Last week I got a call from a friend. “Get over to the ATM. It’s giving out 500 peso notes instead of 100 notes. You’ve got to choose the 3,000 amount for it to work. Go right now.” For those not familiar with Mexican currency think of 100 pesos as ten dollars and 500 as fifty. Which means the ATM machine was dispensing 15,000 pesos for 3,000. Or at the current exchange rate, my $214 would garner me $1200.
There was someone else at the ATM closet so I waited for them to finish then I went in. I went through all the steps, heard the comforting whir of money being gathered up, then the money door opened and there were 30 freshly printed 500 peso notes. I didn’t even think of running my card again. I was too shocked at having hit the jackpot so I went back to my car and called my friend. “It worked.” She said she was almost there.
A lot of gringos got a lot of money that day. Most people double-dipped. I was too caught up in a moral dilemma to do that. I grabbed a beer and headed to the beach by the estuary. I needed to calm myself. The guilt I felt was intense. This was a Mexican bank – had it been BofA or Wells Fargo I would’ve taken as much money as the machine held. Did I have any Mexican friends with ATM cards? Why shouldn’t they take advantage of this? I felt anxious. What if the bank here contacts our banks there and somehow demands the correct amount be withdrawn from our accounts? I barely had enough in my account to cover that two hundred bucks. I felt jealous, all these rich gringos having the cojones to swipe their cards twice. I felt grateful that my friend called me, knowing my dire financial straits. I felt like it was karma. For some reason I’d become the local loan dolphin (too nice to be a shark) and I’d been hit up for a lot of “loans” lately. What about the poor worker who filled the machine wrong or did whatever was done to cause it to do that?
After sorting through all those feelings I felt much better. I still would’ve loved to have hit up the machine one more time but when I drove by, the armored truck was there. I took it as a sign.
There sure were a bunch of happy gringos out that night, buying rounds of drinks, celebrating. And I must say, most of the rich gringos had generous plans for their money, like helping pay hospital bills for local kids, stuff like that.
So I’m at the Melodrama and my friend says he got a call at midnight “Go to the ATM machine,” that it was giving out 500 peso notes. The mishap was no longer confined to withdrawing 3,000 pesos. You only have 100 pesos in your account? No problema, here’s 500. He said when he got to the ATM half the town was lined up at the machine and that when the cops came by to see what was going on, they got in line too. He said teachers were there and doctors. My friend doesn’t have a debit card but I didn’t see one ounce of jealousy in him. He was so happy for everyone else. He knows that somehow the whole town will reap the benefits of that Money God.
My friend is sure it’s going to happen again and when it does, he’s going to call me. I said if he did that I’d split my winnings with him 50/50.
On Thanksgiving day it poured here, in this town where it never rains. It rained all day long. All the roofs leaked. The roads were flooded muddy messes. Life is not easy here. But it’s just been made a little bit easier thanks to newly minted 500 peso notes that were in the wrong slots or stuck together or look a lot like 100 peso notes. Whatever the reason...CHA-CHING YA'LL!