It is the modern invention that defies the laws of supply and demand. No matter how many are produced, you find yourself queuing for one.
It is the ATM. There is one within walking distance of most of the urban population. But when you get there, someone has beaten you to it.
How is it that you can have a clear view of two available ATMs outside a supermarket but by the time you have walked a few yards there is a queue?
Try it. I guarantee you will be blindsided by someone appearing out of the ether.
That’s only the start of the frustration. You’ll take your place in the queue on a howling rainy night.
The person before you begins a familiar routine. Fumble in their coat or bag for their card. Inspect it, insert it and check their balance. They press for new transaction and withdraw a tenner. More bleeping as the card goes back in for a mini statement which they read in front of the ATM.
More fumbling as the card is returned to the wallet or bag.
At last they turn to leave, still studying the mini statement. But then pause, cast their eyes back before slow marching away.
Mind you, things have got better since the early years of the ATM. The first one I was aware of was just off Union Street in Aberdeen. One Saturday morning in 1981 I counted more than 100 people queuing.
This was the time when people started to get their wages paid into the bank and before the time when you could take cash out of any machine.
You had to stick to your own bank until BoS and RBS allowed shared access in the late 1980s.
My worst ATM experience was at the Lloyds machine outside St John’s Centre, Perth.
One Saturday morning I was joined in the queue by my primary five teacher, Donald McLaren.
He had been a stern but interesting teacher. A Perthshire Gaelic speaker. I looked forward to a chat about how the local version of the language had developed, unadulterated by the Norse influences of Western Isles Gaelic.
Before I could say, “Good morning Mr McLaren,” he smiled and said, “I think you have dropped something.”
No I replied. I have never dropped litter in my life. He insisted I had and pointed to the ground.
There it was. A sickening, phlegm-laden tissue, anchored to the ground by the burden of its revolting bronchial load. Some sloven had discarded it without thought.
“It’s yours. Now pick it up,” Mr McLaren demanded with the same authority he commanded all those years before.
To my eternal shame, I was cowed like a schoolboy and stooped to pick it up and stuff it in my jacket. As I did, I remembered the boy in Mr McLaren’s class who regularly stuffed his pockets with soggy carrots at school dinners to avoid eating them.
So from now on, it is cashback for me.