Perhaps this isn’t rant-y enough to merit a Pit post. Add some explitives to it if you’d like, but I take no responsibility for the vile words you’d have me spew in your own imaginations.
Scene: The gas station. I pull in, happy that I have a full weekend ahead of me with a minimum of homework, and confident that I got a great grade on the Programming Languages quiz not half an hour past. Go to pay island, insert card, the general rigamarole. Enter the coot that Time forgot.
At the pump across from mine, an old car sits. (sounds like the openling line of a bad poem, but there it is.) I drive something not-too-new myself, but this clanking monstrosity must have been terrorizing the Clan of the Cave Bear at night as it befouled the air with waves of choking smog, leaving only twin tire ruts in the oil-spattered mud to mark its existence as it vanished into the forest at sunrise. Poking from the open driver’s side door is an old man with the thickest wallet I’d seen outside of Seinfeld.
“'Scuse me, young fella” he calls (that’s right, “young fella.” I’m waiting for “whippersnapper.”). “I’m having some problems with the machine here.”
“Sure, what’s wrong?” I ask. I’ve got some spare time, and still have my good turn of the day to fulfill. Helping this guy fill the land yacht isn’t going to ruin me, and the good karma oughta accumulate, maybe snowball its way into getting me a cushy job this summer.
“The machine, it isn’t taking my card,” he explains. It’s done that to me before, but I’d just finished using it not thirty seconds before and it was fine.
“The reader worked for me, is it your card?”
“No, my card’s okay. The machine, that’s the problem.” Hmm. The machine, that obviously isn’t the problem, because it worked perfectly. He’s probably putting his card in upside down or something and is oblivious to the little picture of a card’s orientation right next to the slot. “It keeps asking for a number, a pee-eye-enn.”
“The PIN number? Just give it your PIN number and hit Enter.” Hoo boy, this is different.
“I don’t have a PIN number, just what’s on the card.” What the hell are you talking about? How did you ever use a credit card without knowing the PIN?
“You have to have a PIN. You can’t use any credit card without one. That’s how they work.” Maybe he’s used to using check cards, and put in a credit card by mistake?
“No, I use this card all the time. It’s the machine.” Now you’re making stuff up. “Can I use yours, and write you a check?”
Now I’m not going to take him up on that offer in any case - but I’ve got an out. I use prepaid cards at the station, and the one I’m using has just enough left for one last half tank plus a little topping off. The concept seems to elude TCTTF as I try to explain it to him. He accuses me of lying to him.
“Nope.” I show him the card. It’ll be out of money when I finish pumping anyway.
“Yours has the pee-eye-enn on it. Why doesn’t mine?” Again, I point out that prepaid cards from the gasoline company are different from credit cards - mine has the PIN because it’s the same as cash.
“Where can I get a pin?” What? Did your card fall out of the sky and land in your hands without you knowing about it? At least I’ve gotten him out of spelling it every time.
“You have a PIN. It’s part of the process of getting a credit card. You have to set the PIN before you can use it.”
He becomes defiant. “I have never had a pin number to use a credit card.” Liar.
At this point in my life I still have enough respect for the elderly not to flat-out accuse him of it, because I don’t want to be the stereotypical “young-punk-harassing-the-old-guy-who-just-wants-to-use-the-gas-station.” I just want out of this situation. So I take back my card and proceed to fill up my car, and suggest that he ask the attendant inside about the process, because, after all, he’s a professional salesperson and is used to settling troubles with credit cards.
Off he storms. I feel bad for inflicting a conversation with TCTTF on the poor shmoe working the register in there right now.
I’m feeling somewhat guilty about fleeing the scene of this abortive gesture of goodwill. What the hell could I do? He had a problem that I couldn’t help him with, and he denied the possibility that I couldn’t help him.