a transaction of trust

April 24, 2008

Although the other ATM was available as I deposited a check at the downtown Wells Fargo Center, I felt someone waiting behind me. As I finished and turned around, a handsome young man in a motorized wheelchair asked me in a soft voice if I could please help him get some cash. His book-sized wallet layopen on his lap, impeccably organized. He pointed with the knuckle on his right index finger to the gold debit card tucked in the top slot. His hands curled under like the harmless talons of a baby bird.

I slipped the card out, inserted it in the machine, and hesitated. He told me his PIN. I punched it in carefully. He watched the screen intently, patiently, telling me which buttons to tap. He asked me to punch in 300.00.

I put his card back. We waited together as the machine grunted and spit out a fat wad of twentys. He carefully lifted the mouth of his wallet, grasping between two knuckles. I slipped the money in. I pulled the receipt, the thin paper silky beneath the pads of my fingers. Swiftly slid it on top of the cash.

Everything I touched seemed immensely precious and delicate to me. It felt like a violation to hold a stranger’s debit card in front of him, and to look at it without looking at it, the raised string of numbers and letters running under my thumb like a type of Braille as the machine sucked it in. The speaking-aloud of his PIN alone conveyed trust I can’t and couldn’t relate to, considering I had just been shielding the screen with my body minutes before. I was almost embarrassed to touch his money and see the inside of his wallet. I was invading his privacy at his request.

He thanked me in that gentle voice, made direct eye contact. I straightened and smiled and said you’re welcome, and as I walked away I realized I had slipped his cash in wrong. Each twenty he takes out slowly, carefully, with his slender joints will be upside-down. I was struck by how an insignificant thing like that will be an impediment for him, if he’s like me and likes his cash orderly, right side up, front side facing. It will take him a long time to rotate everything. I felt bad. But he trusted me—he had to trust me—and I can’t feel bad for that.

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One Response to “a transaction of trust”

  1. Bethany said

    This is so beautiful.

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