ATM to ENM is progress of a sort

We're used to ATMs now, of course. Even my youngest, at the age of two, patiently explained to me that I didn't have to work to get money; I just needed to put a card in one of those machines over there...

I recently changed my supermarket allegiance from Sainsbury to Tesco, for reasons that would be tedious to rehearse here (and, anyway, I've now changed back again). My local Tesco has a small number of self-service checkouts, or ENMs. As I like to keep in touch with my inner geek, I've used them on my last three shopping trips.

I should mention that one (probably welcome) side effect has been to extend my patience for check-out staff. I wouldn't want you to think that I was previously impatient and curmudgeonly, it's just that scanning items at a check out demands more concentration than I'd realised; not much concentration, admittedly, but just enough so that you can't quite switch your brain completely off. In my opinion, that's almost cruel.

Anyway, let me take you through the process. I scan my shopping, although not with quite enough panache for the ENM, which exhorts me to hurry up. When an item has been scanned by the ENM and the details on the display have been checked by me (I may have geeky qualities, but I don't trust technology - I'm not completely barking) the ENM scolds me for not putting the item in the bag quickly enough. It then tells me that I didn't put the item in the bag properly. Properly! I am not joking! It then declares loudly that I am not to be trusted, so starts flashing a red alarm beacon.

A member of staff then appears, gives me a sympathetic look, stands at the end of the check out and calms the ENM down, probably by feeding it little snacks and singing something by Gary Numan. The assistant then signals that it is safe to attempt to pay. The ENM, however, has other ideas. It doesn't like my banknotes. It will only accept some of my coins. I present my plastic with a little flourish; I am, after all, used to dealing with ATMs and the ENM is a very close relative. Naaah. Doesn't like my plastic. I dispatch my teenage son to nearby ATM with my rejected plastic and make a mental note to change my PIN number later. He returns with cash from the ATM. Only half of it is acceptable to the ENM. The other notes are rejected.

I am, by now, close to hysteria.

The son goes back to the ATM with instructions to withdraw much, much, much more money than is actually needed. This gives me a fighting chance with the ENM and, thankfully, my strategy pays off. It accepts the notes. I remove my bags and leave the store. It is not a warm day, but I am sweating. My heart is beating wildly. I am close to anger, close to tears - at this stage what's the difference? I am drained, and happy to get home.

So we know that ATM means Automated Telling Machine, but what does ENM stand for? Electronic Nagging Machine, that's what. I know they're not really called ENMs, but they're electronic, and they nag, nag, nag to the point that you feel ill, so as far as I'm concerned, ENMs are what they are. And yes, I do hope that it catches on.



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