Please wait while the machine checks which decade you’re in…

Meet Ben Nelson. He’s 69 years old, and is one of two Senators representing Nebraska.  He looks a little bit confused here, doesn’t he?

It’s not entirely surprising. The modern world, it seems, is a place in which Senator Nelson chooses not to live. There is currently, in the US, an ongoing debate about legislating a cap on ATM fees – the charges you pay when you use an ATM from a bank other than your own, or a private white-label ATM that’s unaffiliated with any financial institution. Senator Nelson was asked for a quote on the subject by a journalist from his local newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald, and his response, to anybody who lives a life that’s, well, anything resembling normal, will seem a little surprising. Senator Nelson, at 69 years of age, has never used an ATM. Ever. He says he understands the holograms, though… except by ‘holograms’ he means ‘barcodes’. Never mind.

His senate colleague Mike Johanns is almost as confused. At 59, he’s a decade younger; he admits to having used ATM machines fewer than five times in his life – an oddly specific answer, you might think, but I suppose if you engage in a particular activity that infrequently you’ll remember each time as if it was your first. Or something.

Quite how you get to age 59 having only used an ATM five times, though, is entirely another question. Getting to age 69 without ever using one beggars belief. Getting through life without ever using a bank machine constitutes the kind of exercise in avoiding dealing with the world that should win several awards and be made into a documentary. It’s the sort of achievement that those of us with normal, humdrum lives view with awe and wonder. I mean, really, being able to spend your entire life on a plane of existence that far removed from normality deserves at least a round of applause, if not a standing ovation.

Except, of course, they’re elected representatives, and their job is to represent the interests of their constituents in the Senate. Doing that job necessitates having at least a basic understanding of the processes of everyday life. If Senator Nelson is so out of touch that he’s managed to live almost seven decades without familiarising himself with something as ordinary as a bank machine, then he’s in the wrong line of work.


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