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Column - A lesson at the ATM

So, I'm running a little late and I have a few errands to run downtown. My first stop is to deposit a check at the Wells Fargo ATM. I pull in off the busy stream of traffic on 3rd Avenue and am surprised to see a van parked in the one-way ATM dri...

So, I'm running a little late and I have a few errands to run downtown.

My first stop is to deposit a check at the Wells Fargo ATM. I pull in off the busy stream of traffic on 3rd Avenue and am surprised to see a van parked in the one-way ATM drive-through in the wrong direction - facing me.

"What kind of whacko," I think, "would park like that?" I spot the driver, a young guy with cargo shorts, outside of the van, punching some buttons on the ATM.

I wait. He doesn't seem to be in much of a hurry. I wait another minute. He's still there, outside of the van standing next to the ATM, bending down as if he dropped something.

It's hot. My A/C is on the fritz. I'm running later and later. The seconds drag by.

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My patience is wearing thin. "What is he doing? Why is he taking so long? Doesn't he know how to operate a simple ATM? You punch a few buttons, you get your dough and go. And why on earth is he parked so stupid?"

Fed up with waiting, I swing back out onto 3rd Avenue and loop around to Holiday gas to cash in a Lottery ticket I'd been carrying around for awhile. (I know, those tickets are a waste of money, but hey, at least I won 15 bucks this time.)

After accomplishing that three-minute task, I drive back to the ATM. Surely, the guy must be gone by now, I think.

Wrong. He's still there, stupidly parked van and all. I drive around to the back of the bank and park in a shady spot. I now have a better vantage point to try to figure out what in the heck Mr. Cargo Shorts is doing.

By now, my eyes are shooting little daggers at the guy. "Who does he think he is?" I think, shaking my head. "What a loser. He must think the machine cheated him out of money or something. Give it up guy; the machine is always right. C'mon, c'mon, c'mon!"

I seriously think about getting out of my car and confronting the guy. A thought flitters through my head that maybe he needs some help, but I mainly just want to look him in the eye and ask him what in the world he's doing. Doesn't he know that other people have places to go and things to do?

Instead of getting out, I pull a little closer.

That's when I finally get a better look at the van - and the lettering on its side. It's for a repair service.

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The guy who I'd been silently cussing for the last 10 minutes was just doing his job, trying to fix a broken ATM.

I felt stupid and sheepish. I wanted to walk up to the guy and apologize for thinking such ill thoughts about him.

I should have known what he was really doing, of course. But my perspective was jaded. I was running late, it was stifling hot, I was a little frazzled by the traffic. It was almost as if I was looking for something to go wrong. And the guy in the cargo shorts with the wrong-way van was the target.

There was something to be learned about that everyday, slice-of-life experience.

In the future, I'm going to try harder to stop my blood pressure from rising over a situation I don't fully understand.

There were larger lessons as well. About how stupid it is to jump to conclusions. About how easy it is to think negatively instead of positively. And about how pointless it is to start blaming others for a problem when they actually might be the solution.

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