I try to keep safety in mind everywhere I go. I lock doors, I use hotel safes wherever possible and try not to carry too much that anyone would want that could make me a target. I am not paranoid, and I go almost everywhere, but I use common street sense. 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 bank where I usually get cash from the machine and went into the vestibule with the ATM. While I was getting my money, 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 was nervous. After the machine spit out my bills, I quickly folded them without counting and shoved them in my front pocket. I threw my shoulders back trying to look confident and left the area without making eye contact.
- Fear of Travel
- 4 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Retiring Abroad
- Why I Began Living a Minimalist Lifestyle for Retirement
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 this guy was clearly on a mission 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.