only turning her head when I had to put in my pin number. It worked like a charm. So if — or when — the need arises again, I can always ask for help from an employee in the bank.

If the ATM were my only problem that would be good. It is not. Last week, I went into a supermarket that I very rarely frequent. There were twelve registers, but nine appeared to be closed as only three had cashiers. The lines at these three registers were all very long and the customers waiting on line had full shopping carts. This was going to take a while and time was not on my side. I had an appointment and needed to get out quickly.

I noticed that two of the other nine registers, which had at first appeared to be closed, were actually open despite the fact that they were unmanned. Then I noticed the sign: SELF CHECKOUT. Remembering my challenge with the ATM as well as with everything else that confounds me, such as pumping my own gas, I knew that this was not for me. There was no chance that I would attempt self-checkout. My only option was to resign myself to being late for my appointment, and wait on one of those long lines that had a cashier at the register. That’s just the way it was! 

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