True Gripes: Cash Points

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The Independent Online
You know how it is, you're late, you need cash quickly so you dash to the cash point, money in a hurry - it couldn't be easier. But as you approach, you feel that first pang of fear when you spot the immaculate cat flap. You get nearer and your heart sinks. You are doomed, you will be late, you will miss the train, interview, first-date, whatever. The man in front of you is a vision in fawn, a pensioner, and pensioners can't operate cash point machines.

It's the pensioner's turn; he stares at the machine for minute-long seconds. Electronic dyslexia makes it seem like a flight-deck. His glasses, suspended around his neck on fancy fawn elastic, are put on as he runs through his instrument check: "Buttons, slot, little-telly-thing - check. Away we go!" He digs his card from the leatherette holder attached to his pension book and dives in.

At the third attempt, the card slides in the correct way and the machine springs to life. Tortuously he reads the screen aloud, it asks for his PIN number and he can't remember it. Luckily, he has had the foresight to conceal the secret code in his address book. Unluckily, his address book is at the bottom of his shopping, hidden under the suet and indigestion tablets. Some time later the numbers are carefully tapped in. He continues to recite to the screen and mumble with satisfaction at each hurdle crossed.

Instead of standing a comfortable distance from the person at the machine, as is the etiquette of cash points, frustration gets the better of you and you inch towards him until you are on his shoulder. You want to see what the problem is, you want to shout, "It's that one, there man, there!" and prod the enter button. But you don't, because he's old.

Cash points are about need and instant gratification; our lifestyles demand them. Pensioners are out of this rat-race, and good luck to them, but when they enter a queue where everyone else is moving at a different pace they don't speed up, they can't. Maybe banks should employ a crawler lane system for cash points where a machine with big buttons and talking screen sits beside the normal ones. Until that glorious day grandpa, please avoid public technology and, by the way, stop wearing fawn.

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