In early May, I posted this on Facebook: “Today I found a crumpled 20-dollar bill on a patch of grass. Total score! Ever since then though, every discarded Starbucks napkin I see on the ground looks like a 100-dollar bill.” So last week while Steve and I were out walking the dog, I spotted a 100-dollar bill, perched like a tiny piece of brown scorched earth on the grass next to the sidewalk. I reacted as anyone possessing a reptilian brain would: in the nanosecond I registered it was really in fact actually a freakin’ ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR BILL, I shrieked loudly and primitively as I reflexively snatched it from its oh-so-temporary resting spot. Steve heard my screech and assumed I’d walked into a spider web; the spooked dog made a hasty retreat under a nearby hedge.
New purse, perhaps (i.e. a place to store all the found cash)?
Unbelievably, I had just stumbled across the legal tender version of the Starbucks napkin I’d recently joked about. The adrenalin rush of finding “free money” abated a titch – enough that the more rational parts of my brain recharged. Several things happened: as shallow and mercenary as it sounds, my first instinct was to look around to see if more bills might be flitting about. As if finding $100 wasn’t providential enough, I was hoping for an even bigger windfall. Sadly, no further flutterings of outrageous fortune were spotted.
We scanned the area looking for anyone who seemed frantic to find something on the ground. Not a soul in sight. Setting aside the overload of emotions clashing about in my head, I pocketed the bill and we continued our walk home. I kept obsessively patting my pants pocket to reassure myself that the cash was still safely with me. Crazy that something that I didn’t have moments before is now something I want to make sure I don’t lose.
As we walked, we talked about who might have lost this cash, and wondered if their day was completely ruined by this loss. I know I’d be distressed if I realized I was missing $100, but not devastated: the loss wouldn’t be the difference between a meal on the table or not. Rationalization quickly set in: we were traipsing through a tony neighbourhhood on the west side of Vancouver – not the desperate DTES – ergo this amount of money wouldn’t be missed. As a friend commented later, “If it makes you feel better, pretend it was Kevin O’Leary running to his BMW limousine, and an errant C-note fluttered off the top of the wad he was shoving into his handmade Gucci suit. Meh.”
The main topic of conversation on the return home – beyond “I can’t believe it!” – was about the many ways to spend it. The conversation with Steve unfolded sporadically: “Maybe I’ll buy that backpack I’ve had my eye on.” We rounded a corner and pushed the walk signal and as we waited for the light to change, I was already beating myself up for being so selfish. “I think I might just give it to the guys – $50 each and they can treat themselves to something they want.” We crossed the road and navigated across the train tracks, the dog dragging us to the shaded sidewalk. New side of road, yet another perspective: “How about a nice dinner for the two of us with a really good bottle of wine?” We shuffled through strewn pinecones and grass cuttings, at which point I’d circled from me to thee to we – and now to charity: “I should donate it to a worthy cause.”
Perhaps a fine wine?
Ack! I was officially tortured. A dropped twenty with no one in sight is a fairly uncomplicated “Hey, it’s my lucky day!” windfall. A found C-note makes “what should I do?” more complicated. A fortuitous find had morphed into a predicament with ethical nuances.
One friend suggested I post a message on Craigslist to this effect: “Found something interesting when walking my dog in xxxx neighbourhood on xxx date. If you can identify it, you can have it back.” What? And wait for countless people to guess what the “something interesting” is? And if someone did guess “hundred dollar bill” would I just hand it over? Her suggestion came from a heart-full place – concern for the person who is quite literally out-of-pocket – but the reality is that there is no simple way to return the money because there is no effective “lost and found.”
This finders-keepers situation has me questioning how to spend the money, now that I’ve truly satisfied myself that there’s no way to identify its owner. On some level, I have to believe karma is at work: I’ve lost money before. I cashed a pay-cheque way back in the days before automatic deposit; on route back from the bank to my office, the bills disappeared and I was S.O.L. I dropped a 20-dollar bill a few months ago when walking to meet a friend for lunch. Money flows around. We may end up ahead of the game or we may end up losing more than we found. Who knows?
So, over to you, Sir Robert Borden: how shall I spend thee? How to best pour this maple syrup coloured bill into the economy? I’ll continue to ponder that as I head back out tomorrow – and every other day – on my “lucky walking route.”
DEAR READER, I’D LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU WOULD DO. USE THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW. THANKS!
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