CORPUS CHRISTI (TEXAS) • A police officer driving near the waterfront in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Wednesday afternoon was waved down and given an unusual tip: An automated teller machine (ATM) was dispensing handwritten notes scribbled with an existential appeal - "please help".
It had to be a joke, the responding officers believed. A Bank of America ATM spitting emergency notes with cash and receipts sounded like an absurdly constructed plot of a prank television show. Then the machine starting talking.
"Sure enough, we could hear a little voice coming from the machine," Corpus Christi police officer Richard Olden told the local Fox news network.
An officer kicked down the door to reveal the author of the notes. A man, hidden behind the machine, was locked in the service room that housed the ATM. He began scribbling notes to the outside world asking for help. Unfortunately for the man, several ATM users who got a note thought they were being pranked and apparently did nothing.
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The man was there to repair a door lock, which got the better of him, Corpus Christi police spokesman Chris Hooper told The Washington Post. The contractor, whose name and company were not released, had left behind his phone and a device needed to open the door from the inside.
"You can't just turn the knob and exit," Lieutenant Hooper said.
The ATM was affixed to a bank, which was under construction, so no employees were inside. The ATM, though, was operational.
The repairman wrote "several" pleas for help to people using the drive-through ATM, but it is unknown how many notes were passed on.
One note collected by a local news station read, "Please help. I'm stuck in here and I don't have my phone. Please call my boss", with the number written below.
The man later told the police he had been screaming for help. Something about the room, though, must have muffled the sound, police said.
Police freed the man, but since there was no crime committed, details and records are slim, Lt Hooper said.
Officers on the scene said they believed the man was trapped for two hours.
The officers verified the man's employment with his superior, Lt Hooper said.
Thanks to the note, they knew the number.
WASHINGTON POST, NYTIMES