Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mendacity

I had some interesting responses to the question posed in my last post, What you would do if you saw some bills lying on the floor in a crowded room? Here’s the set-up.

I was standing by the door on a jam-packed subway train after last week’s historic soccer game at RFK. (Don’t you remember? I told you that Jaime Moreno rolled a penalty shot in to break the all time MLS scoring record. You forgot already?)

One more person wedged on board before the doors closed. Looking for open space, he noticed two clumps of crumpled dollar bills on the floor right by my feet. He pointed down and said to the man on the other side of the bills, "Is that yours?"

The man immediately looked down and, without missing a beat, said, "Yes." He bent down, scooped up the two wads of bills and shoved them into his pocket without looking at them further or saying a further word (like, "Oh thanks!")

Trouble was, the money was mine. I know it was. Since the helpful guy's comment wasn't directed at me, I looked down too late. Should I have arrested the thief's wrist as it came back up with my two clumps of money? There on the crowded train full of liquored-up fans coming back from the game? Should I have instantly gotten close and personal?

The money was gone in a flash. The swindler turned and faced away from me and his benefactor.

Money is fungible, right? How could I prove it was mine? My pocket was full of wadded up bills. I had just pulled my employment id out of that pocket without looking to make sure I still had it. Some clumps of bills had obviously tumbled out.

My change from lunch was gone, a five and a some ones. My change from a snack purchase at the stadium was gone, some singles.

I said to the good samaritan, "You know, that money was mine." He said, "I’m sorry, I didn’t know." I assured him, "You did the right thing."

Pointing directly at the smooth operator I said, "He, on the other hand, did the wrong thing." The man looked back at me impassively, then moved over by the door.

Room opened up in the car. I considered going over and accosting him for my money. Or maybe bargaining with him for half of it back. What better way to create a volatile situation in a crowded subway car than to start an argument over the theft of money, which charge you couldn’t prove? Would the other riders enjoy that male alpha show?

I sat down and, staring at him, slowly pulled every wadded up bill out of my pocket and carefully smoothed them all out. The mendacious one glanced over, saw what I was doing and turned to stonily face the closed door. He got off a couple of stops later. This thief and liar evidently lives in Clarendon, which is in Arlington.

I used to believe in karma (and fairness) til I got introduced, in Arlington, to American family law (divorce law). Now I believe in the jungle.

That guy knew it was my money. But what are you gonna do in those circumstances? What should I have done? It still pisses me off. But I marvel at the guy who gave away my money. What a guy! (I'm serious. He tried!)

3 comments:

Anne said...

Karma and fairness aren't the same thing, but it can be hard to wait for someone to get his comeuppance. You probably taught that Good Samaritan more than you realize in letting the thief go, but not before making him feel like the asshole he is for a few miles. That should maybe bring some comfort. Just a little, but it's still something, right?

Susan said...

I think you did the right thing. I mean, a few bucks is not worth getting all bloodied up for, in my opinion. Now, had it been a $100 bill, the situation would be different, in my book.

But really, ownership is ownership, no matter the amount. I'm just sorry this happened to you.

Just12Finish said...

I believe in fate. That fool will soon be seperated from your money!