Everyday, across the seventeen ATMs in my jurisdiction, I see a score of faces come in to encash desires, needs, whims, fancies.
Everyday, I see people’s reactions to their recently depleted bank balances, however large or small. Some scratch their scalps and try getting their heads around the arithmetic of it. Some people’s eyes widen in shock and wonder. Some placid, staid, calm – that they knew this was exactly the number. Some shove the slip into the back pockets of their jeans, or shove it hurriedly into their wallets. Others crush, crumple, shred the slips and discard them into the dustbin, or not, depending on how angry, disappointed or paranoid they are.
Not many really know I’m watching on behalf of my organization on behalf of the banks.
Frankly, the magnitude of what I do gives me the pins and needles.
Often I put myself in front of the pin-sized camera, in that ATM. And the thought is disconcerting: that every movement of mine is watched, scrutinized for absurdity, then copied off VHS format into DVDs, neatly labelled, filed away in some dilapidated old drawer, and will be pulled out when something drastic happens.
My past wouldn’t be just mine for me to forget.
And even if I do, there is something other than my conscience that’s keeping track.
These money dispensing machines are revelations on how people behave when left alone with their money. I chuckle at the stiff upper-lip who moistens his finger with spittle before counting his thick wad of crisp 100’s. The haute couture lady that looks over either shoulder before folding her 500’s in half, and half again, and tucking them into her bosom.
She walked in. The girl with big, intensely brown eyes. Her very being seemed to permeate sorrow – one that didn’t come from a cheating boyfriend, a lost earring, a rejected interview or divorcing parents.
It was an unapologetic, utter defeat that weighed her soul so much that every second breath, she sighed deeply, and tightened and recomposed her facade every few seconds.
She punched a few numbers. The machine beeped and whirred. A few locks of hair escaped from behind her ear, caressed her face. She didn’t reach out to correct the straying black strands, but seemed to regard them as the only kindness she had seen in a long time.
She looked up at the camera. At me.
And she stared. Her face calm, set.
Her eyes quietly welled up, and each tear fell victim to gravity.
Silently, she wiped her eyes with her shoulders, and left.
Our conversation was over.