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  • Writer's pictureMason Edwards!

An Act of Kindness: The ATM Samaritan

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo

Cassandra Robinson, the Mocs Dining employee known as Miss Cassandra by most UTC students, stands in front of the UTC Regions bank ATM that ate her debit card and demonstrates how the event played out. Thursday, October 20, 2022. Alexis McMurtry, Staff Photographer

After a long shift at Crossroads, a Mocs Dining employee slid her debit card into the ATM outside the University Center.

She never got it back. 

On Oct. 11, Cassandra Robinson tried to withdraw $75 around 5:30 p.m. When she pushed her debit card into the ATM, the card slipped through the reader and onto a metal box inside the machine.

“As I proceeded to put my card into the teller…all I saw was the light,” Robinson said. “It was green; it was flashing. I assumed it was working and put my card in it, and the card just dropped.”

She peered through the card reader slit and into the internals of the ATM. There, she glimpsed her card, which rested on top of the cash dispenser’s frame. Her embossed name and account numbers were face up. She tried fitting her fingers through the gap, but it was too small. 

Robinson grew stressed, letting people around her know her frustrations with the broken machine. Eventually, a small crowd gathered around her, including UTC freshman Punyalada “Pare” Chalamaneeporn. The commotion drew Pare away from her outside dinner with her boyfriend.

“I saw a bunch of people, and on occasion, I love a good ruckus,” Pare said. “If I see someone in distress, it’s my first response to help.”

Various students tried to reach through the card reader’s opening. Pare’s boyfriend, UTC freshman Andy Barron, returned from the restroom to find Pare reaching into the ATM.

“By the time I came out, she had her hands in the ATM.” Barron said, smiling to himself about the memory.

Reaching through the gap proved unsuccessful, so Pare suggested using chopsticks to pick up the card. Robinson left for the food court, and she returned with a pair of wooden chopsticks and renewed hope.

Pare primed the chopsticks, scraping them against one another, before inserting them into the machine’s opening. She controlled them with skill and angled them into the machine.

“I’m from Thailand; I use chopsticks daily,” Pare said. “You have to rub out the splinters, so doing that was a force of habit. 

She pried, pulled and pinched at the card while the crowd held their breath. In the tense silence, onlookers listened as the wood slid against the plastic and metal. They also heard the debit card slide off the internal frame, falling into the bottom of the ATM and beyond anyone’s sight.

Disappointed, most left the scene, reasoning that they could no longer help. Robinson started accepting the fact she’ll have to order a new card, but that left her without money–and she was trying to help someone herself.

“My neighbor asked me if I would help her out,” Robinson said. “When anybody calls me, if I have it, I try to give.”

After asking Robinson how much she needed, Pare and Barron hustled to her room in the Walker Apartments, striding up and down Cardiac Hill in minutes. As a part-time waitress on the weekends, Pare knew she had cash she could loan.

“If she needs that money, I’m going to get it to her as quickly as possible,” said Pare. “...if I’m not using it and she needs it, it’s obligated…”

Robinson could not believe Pare’s kindness, especially at her lack of hesitation to help. Overjoyed, the Mocs Dining employee shared her contact information and promised to return the money as soon as her bank issued her a new card.

“I’m always the giver and not a receiver,” Robinson said, referencing her role on campus. “I was overwhelmed that a student would help me out… She made my day, I was able to do what I needed to do to help my neighbor out, and it was a happy ending.”

According to Barron, this is not the first time Pare helped a stranger in need.

“She does stuff like this all the time,” Barron said. “Her kindness is something I’ve always looked up to. Being with her has taught me a lot.”

Robinson paid back Pare in full, and then some, after her bank arranged for her to receive a new card. According to Robinson, the bank warned her to be cautious of credit card skimmers and other scams.

The Echo reached out to Robinson’s bank and– after about 40 minutes on hold– filed a report regarding the broken ATM. 

After the incident, technicians serviced the machine.

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