A Child Could Do It

But I can’t.

Not just computer repairs…..supposedly simple things like downloading Whatsapp and making it work, or anything, really when the instructions seem to bear no relation to the reality before me.

I am convinced that to conquer these new worlds you need to have the mind of a child….together with its limited vocabulary and lack of experience of the life in general.

And now I discover that you have to have the physique of a child!

To be fair, this was an ATM, not a computer, but it is all part of the system of infantilism.

Drawing money from an ATM in Costa Rica can be an experience in itself. Mastercard or Visa may declare on their location sites that you can withdraw funds from your foreign accounts on nomatter what machine….can you hell…..

Some Costa Rican banks’ ATMs will take the cards…some will not. Some have rediculously small limits on withdrawals and disproportionatly large commision fees…others claim to have the sky as the limit…but their pie never reaches the sky in your lifetime.

Normally, they just run out of money. Especially on a Friday when the paterfamilias, having had his salary paid into his account, brings the family in from the backwoods to do the shopping for the week. Enters card and all the details..no money. Then ensues a scramble round all the ATMs to find one which will

A accept his card and

B has not already been emptied by other paterfamiliae.

But no need to despair! If all else fails local stores will take his card and cough up money over and above the price of his purchases…as long as his card comes from a Costa Rican state bank, of which there are three. Otherwise, you can sling your hook. After a spectacular private bank failure in the last century businesses will have nothing to do with non state banks…and that includes your foreign abomination.

We have private and business accounts with one of the state three…having changed from another of the state three when our local branch tried to stuff us on currency exchange. We kicked up at their head office and the exasperated lady who dealt with our problem said ‘always the same with these indians… think they can get away with anything’. Not very PC, but Costa Rica in that era was anything but PC and we were out in the sticks with a branch which recruited indigenous staff. Xenophobia is strong in Costa Rica to this day and indigenous bank staff – aka ‘indians’ – are well in the vanguard when it comes to reverse discrimination.

We had found an ATM locally which would cough up which was fine as we could rely on withdrawing money when we did the weekly shop….until it was decided to move it to another area of the supermarket…at which point it was out of action for over a week.

Finally it was installed…but it was not the same style of machine. It lacked all the usual buttons to press….and under the screen there was a handwritten note which said ‘read the instructions’

The note itself was at waist height and the instructions were below, so I had to crouch down to read them. Well, as it turned out, reading was not what was required……..they were all in pictogram form, but even my young days haunting the British Museum did not allow me to work out what they meant.

Could Danilo make head or tail of them?

No, he could not.

We sent for the manager who, equally puzzled, sent for one of the checkout packers, aged about sixteen.

The young man took the card, fiddled about a bit and we had our money.

Was the machine causing problems generally, I asked the manager.

Well, yes…thus the notice, but it is mostly older people who have problems…you see a lot of them can’t bend and all of them expect instructions to be in writing.

So why would the bank design an ATM like this one?

A shrug…..probably dreamed up by one of their young IT people…they’re all illiterate. Still, if you have problems again, don’t hesitate, call one of the packers. Most of them don’t seem to be able to read…but they can work the machine all right.

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