Trouble at the ATM

I try to keep safety in mind everywhere I go. I lock things up with my “PacSafe,” use hotel safes wherever possible and try not to carry too much that anyone would want and make me a target. One area where I do feel vulnerable is ATMs. Everyone knows what you are there for and if they are patient can sometimes find you alone.

That was what happened one night when I was getting cash in San Cristobal de las Casas. Because I pay my rent in cash, I needed money from the ATM for the next day. I went to the place where I usually get money out and went into the small room. While I was getting my cash, I noticed a stocky guy in his mid-twenties, wearing a white sleeveless tee-shirt and tattoos covering his arms just hanging around outside. In my mind, I knew this guy was a menace, but I was halfway through the transaction, so I just tried to ignore him. I stood in front of the machine so he couldn’t how much cash I was getting out thinking that if he saw how much I had, he might want it even more. I have to admit I was nervous. After the machine spit out my cash, I quickly folded it without counting and shoved it in my front pocket. I threw my shoulders back trying to look confident and left the area without making eye contact.

About thirty seconds later as I was walking away on the sidewalk by the park I heard hurried footsteps behind me. I turned, and there was he was clearly on a mission to talk to get to me. I didn’t know what to do so I just froze and watched him approach. That was when I realized that he had something in his hand and a smile on his face. It took about half a second for fear to turn to embarrassment. I had left my ATM card in the machine, and he was returning it to me. Because I had jumped to conclusions about someone based on their appearance I had become careless and left my card in the machine.

I know not all situations turn out this way. I am still cautious at ATMs, and I know they are places where crime does happen. On this night I had, however, let my caution and poor judgment (going to a quiet ATM alone at night) turn into an irrational fear that left me careless and flustered. Lessons learned; continue to use caution at ATMs, don’t use ATMs in quiet places at night alone and don’t jump to conclusions about someone based on appearance.

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Also published on Medium.

Author: Jonathan Look

In 2011 Jonathan Look decided to change his life and pursue adventures instead of comfort and possessions. His goal is to travel the world solo; one country at a time, one year at a time. To accomplish this he got rid of most of his possessions, packed up what little he saw as necessities and headed out. His goal is to spend ten years discovering new places, meeting new people and taking the time to learn about them, their values and their place on this tiny planet. He embraces the philosophy that says a person is the sum of their experiences and rejects the fraud of modern consumerism that makes people into slaves of their consumption. He doesn't intend to be modern day ascetic, just more mindful of his place in the world and to make decisions according to that new standard.

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