We have a new spectator sport in Melaque.
Well, not so new. It all started last winter when Banamex installed two new ATMs -- the only ones in town.
For some reason, the winter tourist crowd from Up North had a terrible time last year getting pesos out of the machines. The culprit appeared to be those new-fangled cards with embedded chips.
Most Americans had the old-fashion easy-to-use cards where the banks eat fraudulent charges and then feed them back to the consumer. But most Canadian cards had been Europeanized with a chip that is supposed to provide additional security.
Apparently, security so effective that the cash cannot be retrieved -- even by the cardholder.
But there were -- and still are -- other issues.
On Monday, I withdrew money from my American checking account using my debit card. As I stood in line (a long, slow-moving line, mind you), I noticed the machines were not treating northerners very well.
And it was easy to see why. Many of them simply were not following the directions. And their cards were rightfully rejected.
Now, I could have stepped up to help, but two things held me back.
First, we know that you are not to take assistance from anyone other than a bank employee when using an ATM. And, if I am anything, I am a lickspittle when it comes to regulations. (Just go with me on this one.)
The second reason? Well, I will let you guess. The day had not been amusing up to that point.
When it was my turn, I stepped up to the machine, whipped out my debit card, and punched through the steps with hare-like alacrity. I pinned the bank machine. And left with peso-festooned fists.
On Wednesday, I needed more pesos to settle some debts that arose in my absence -- and to prepay some bills for my upcoming trip north. So, I returned to an ATM line just as long. And just as mistake-ridden.
Out came my card. In went the data. And -- my card was rejected. Throwing caution to the wind, I tried three more times. Same result. No cash.
When I got back to the house, I had both a telephone call and an email waiting. From my bank. Not the debit card bank. But my credit card bank. An entirely different establishment.
They were notifying me that my card was suspended for suspicious activity. If I had any questions, I was to call. I did. And I did.
What bothered me is that I never use my credit card in Mexico. No local businesses accept credit cards. And the last time I used it was in Los Angeles -- on Sunday.
A young woman with a honey-suckle Tennessee accent took my call. Asked me a few security questions. And offered her assistance.
My credit card had been used in -- she spelled my village name -- for an amount of $471.29. I told her that was impossible. I had not used the card since Sunday. But the amount sounded as if it was an ATM withdrawal of 6,000 pesos.
It hit me just as she said it. I had grabbed my credit card, which was still in my wallet from my trip north, instead of my debit card. The credit card usually rests in a safe place at the house. I didn't even notice that it was black instead of silver.
All appears to be well. I went to the ATM on Thursday afternoon. With humble pie dripping from the corners of my mouth. This particular dessert was thick with crow. And my debit card worked.
The question is now whether my credit card will work when I get back to The States. If it doesn't, I should have sufficient time to have a new one mailed to me.
Once again, I discover that hubris is simply a cul-de-sac on karma drive.