In mid-July 2017, you may have read about a Texas man who got stuck inside an ATM. We at Urbo covered the story, describing the man as trapped in a “cage of irony”—a locksmith locked inside an ATM vault.

Initially, the caged contractor did not want his name to be used in the stories about his ordeal, but after the news went national, the man felt compelled to explain what happened.

James Portillo prefers to be known as a youth football coach, but he will forever be known as “The ATM Man.”

Clarifying the Circumstances

For starters, Portillo wanted to point out that he “was in the room not an ATM machine. Nobody can actually fit in an ATM machine,” the Fortress Technologies technician told News 4 San Antonio.

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SGB Photo

When it came to getting locked in the room, Portillo told a story of a perfect storm. “I was working on the door, and, as I unlocked the door, as I put in the lock on the door, I walked in,” Portillo told KRIS 6 News.

“As I walked in, my drill fell out of my hand. When my drill fell out of my hand, the door closed, because I bent over to pick up my drill. When the door closed, the door jammed shut. I could not pry the door open from inside. The door was hung up on the metal, and there was no way for me to get out.”

Details on the Escape

Once Portillo realized he was stuck, he desperately looked for ways out of the vault room.

“I tried everything else. I tried setting off alarms and whatnot. At the end I was just thinking I had to get out of there soon,” Portillo told Robert Evans of Cracked. “So I’m yelling at people, ‘Hey, I’m in there, can you get me out,’ and they all would leave. That happened four or five times.”

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Portillo considered taking drastic measures.

“I looked around, and I never have anything to write with me, on me, on my person, and, you know, I had a knife on me, I figured, you know, I’d just cut myself and write on it like that. And I looked down and I had a pen in my pocket. Thank god I had a pen in my pocket for some reason,” he told KRIS TV.

Just because he had a pen didn’t mean his problems were over, though.

Portillo only had a small envelope to write on, which he divided into four pieces of paper. After sliding the initial note through the ATM receipt slot, “the first person took it and kinda laughed and just took off on me, which was kinda bizarre for me.”

“My pen was running out of ink and I had to lick the pen so it would write,” Portillo explained, so he was worried he was going to run out of ink before someone took his pleas seriously.

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KXAN

The San Antonio man had to try two more times before help finally arrived.

“Two of them walked away, the third saved me,” Portillo told News 4.

Out and Back in Again

When the police arrived, they had to kick in the door because, as Portillo really wants everyone to recognize, the door was jammed, not locked.

“I walked out, and I saw the news van there. And I was kinda like, wow y’know, OK,” he told Cracked.

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By the time the technician made it home, the story had gone viral.

Before he was able to make the two-hour trip home, though, Portillo had to go back into the vault room and finish the job. This time, though, he took his phone with him.

Sorry that happened to you.”

Even though Portillo wasn’t named in any of the dozens of pieces written about his time trapped in the ATM vault room, the San Antonio man wasn’t happy about the coverage.

“I sit at home reading a bunch of these comments and everything, where everybody’s saying, y’know, the guy’s dumb, he locked himself in the room, he needs to find another line of work, all this negativity, and nobody knew the situation,” Portillo told Cracked. “I guess that’s why I started answering some of the questions online.”

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iStock

“They were like, ‘Really, that was you?’ I gave a lot of details about how I got stuck in there, that was one of the reasons they believed me. A bunch of people were just apologetic, like, ‘Wow, I’m sorry that happened to you. I’m glad you got out.'”

Now that the facts are out there, Portillo is able to laugh about the harrowing situation.

“People can be cruel if they don’t have the proper information,” he said. “But once you clear it up, they’re like, ‘Well, I’m glad you’re okay.'”

Portillo should be just fine from here on out—as long as he has a pen and his cell phone.