Writing prompt: If an ATM could be custom created for you, what would it spew out instead of money?
I’ve just sat in a bit of a stupor for a solid ten minutes, doing absolutely nothing but stare at the wall in front of me, struggling to come up with a salient answer to this question. There has to be one. It should be simple. Everyone should have a knee-jerk response to this, yes?
Part of me thinks this prompt was originally generated before the Internet was invented, or at least became widely used, or at the very least, turned into this crazy-ass 2.0 hyper-social version of its former self. We have access to anything, everything, everywhere, all the time. Our phones put the world at our fingertips for $80 a month. We hop in the car before we have any idea how to get where we’re going, and boop! A swipe and two clicks and we’ve got point-by-point directions, a GPS guardian angel correcting us when we overshoot a turn, and Big Brother telling us what restaurants and gas stations and petting zoos are on our route in case we get hungry, run low on fuel or just really, really need to hug a sloth on the way to wherever we’re going.
I suppose a favorite food would make for a perfect pat response, but Sprinkles Cupcakes just launched a 24-hour fresh cupcake machine in L.A., for example, and it just seems sort of excessive. Cute, sure, but excessive all the same. I’ve been talking a lot lately about how all my issues are first-world problems. Missing old friends. Anxiety over freelancing. Out-of-whack circadian rhythms. The fact that I secretly (not anymore, I guess) wonder if the constant proximity of my laptop is causing some secret illness that will lie dormant for a dozen years and then up and strike me dead in the street (and if it does, please rock the f*ck OUT at my service and have yourselves a good time. Dance. Sing — or rap — bad karaoke. Drink mexican martinis. Do it right.) The fifteen godforsaken pounds I’ve gained over the past two years and the not-so-mysteriously related fact that I magically can’t find time (coughbullshitcough) to work out even though I’m completely in charge of my own schedule. Waaaaaa. First-world problems, when you and I both know there are real ones out there that need solving, and badly. For me to wish for something like, say, a bacon ATM would give you free license to punch me in the face.
Time would be great. More time. That’s one thing we truly have zero control over, and in the balance, I suppose, is our ability to use what time we have as wisely as we can. As far as I’m concerned, life is horribly short, even at its most glorious lengths. People in my family have said their farewells as late in the game as age 90 and so painfully early that I don’t dare repeat the details, yet in every single case, we feel like we’ve been robbed. We let things get in the way — work, errands, laziness, randomness — and before we know it, it’s too late. I, for one, could do a much better job of staying in touch with the people I care about and doing the things I swear are important to me. I’ve been talking a good game for a good long while about wanting to volunteer my time to a cause that’s close to me, and I’ve dipped a toe in here and there, but I haven’t committed yet. Maybe by writing it here in black and white, I’ll hold myself accountable. But yes… an ATM that spewed out an extra hour or so every time I typed in my PIN would be magnificent. And maybe, if I didn’t use it wisely, it could somehow debit me two as punishment.
Ooh, now there’s a concept. Use it or lose it, double or nothing. Maybe we should all live that way to begin with. Maybe I should start right now.