There was a strange viral headline on CBS News: “Man Trapped in ATM slips handwritten ‘please help’ notes through receipt slot.” My initial impression is that the story is ludicrous. How can a person get stuck in an ATM machine? This sounds like an incident out of a novel that critics will chastise the author for being ‘too unrealistic.’
Still, I read the engaging article. The incident took place in Texas, where an ATM machine began dispensing handwritten notes with the customer’s cash: “Please help. I’m stuck in here and I don’t have my phone. Please call my boss at…” disclosing a phone number.
Most people who received this assumed it was a prank and left the scene without a spare thought. It took two hours for someone to take this plea seriously. The police were contacted, and they too believed it a joke until they investigated the mysterious ATM and heard a faint voice calling for help.
The man inside explained he had accidentally locked himself into the small room connected to the machine while he switched the locks and could not reach any employees inside the bank without his phone.
“…You will never see this in your life, that someone was stuck in the ATM,” says Police Officer Richard Olden to CBS, “it was just crazy.”
Let’s say you are the one to approach this seemingly normal ATM and withdraw money with this suspicious note for help. I’d guess that most people will do what those initial customers: decide it’s a trick and walk away. Maybe you’ll check for cameras since this must be the doing of some lame guy making a viral prank reel on the internet.
What if we twist the scenario? What if you were seven or eight years old. Daddy showed you how the ATM machine works and you want to try to deposit or withdraw for him, all by yourself.
This summer, I am working at a camp, and I imagine my campers’ reactions. Some might be skeptical and act as their parents would, as in walking away. Maybe they’ll run to Daddy to fix the problem; maybe they’ll examine the machine, looking for the man inside. Some might even shout a tentative ‘hello’ and press they’re ear to the screen in case the man calls back.
Children see the world differently than adults. The younger they are, the more mystery surrounds the universe and there’s so much newness in their lives. As they grow, the limitations of reality begin to mold their thinking.
So what happens to the aspiring astronauts, ballerinas, and pop singers found in kindergarten classrooms? Reality strikes. Astronauts have intense qualifications to sign up and then must compete with 18,000 other applicants. The ballet industry adds body requirements in addition to years of experience and training. Simply put, if your body does not fit the criteria, you will not succeed. For singers, you need more luck than talent, and realism doesn’t believe in wishes on dandelion puffs.
It’s sad. My campers play mermaids in the pool, the ground is lava, and walk on tiptoe to avoid stepping on cracks in the floor. They live in their own world. Being an imaginative child, I remember finding a game in everything, pretending the world is more magical than it seems. However, one day, these children will put down the stuffed animals and sit behind a desk on a nine to five job and accept their roles as members of society. Soon, stepping into a pool will not equate into mermaids. They will forget the ground is lava. The cracks on the floor will become invisible beneath the laptop in one hand and coffee cup in the other.
They will become those first people to find the Texan ATM spitting handwritten notes and walk away thinking it’s a joke.
Child’s brains are biologically less developed than adults, leaving room for more imagination to fill in the gaps. Once we finish maturing, those gaps are filled with the knowledge of the world we live in and how it works. Life becomes monotonous as we struggle to get through the day so we can slip into bed and hide from all of our problems. We ignore a man stuck inside an ATM because that does not fit in our realm of reality.
The saddest part is when life throws a curveball. It’s unexpected; it doesn’t fit in our definition of what our lives should look like. That’s when we shut down. We become frustrated and depressed, delving into the ways we should have acted to create a better outcome. It’s like standing outside the ATM and it shot out a frightening note. We don’t want to be caught as the fool by believing the plea for help, yet we have become the fools for trying to conform to a reality we do not know in its entirety.
When we think we have been through it all, life has its way of proving we haven’t. In that way, it nourishes our inner child to whom everything is new and exciting. We kill our inner child by acting like we know it all; nothing in this world can happen that won’t surprise us. Just as you think you know everything, the ATM will ask you for help.
- 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 3 tsp lemon juice
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup oat flour
- 1/4 cup coconut flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix the oil, maple syrup, lemon zest and juice, vanilla, and egg until well-combined.
- Slowly incorporate the flours and baking soda.
- Roll the dough into balls on a lined baking sheets, pressing down on each ball with the back of a spoon.
- Bake for 10 minutes until the bottom of the cookies are browned.
Makes about 18 cookies.