Back in college I made $9.00 an hour. I lived off restaurant-job-bring-homes, peanut butter and bread. I paid my portion of the rent and bills, bought a couple books for the week and usually spent what extra I made on night’s out and Rice Krispies Treats.
One time in my early twenties on a college bar hopping expedition of normalcy, I dropped twenty dollars at The Pink ,which is a run down Allentown staple in Buffalo, NY where the floors are dissolvable (much like their steak sandwiches) and also coated in a thin layer of acid rain brought in by shoes for five years, since the last time the floors were washed. When my twenty dollar paper slipped from my hand and onto the bar’s floor, the bill disintegrated into burnt rubber instantly.
A tale much more plausible than me just being a little overy tipsy and over tipping the bartender again. Maybe I really did have a $2.00 bill on me. OR maybe my poor attention to detail did drop it and some schlub sitting next to me was buying a round for himself.
I’ll never remember to know.
What I will remember is the impact of being $20.00 short on a weekly college budget with the poor financial priorities of a twenty one year old. I don’t remember the repercussions in detail of this specific time but, I’m sure an overdraft forgiveness was negotiated with a supervisor over the customer service line of my bank that took twenty minutes to reach after convincing an automated computer woman/not woman to understand, “I NEED TO TALK TO A REAL HUMAN.”
It was the first time I remember feeling the panic that money (or the loss of money) can cause. But, it certainly wasn’t the last time down the long road – that is the continuing road – of financial lessons to learn from.
Another time, in my mid twenties (compared to my-now-late-twenties) I stood outside of a local bar with some friends smoking cigarettes and chatting over drinks. I’ve quit smoking almost five months now. I felt that was necessary to share. Anyway, there were some people outside of the group that chimed into our conversation. The more the merrier in my book, so on we chatted…
Until I see an old, beat up, green origami looking thing on the ground beneath my foot. I removed my foot from the item and nonchalantly picked up the piece of paper to observe and confirm what it was. I felt my eyes widen and a friend noticed, “What’d you find?”
I looked up to find the entire group silently awaiting my reveal. I chose to be honest, “A hundred dollar bill.”
Now, at this point in my life money is a maintenance but, not of worry. I consider us fortunate. We are by no means wealthy but, we are comfortable. I wanted so badly to own our own home and paint the walls as we pleased, restore as we wanted, etc., etc. We have that. We have a place and it’s our place. I cried the day we signed the papers. We are content now.
Once I announced to everyone that the item in my hand was a one hundred dollar bill, one of the non-members of the group put his head into his hand and spoke up hesitantly, “I dropped it.”
I felt time freeze.
What am I going to do? Accuse the man of lying? I found it, yes… But, even in that moment I found it… If my friend hadn’t asked what it was that I was holding in the first place, would I have kept it without saying anything or asked around to see if someone had indeed, dropped it? I never had time to figure that out about myself. I still don’t know what I would’ve done in that situation.
But, as the moment began to unfold, I chose to trust his word and thought back to losing my twenty dollar bill at The Pink all those years ago. I gave this man the one hundred dollar bill. He offered to buy me a drink. I thought it was a kind gesture but, told him that was not necessary.
He then scattered away from the group to go back inside the bar. He came out soon after with his things and jumped into an Uber.
I still doubt the validity of his statement, “I dropped it.” But, who am I to judge? There isn’t enough evidence to this case to invest an opinion on it.
But, boy do I still think about it. I wonder if he does too.