A Literate Lemur Endeavour
This is what my automatic teller has been telling me automatically, and I'm not sure what it means.

CalFed, my bank since I moved to the Bay Area back in 1996, was recently consumed by Citibank. In our time together CalFed bestowed on me the blessings of Totally Free Checking, a complimentary cooler, and the infinite benevolence of
Elvis Schmiedekamp. But that's all gone now, consigned to the dustbin of regional bank marketing history. Well, except the free cooler. I still have that.

Even the ATM formats have changed, and the machines are now taking a decidedly more familiar - even intimate - tone whenever I hit them up for cash. Most notably, the exit screen pictured above, which is the last thing I see before I turn away, my monetary needs served.

It would be nice to know exactly what my ATM is trying to communicate, since we'll be seeing each other on a semi-daily basis, at least until things go sour and I find a new bank. To that end, I've come up with a number of possible meanings for its declaration of pleasure:

1) The ATM does in fact experience pleasure every time it serves me. In which case, it probably spends its spare time
dreaming of electric sheep.

2) The people who program the ATM wish me to believe that it experiences pleasure every time it serves me.

3) These same people experience pleasure every time the ATM serves me, and are using the ATM to let me know.

3b) A refinement of #3, courtesy of
Jef Samp: "Rather than acting as a cypher for the emotions of an absent servant, the machine amalgamates the collective emotions of the corporation. Surely some tiny piece of pleasure accrues to the bank's trustees each time a customer reaffirms his or her relationship to the bank. The machine merely registers and reports this small but finite joy."

4) In order to enhance my banking experience, the ATM has been programmed to mimic the friendly expressions of an idealized human teller - you know, the kind you see in commercials who says things like, "How may I help serve your needs today?" and "It's always a pleasure to serve you," with a straight face.

Of course, this simply shifts these portentous questions of truth and meaning from the ATM to that idealized teller. Is he (if it's a he) speaking for himself, or for some unseen corporate body that's merely trained him to utter a solicitous script? Does she (if it's a she) even experience the joy of service that the ATM is mimicking, or is it all an act? Which leads us to option #5...

5) No one actually experiences any pleasure when I'm served by the ATM - not the machine, not the programmers, not Citibank as a whole - which means it's either been lying to me about its own feelings, or lying on behalf of a non-pleasured Someone Else. And that would really hurt.

6) There is a ghost in the machine that's been mucking about with its circuits (in the technical parlance) and making it say things it doesn't mean. Or if not a ghost, some variety of elf, gnome, or imp. The goals of this entity are unclear. It may be seeking to sufficiently perturb Citibank's customers that they go and put up long-winded web pages about their freaky ATM. If so, it's succeeded.

Of these, I think I can rule out #1 and #6, which is sad, because the world would be a more intriguing place if either of them were true. Of the rest, #4 and #5 seem most likely. But I'm really hoping it's not #5, because that would just be too tawdry. So prove me wrong, Citibank. Prove me wrong.


If you've got a theory on what it all means,
let me know

~ A.S.
Pleasuring My ATM