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Issue 5

Cash Machine


There are worse jobs out there, and in this economy, well, you can’t be too picky. I worked as a telephone once, dirty job really, stranger’s hands all over you, breath stinking like raw cabbage. Not to mention the amount of spit that comes through the speaker; I’d have a bucketful by the end of the week. And can you imagine all the cold callers, having to listen to them sell double-glazing, or the prospect of a new patio to some hard-of-hearing pensioner, eventually handing over their account number and sort code as if they’re home made biscuits. Tragic.

It’s not so bad now I’ve got this gig as a cash machine. My own cushy spot on the bank’s front wall, lines of people queuing up to use me. I feel wanted. Plus it’s not all doom and gloom in here. The view of the square is lovely: the war memorial, the fountain, and the street performer whose lungs belt out opera throughout the day. The place has a buzz about it, like you’re peering into a wasp’s nest and you know none of them can see you.

It’s not easy work so don’t go thinking it’s a doddle. It can be demanding. Being good at maths is key, the amount of mental arithmetic I do you wont believe. I have to link the pin with the person, work out how much money they have in their account, what they’re allowed to withdraw, subtract that from what they had, and of course type it all out so they can see it on screen. And then there’s counting the cash; fanning quickly through the notes, making sure it’s all there, divvying it out through the little letter box slot, and all in the time it takes to read ‘please wait’.

My brain hurts thinking about it.

It has its perks though. I get the radio in my box, the bank’s own station; the music’s not half bad you know. They could play a bit more country, a bit of Dolly Parton or something. Working nine to five, ey. Sometimes the music can be a bit dull, but if it’s not up to scratch I just relax a little, listen for the opera man. He’s there most days.

I get to decorate my machine too. Not the outside, but inside I can do what I want, like put up pictures, as long as they’re out of the public eye and not against company policy. No tits basically.

You might not know but mine’s one of the few machines that supplies fivers. Yeah, the Bank of England rigged me in to help re-circulate them because there weren’t enough in the public’s pockets. You don’t get this at any old Sainsbury’s cash point, or at those ‘private’ cash points that charge you £1.75 for the privilege. I’m not in it for the money. I take pride in the craft, in knowing things.

Do you know who’s on the five-pound note? Not many do. Elizabeth Fry. Who you ask? She was a Quaker and philanthropist who reformed the English prisons in the 1800’s, great woman. Little known fact, she was also part of the Barclay family, same family who founded the bank. Now her face is being fed through their machines. I bet the family is proud as peaches, even if she’s not smiling in her picture. I’m sure the bank of England could’ve given her something, a hint of smile; the Queen has an almost-smirk turning up the corner of her mouth, and she’s as sour as they come. Don’t understand how though, not with Philip around.

I know I might give the impression, but don’t think I’m just here in this box with nothing but the view to keep me going, my thoughts for company. I get breaks. You know when the machine says ‘out of service’ on the screen? That’s me, popped off for a cuppa with the bank staff, or sometimes, something a little stronger. They know how to have fun here. They’ve still got the Aldi trolley in the staff room that Steve nicked last Christmas doo. They were all doing laps in it around the staff room; Darren had about as much control as a hiccup and sent Jill flying into the coffee machine.

They’re a right laugh here in the bank, a proper family; they get a bad rep those lot. The general public say they’re heartless money launderers and gambling addicts. They say they’d be the first to stick a knife in your back. They’re wrong. They’re the first to pull it out.
There’s that old one isn’t there, what is it? Yeah –

A man goes into a bank and says to the cashier, “Will you check my balance?”

So she says, “Yeah” and pushes him over.

It’s not like that. Just the other day an old man, wrinkled as a walnut, asked Janet the exact same thing. She didn’t shove him over. No. She brought him outside to my spot, showed him how to put his card in, punch in his pin and navigate through the menu. I don’t know why she brought him to me, she must have faith in my ability to help others. That or she wanted the fresh air.

She’s a sweet girl, Janet.

Only downside I’d say is that the bank’s a bit tight on Uniform. Has to be company clothes (each item with the banks logo on), has to be smart, and you can’t have piercings or tattoos. Of course some people rebel: Tony has an earring that he puts in on lunch breaks, Miranda wears a necklace under her blouse that whispers as she walks, and Janet, it seems like she wears a different colour nail varnish each week, always showing them off to me.

She’s a funny one. I can’t quite get my head around her. I mean last week she checked her balance four times and she withdrew money on six different occasions, queuing up for my machine even if one was free. I remember she let her hand linger over the slot, sunlight slicing through the gaps in her fingers. And the thing is, her money was there, ready to be taken.

I’ll not forget it, how the light played off the varnish, how the scent of the still-wet coat clung to everything, smelt like pear drops.

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