the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: ATM

The Next Action — the ATM Password

There was this girl who was a classmate of mine from first grade through senior year in high school. She had an unusual, but beautiful first name. We were friendly, but we didn’t anything socially outside of the classroom. Our relationship was based on the activities between the brick walls of the school building.

She was very important to me. She was my class competitor.

During math class, if I didn’t raise my hand up in time to answer a question, she would get there first. We competed for awards. We each won numerous “Citizen of the Month,” citations. We always compared test scores, secretly wishing the other to flounder. We tried to outdo the other in the number of books we read per year. When I was picked to make the commencement speech at graduation in elementary school, she became the class president in junior high. We were both the literary editors of the high school yearbook. At the end of the senior year of high school, the school “ranked” all the seniors according to their grade point average. I beat her by one point; it was a very satisfying victory.

My parents were never the pushy parents who told me to succeed at any cost. I just enjoyed school. It was this girl, ambitious and super-focused, who forced me to step up my game.

We lost touch the minute we attended college. I hadn’t heard from her for years, until, well, no surprise — Facebook. I was excited, and nervous, to reconnect with her. We had a polite exchange of messages, but nothing very intimate. I think we were both too shy to have any real conversation. For all I know, she may not have give me a second’s thought during all these years.

But I have a little secret about her. This girl has been a part of my life for decades, in a very unusual way. I wanted to tell her about it, but when I mentioned it to Sophia, she told me not to tell her. It would make me look weird.

I’ll let you decide.

So what is this mystery I keep on talking about? How has this girl (now a woman) been an integral part of my life since high school?

On my first day of college at Columbia in New York, I went with my mother to open a bank account at Citibank. There was a branch a few blocks on Broadway. After depositing some money, I received my very first ever personal ATM card. I needed a password. Using my street name or middle name was too obvious. I wanted something personal, but obscure enough for a thief to never figure it out. So, I chose the first name of this girl from school, this girl with the unusual, but beautiful name. My competitor.

Since that time, years passed, and I have moved and changed banks numerous times. Citibank, Marine Midland, HSBC, Pacific Security, Wells Fargo, Bank of America — each receiving an ATM card with the exact same password — my classmate’s first name. As you can tell, I don’t change things easily.

This girl is now a woman, but I still can picture her raising her hand a second before mine in the fourth grade, and reciting the correct equation in math. She has become an iconic image in my mind. Her name, because of her association with my ATM card, has been forever connected to matters such as ambition, success… and my bank account. Has it worked out for me? Well…

Of course, by telling this story, it is also the end of an era. Once she finds out (if I choose to tell her) , I will need to change the password to my bank ATM for the first time in decades.

First, my blog template changes, now my ATM password will have to change. Again, it might seem like very small changes, but these items have symbolism, and symbolism is the most powerful God of all.

But maybe it is time to change the password on my ATM card. It is 2010, and my hair is graying. It is time to move beyond a life revolving around a competition with a girl from elementary school. This was never an effective and mature way to deal with existence beyond the 12th grade. Time to finally graduate from school — psychologically — and find my inspiration in the present.

Time for a new ATM password.

Just Like Dad

My father is as old-fashioned as they come.   When he visits me here in Los Angeles, he wears a suit and tie – even in the summer.   He has never used an ATM at a bank, thinking it will eat up his money.   How long has that new-fangled ATM machine been with us?  It must be over twenty years by now, released to the masses before people even knew what a “PC” or “Mac” were.   I’m sure they have worked out the kinks by now.  When I was a child, I used to be embarrassed going to McDonald’s with my father, as he would just stand there and stare at the board, totally confused by all the meal choices and sizes.  It was like he was stuck in another time period.

Part of growing up is understanding your father.  Part of growing up is becoming just like your father.

I went with Sophia to see Batman Begins.  I was rushing her because I’m one those types that hates to miss the trailers.  I like to be in the theater early to get a good seat.  I also believe that part of the modern-day movie experience is figuring out those movie star scramblers before anyone else in the audience calls it out, ruining it for the rest of us. 

S-K-N-A-H  M-O-T

Tom Hanks!   

There was a long line at the ticket booth at the Pacific Theater in Manhattan Beach.  

The guy behind the glass window announced, “No waiting at the kiosks!”

“Let’s go to the kiosks.” I told Sophia, not really sure what I was getting myself into.

Now many of you might laugh at this, but I have never used one of these machines to buy my movie ticket before.  Neither had Sophia.     Now, remember, I’m as computer literate as they come.  I’ve been using a computer since the days of Wordstar and Mosaic.

Do I put in my Visa first?

I don’t know.

It’s not doing anything. 

Maybe you put it in afterwards. 

Ok, I’m pressing this.  We want to see Batman Begins. 

What theater?

How many theaters is it in?


The one starting in five minutes.

It doesn’t say when it starts.

Yes it does.  Here, theater three.  I’m pressing it. 

Oh, look.  You can buy popcorn here, too.

We’re gonna miss the trailers.

Just get some popcorn.

It says — do you want a combination?


Why do you need a combination?  Jeez, that’s expensive.

Because you ordered a large everything.

It didn’t give me a choice.

Go back.

I can’t.   Oh, no.  I have to start over again!

Finally, I ordered the tickets, a medium popcorn, and a small drink.   We went to the concession stand.  There was another long line.  I was confused again.

What do we do now?

I don’t know.  We already paid.  Give them your receipt, I guess.

What receipt?

The receipt from the kiosk for the popcorn.

Don’t you have it….?

I don’t have it.  You have it.  What’s wrong with you?

Dad, I finally understand.

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