Friday, January 12, 2007

Hole in the Wall

The sign over the cash machine read Hole in the Wall. Sheila laughed because although in Ireland its slang, she'd never seen it actually labelled as such.

I'd never seen someone actually rob a cash machine, whatever name it had, until tonight. It was like the programme The Real Hustle, except that it was real.

I joined a queue for the cash machine outside the cinema at West India Quay. A man had lost his card in the machine and was on the phone trying to contact his bank. A group of people gathered round the machine to work out what was wrong. The woman in front of me was worried because she didn't want to lose her card too. The group broke up and the person at the machine said it was working. The person had his card and money. The woman in front of me seemed satisfied. One of the men from the group joined the queue again. The next person in the queue got money. Then the woman did. The man from the group who had rejoined the queue was letting me go ahead but I said that he could go as he was he was next in the queue. I got a phone call. I thought to myself, don't get distracted, watch whats going on, something is wrong. The guy who lost his card was still on the phone trying to contact his bank. The woman who had been ahead of me had joined the cinema queue. The man at the cash machine seemed to be taking a while. His large frame covered the face of the machine completely. I thought OK maybe I am just imagining its odd, maybe its just that he doesn't want me seeing his pin number. He coughed and shifted. I moved to get a better view, just in time to see him forcibly, pull a piece of machinery from the face of the machine, pulling wiring which lit up momentarily until it detached and was stuck into his jacket as he strode off.

I stood there thinking for a moment while I put my phone away, that I might have imagined what I'd just seen. Then as he continued away, he looked back and I looked at him and realised, no it was real.

As quickly as I could I told the guy on the phone to tell his bank what I'd just seen and advised him to cancel his card as it may have been stolen. I found the woman in the cinema queue and did the same, but she was confused as she had her card and didn't know what they could do without her card, until I told her about the possibility of a device reading her card details and money being able to be withdrawn without the card. Then I told the police.

Its strange, how any crime or incident I have witnessed or any accident or such event I have seen takes on a fictional feel to it like a film almost the moment I realise it is what it is. Whether its that adrenalin makes the senses more heightened and I am aware only of certain aspects of the scene or time does actually slow down - whatever happens, it makes me a good person to help in a situation but a lousy witness.

Its like for a slice of time there is a hole in the wall of reality that you can step momentarily into for the duration of the scene and when you step out again it's gone, like a hole, a void...defined by whats around it because itself is not a presence but an absence - a hole in all the positive scenes - an aberration or a glitch in the good stuff. When we stop seeing the holes that are there some might say its optimism or innocence or even naivety or that its because we are actually in the hole and can't see the wood for the trees...or the bricks for the wall.

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