One of my loyal readers, who I will refer to as Mom
, recently sent me an e-mail on what to do if you are ever held up at an ATM machine. The suggestion she passed along was for the victim to punch in their PIN number backwards and this action would alert the police that a robbery was in progress. The theory goes that the police would immediately answer the summons to the robbery location.
This is all very nice and too good to be true, because it is. I responded to Mom
that I had seen this idea listed as an Internet hoax last year. At this time, the technology does not exist to enable the ATM machine to call the police. Even if it did, I don’t think any human being, no matter how well they’re trained, could respond quick enough to apprehend the robber in the act.
Let’s say (theoretically) that you are withdrawing money from your account at an ATM. A robber approaches from behind, pokes you in the back with a weapon, and demands your money. We’ll time this - robber approaches and demands: 3 seconds. You think what to do, think of any way out, discount every avenue of escape, and punch in your PIN – theoretically, 10 seconds. The robber grabs your money, jabs you with their screwdriver weapon (I’ll explain this tool reference later), and runs off – 10 seconds. As we can see, it is all over in less than a minute.
Now, let’s say the police are alerted, and a dispatcher assigns a patrol car to investigate – 15 seconds. The patrol car races to the robbery location – 5 minutes. The robber is long gone. The act itself wasn’t prevented, but at least the police are on the scene a little quicker than the more conventional method of calling for help via cell or land phone.
I’m glad Mom
brought this up because it gives me a chance to explain proper etiquette at a robbery. I feel I am an authority on this subject due to an experience I had some years ago. No, no, no, I was not the robber, but I was a victim of an ATM mugging.
It happened on a Saturday afternoon, Labor Day weekend, 1991. A friend of mine and I were withdrawing money from an outdoor ATM on Annapolis Road in Landover Hills, Maryland. I had finished my transaction and I stood off to one side waiting for my friend to finish her business. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a shadow come up behind me. The next thing I knew, an arm was around my neck and some object was held against my throat. A voice, which I assume belonged to a young gentleman from the hood (and I’m being charitable with this description) said, “I’ve got this against your throat. Give me your wallet.”
At that point, another young gentleman from the hood came around from the other side of the ATM, poked a screwdriver in my friend’s back, and made the same demand. I could see all this happening and at first I thought someone was joking with me. I quickly realized that this was very serious and with one motion of my arm I pulled my wallet out of my pocket and handed it to the fellow behind me. By this time his partner had my friend’s money as well and they both ran off to a waiting van.
Now this is where my lesson begins. I don’t know to this day what was held against my throat. It could’ve been a gun, a knife, a screwdriver, or the fellow could have just pretended he had a weapon and pressed the knuckle of his finger against my neck. I decided against asking him what was the object he held against me. I felt that it would be bad manners on my part to ask such a thing, since he already had the upper hand in the situation. So, I opted to act polite, survive the ordeal and count my losses (and blessings) later. One of those blessings came six weeks later, when despondent, on the verge of alcoholism, and $65.00 poorer, I met the love of my life. I’ve been a happier man since then, although Anne Marie will probably disagree.
As for the robbers, I don’t know what happened to them. The last I heard, they had been apprehended and were awaiting trial after a series of robberies that grew more violent as they went along. I assume they have served their time by now and are either back on the streets or dead. It’s a shame they didn’t stay in touch, particularly since I was polite and handed my money over to them, no questions asked. No letters, no Christmas cards, nothing. You have a brief life-altering encounter with some people and after that they act like they don’t know you. Oh well, go figure...