I was walking down 21st Street the other day when I noticed a twenty-dollar bill lying on the ground directly in front of me. “What are the chances?” I said out loud to myself as I bent down to pick it up, which I realized right away was a mistake, not picking up the twenty, but saying out loud, “What are the chances?” Because as soon as I did, there were these two guys pretty close to me, and I definitely caught their attention.
I wasn’t trying to flaunt my good fortune. I was genuinely happy. But one of the guys stopped and looked toward my direction, he said, “Hey, uh, I think that’s my twenty,” and I knew I was screwed. What was I going to do, protest? I didn’t have any defense. It wasn’t my twenty. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t his twenty either.
Still, I didn’t know how to proceed. In a situation like this, you either act or you don’t. If I hesitated at all, it could have started a fight, the guy might have gotten aggressive. And what if he did get aggressive? For all I knew it really was his twenty. I just had a gut feeling that it wasn’t. I know that if I were in his position, and it wasn’t my twenty, but I wanted the twenty, I would do exactly like he was doing, I’d try my hardest to pretend that it was mine, getting really upset that this other guy wouldn’t hand it over.
I just kind of stood there stuck in thought, until he started moving in to take it out of my hands. Luckily, that third guy chimed in, “Hey man, actually, I think that’s my twenty.” Now I could safely recoil my hand, even if just to help get to the bottom of this. Whereas before, I only knew that the twenty wasn’t mine, coupled with a hunch that the first guy was lying. Now I had two guys, one of them definitely lying, maybe even both of them lying.
“Really? Because I’m pretty sure this was my twenty,” I surprised even myself when those words came out of my mouth. It was a ballsy maneuver, but I figured, worst case scenario, two of us would be lying, meaning that there was no way I was getting teamed up on here.
But for real, I could just tell that all three of us were lying, because, again, I’m putting myself in a situation where I drop a twenty and then two other guys come over and make a claim on it, I’d be like, “All right, that’s my twenty, I’m taking it, bye.” But we were all just kind of a little too hesitant, nobody ready to make any direct accusations, everything was pretty civil so far.
And I still had the twenty in my hands. Should I try to make a run for it? I could have gotten away, again, I’m pretty sure I could have gotten away. I’m really fast, but I always like to keep a slight check on my abilities. The more and more I get used to just assuming that I can sprint my way out of any situation, it’s just setting me up for a huge fail when I try to get away from that one person capable of chasing me down.
“How about …” it was guy number three, “How about we all just split it?” and guy number two immediately jumps in, “Nope. That just proves that it wasn’t yours in the first place. My claim still stands. You?” He was talking to me, damn, did this guy have some sort of experience in situations like this? I didn’t know what to do, it was that same indecisiveness that I was dealing with when it was just me and him. I kind of held out my hand, he slowly moved in to make the grab.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s just hold on a second,” guy number three again said, “That’s not your twenty,” I recoiled my hand slightly, “You’re faking it. Tell me, where’d you drop it from? What pocket do you keep your wallet in? You got any other cash in there? Why didn’t that cash fall out? How you going to prove it’s yours? Huh?”
I couldn’t believe it, but it worked, kind of. At least, guy number two fell for it, the rapid-fire asking of way too many unnecessary yet detailed questions. He should have just kept answering them, one after the other, making stuff up if he had to, because he already had the upper hand. But he just stood there with his mouth open, just five seconds too slow.
And that’s when he caved, he said, “All right fine, let’s just split it.” So then I got a little ballsier, I thought, I’m the only one who hasn’t deviated from his original claim, “Actually guys,” I chimed in, “It’s actually my twenty, I’m going to …”
“No, nope, no chance pal, sorry,” it’s like they could just tell. Guy number two yanked it out of my hands and they both started walking to the McDonald’s on the corner. “Guys?” I called out, “Am I part of the split? Guys?”
I followed them inside, they both started ordering, “Guys, can I at least get some food too? Come on, a Big Mac? We can all get Big Mac meals. There’s enough.”
Guy number three gave me a look like he wanted to say, get the fuck out of here man, but then he looked toward guy number two, gave him a look like, what are you going to do? He turned to the cashier, and said, “And he’ll have a dollar menu double cheeseburger.”
I was like, “That’s it? Dollar menu?” Guy number three said, “Take it or leave it,” and his look got real stern, like I could tell he meant it.
“I’ll take it,” and I took it. Whatever, free double cheeseburger, right?