Drew Dernavich has drawn a man standing at an ATM and speaking to the guy behind him. Standing inside the machine is another man whom we see only from the shins down.
I have a lot of affection for this cartoon, as it brings me back to 1965, when my older sister, Barb, and her best friend, Betsy, converted a huge cardboard box (in which my parents’ new refrigerator had been delivered) into a soda machine. They put the box in our driveway and cut a vertical slit in the front through which kids could drop a penny. Taped to the inside of the box was a Dixie cup that would catch the coin. When Betsy, who was sitting on a stool inside the box, heard a coin drop into the cup, she would put an empty Dixie cup on a platform just behind a small square hole that had been cut into the box. She’d then pour Kool-Aid (which had been mixed in a used Clorox bleach jug) down a foil-lined chute to the waiting cup, which the customer could reach in and take. The neighborhood kids loved it, and the younger ones couldn’t figure out how it worked.
But enough with the nostalgia.
I initially thought the man inside the ATM had (like Barb and Betsy) developed an elaborate scheme for taking people’s money but, unlike my sister and her friend, was providing nothing in return. That led to three variations on the same joke:
- “It can take deposits, but it can’t at this time dispense cash.”
- “It can only take deposits.”
- “Deposits only.”
Seeing a man inside an ATM also made me think about workers who fear losing their jobs to automation. I don’t want to make light of that very real problem, but it was the inspiration for these five captions:
- “I thought this would be one of those jobs lost to automation.”
- “I’m glad the machines haven’t taken everyone’s job.”
- “It’s more efficient buts still retains that human touch.”
- “They’re phasing out the workers slowly.”
- “He refuses to be replaced by a machine.”
Now let’s see how you did:
Many of you went in the same direction I initially headed, by presuming that this ATM would only accept deposits:
- “It only takes deposits.”
- “It says deposits only.”
- “Deposits only.”
That last caption is identical to one of my own, so I’m tempted to declare it this week’s winner, but here’s a superior entry which recognizes that the thief inside the machine would have no use for certain deposits, like checks: “This one’s cash deposit only.” And here’s a similar caption that I wish were a little tighter: “It allows you to make a cash deposit even if you don’t have your card with you.” I like the way this entry highlights just how oblivious the speaker is, but the caption’s way too long. A shorter and therefore better version might be, “You can make a cash deposit even without your card.” Speaking of captions that highlight the speaker’s obliviousness, here’s a beauty: “Do you mind backing up a little? I’m kind of a stickler for security.”
The following captions explore a little more explicitly the idea that the man inside the machine is a thief:
- “It keeps telling me to make another deposit.”
- “It took my card, and now it’s asking for my social security number.”
- “It’s asking if I can slowly repeat my PIN out loud.”
- “It’s the same Russian company that makes the voting machines.”
The following entry not only presumes that the man inside the ATM is a thief, but also alludes to the fact that he can move: “It takes my money and runs.”
Some of you focused exclusively on the idea that the ATM is mobile:
- “Just getting some walking around money.”
- “I need a little walking-around money.”
- “I’m sure this ATM was on Second Avenue this morning.”
Like I did, many of you addressed the idea that machines are replacing workers:
- “Instead of laying them off, we’re retraining our tellers.”
- “They’re replacing all their tellers with machines, but slowly.”
- “It’s a concession to the Bank Teller Union.”
The next two captions put a nice spin on common banking terms:
- “It’s as personal as banking gets.”
- “This is actually a semi-automated teller machine.”
The following entry turns the cartoon into a metaphor that will resonate with anyone who’s been through a bitter and expensive domestic relations proceeding: “Oh, hi Phil. Meet my wife’s divorce attorney.”
“It giggles every time I push a button,” is good, but “giggles” is the punchline so I think it should read, “Every time I push a button it giggles.”
“Huh. My receipt says Help Me,” is a fine caption, especially because (unlike almost every other entry submitted this week) it presumes that the man inside the machine is not there voluntarily. But I think it would be better without the word, “Huh,” which is not only unnecessary; it doesn’t match the speaker’s expression.
The last caption I want to highlight is a pun: “Whenever he drinks, I lose my balance.” That’s good, but it’s not as good as, “Do you mind backing up a little? I’m kind of a stickler for security.” That caption actually made me laugh, so it’s my choice for this week’s winner.