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Pusher

ATM Code a Secret Worth Keeping

A weekly column about humans as they interact with things that beep, buzz, ring and download.

July 06, 1999|MARTIN MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dear Button Pusher: I recently had a real awkward moment with my girlfriend of about six months. Everything in our relationship seemed to be going pretty well until we went into a grocery store to buy some food for a cookout. When I swiped my ATM card to pay for the groceries, I covered my code with my hand so no one could see it. My girlfriend noticed what I was doing and I could tell she was annoyed, but she didn't say anything right away. When we got to the car, we got in a big fight. Basically, she wanted to know my ATM code, and I didn't want to tell her. When, if ever, should people share their ATM codes?

--SECRET CODE

Dear Secret: ATM codes are overrated. We tend to treat them with the importance of nuclear launch codes. Or, to illustrate the point another way, some people would be more comfortable sleeping with someone than giving up their ATM code. That's kind of weird. If you're paranoid about theft, remember even if someone has your code, they have to have your card to access your account. And even if they raid your account, it's pretty easy to track a withdrawal.

Of course, the larger issue here is trust, and everyone has their own comfort level. It sounds like your girlfriend was giving you a trust test. But if you're uncomfortable giving out your ATM code, then don't. The codes, while not of earthshaking importance, are nonetheless private.

And finally, as a general rule, you should never ask someone for their ATM code anyway. They should be given out voluntarily when the holder feels comfortable.

*

Dear Button Pusher: I recently taught my daughter to play chess, and she immediately took to the game. In fact, she wanted to play a lot more than I had time for. So much that I bought her a computer chess program. Now, she is constantly playing--sometimes up to four or five hours a day. It's certainly improved her game, but now it seems she almost prefers to play the computer to people. A friend of hers asked her to play chess recently and she turned him down, saying she preferred the computer. Should I be worried?

--COMPUTERS TAKING OVER?

Dear Computers: For the first time in human history, a computer reigns as world chess champion. And now this? Children playing computer chess? Holy HAL 9000! Let's not overreact here. For starters, a kid playing chess for four or five hours a day as opposed to watching reruns of "The Dukes of Hazzard" isn't such a bad thing. It appears your daughter has simply discovered the joys of an intellectually challenging game--and one that was introduced to her by her dear ol' Dad. I'd say that's another positive.

Kids, like anyone else, can become entranced with a new toy. If you let her interest run its course, I'd be willing to bet her time on the computer will diminish.

Finally, you might consider entering your daughter in chess tournaments. That will put her face-to-face with a human opponent. In the meantime, you also might consider playing as much chess with her as you can tolerate.

For comments and questions upon the human-machine relationship, please e-mail to martin.miller@latimes.com or write to Button Pusher, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, or fax to (213) 237-4888. Please include your name and city residence with all correspondences.

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