Note the Metropolitan there!

So Monday night I went to the grocery store. I bought one item. I put my ATM card in the machine and keyed in my number. But then the cashier told me I pulled the card out of the slot too soon and the transaction didn’t go through, so I put it back in the slot and did the business with the PIN and waited until the little screen read “Remove card.”

The next day I was looking at my checkbook and I remembered that I had not written down the withdrawal, so I got on the Internet and looked at my account at the credit union’s website, and what did I see? Not one but two withdrawals for $23.34 at that Publix, same day, same amount. So obviously the ATM had registered both times when I put the card in the reader. No big deal, the store’s only a mile and a half from my house and I wanted a donut anyway.

So after work I went in and showed the night manager my credit union printout. She said, “OK, I’ll go look at the receipts,” and went into the back room for a few minutes. When she came out she had a printout which showed one purchase and two debit withdrawals. So I said, “Can you credit my account with that $23.34?” and she said “Yes,” and I ran my card through the machine again and she did some kind of jiggery-pokery with the cash register, and out came a receipt saying “$23.34 credit.” All right! Problem solved. Now the Publix Corporation does not owe me $23.34 anymore, harmony has been restored to the cosmos.

Until this afternoon. That’s when I checked my account on line again and I saw two refunds for $23.34. Apparently the massive Publix mainframe, the Georgetron 2100 (named after the company’s founder, George Jenkins), noted the incongruity of two debits for one purchase, and after a brief period it automatically refunded one of them. So had the human night manager at the store the previous night. So now I owe the Publix Corporation $23.34, and discord once again roils the cosmos.

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In this situation I hear literary echoes from Dickens (Our Mutual Friend) and Kafka (The Castle) and Harry Harrison (Bill The Galactic Hero) which makes it all very jolly, but there are real-world problems with this case. First, at this rate, I won’t be able to balance my checkbook for the rest of my life. Second and far more dire, it may take the implacable Georgetron 2100 a little while to figure out that its parent Corporation has been unjustly bilked of its deserved $23.34, but at that point the subroutines “sue the deadbeat” and “file charges with the Sheriff’s Department” and “revoke donut privileges” will all kick in, and then who knows what will happen to poor me?

So if you don’t see any more posts from me, it will probably be because I am in custody at the Pinellas County Justice Center on 49th Avenue in North St. Petersburg. They don’t even let you have a cell phone in there, much less a computer hooked up to the Internet.