Cold Hard Cash

Aug 15, 2014
Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit



OK. So Michigan winter, late December, cold, cold, cold. They just closed my dorm room for winter break, locking everybody out until January. I'm the very last one to leave. I try to start up my car, cross my fingers. There's the whir whir whir before the engine kicks to life. I look at the dash; I'm waiting for a miracle. The Chevette's fuel gauge bobbles right below the E mark. I search the cushions, the backseat, the trunk, under the floor mat, every cranny of the car, hoping to get gas money to drive to my parents' house across the state. I dig through the pockets of three pairs of jeans - grand total, $1. One stupid dollar. The car sputters. I figure maybe there's five more minutes left in the gas tank before the engine goes dead. I drive the entirely empty Ann Arbor streets to the Comerica Bank ATM on University Avenue.


: I know there's nothing in my account. I know this because I've checked already, but now I check again. The screen declares that in my account sits a grand total of $2. If I could take the $2 out, I would. But that's not even enough to withdraw. I go through every single option. I've gone through every single option. I put my dollar in a bank envelope. I say that I need to make a deposit. I push the envelope into the machine. It asks me how much I'm depositing, and I type in 1.


: I think about it long and hard. Then, I type in 0...


: And another 0. Enter.


: The automatic receipt comes out - balance, $102. I hit withdrawal...


: One hundred dollars, enter.


: No way is this going to work out - no way. Then, there's the click click click of the machine spitting out five, crisp new $20 bills. I shove them in my pocket, and I know - I know they're going to get me. I know there's no free money. I know that I'm something akin to a bank robber. But right then, I also know that I have gas money. Today, on SNAP JUDGMENT from PRX and NPR, Desperate Measures - amazing stories from real people pushed to the edge. My name is Glynn Washington, and forget about that little trick. They shut that down about 15 years back. But get ready because you're listening to SNAP JUDGMENT. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.