Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Adventures At The ATM

If you say “Madison” and “panhandler” in the same sentence, you’ll likely think of State Street, and the gaggle of hard-core panhandlers who ply the popular venue, searching for spare change or a buck or two. The city has passed ordinances to regulate the panhandlers, and cops will have words with them when they press too hard, and for the most part they’re harmless drunks.

Most people by now probably realize that when you give money to one of these panhandlers, it goes to buy beer, wine, or booze. The city is still struggling with rules about whether or not “convenience” stores should be allowed to sell small quantities of intoxicants (like one can or bottle of beer) downtown.

But over the weekend, a friend was hit up by a man who suddenly appeared at an ATM on Park Street, begging for cash.

The story goes like this: about half past nine Sunday morning, my friend was headed out for a day of fun and relaxation, and stopped to get some cash from the ATM right in front of the Park Bank on Park Street. As she rolled down the window to put her card into the machine, a man “appeared out of nowhere” and asked her if she could give him a few bucks.

He claimed to be down on his luck, but said he was a working man, and said his wife and children had already found a ride up to Sun Prairie so they could “hopefully get a free meal” at the big annual corn fest. He said he had a job at one of those quick-oil-change outfits a few blocks away, and insisted she could come by there at 3 this afternoon, when his shift started, to see that he was telling the truth.

A good con usually contains some very specific references, right?

Then, he pulled a pad of paper and pencil out of his pocket, and said he would “write down his information for her” if she didn’t believe him. She said the closer he came to the car, the stronger the smell of alcohol got. She asked him to step back so she could enter her PIN into the ATM, and he quickly complied.

She got 50 bucks out of the machine and reached out to hand him a 10-dollar-bill, and said he eyed the two 20’s in her other hand, so she quickly pushed the button to run the window up, and left. I asked her if she considered calling the South Madison Police Precinct Station to report the guy, since it’s essentially within eyesight of that particular ATM. She said the guy never threatened her, and figured the ten bucks was “cheap insurance”.

Hope he found a way to get up to Sun Prairie to join his wife and children for lunch. Right.

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