That has a nice ring to it


I have a strange history of things going my way just when I need them to. Not incredibly major things mind you, but more get-me-out-of-a-small-jam kinda things. When I was 20 years old and had moved to Paris with almost no money, I was down to living on 50 cents a day and a baguette. As I was wandering the streets wondering what in the hell I was thinking coming to Paris with no money and just expecting everything to work out, and more importantly what I was going to do, I suddenly came across 1000 francs in the street. Just like that, in a tidy little clip with no pesky identifying info like a wallet or anything. That money got me through a tough couple of weeks until I finally landed a job and got on my feet. At another time in my life when I was deeply in debt, a relative died and left me a few thousand dollars. All through my travels I have met people who have welcomed me into their homes, at times in the dead of night when I was quite unsure where I would turn to next. In none of these cases has my need been truly life threatening, I was just in situations where I was somewhat pinched by circumstance, and have many times over been the recipient of some lovely bit of serendipity for which I am gobsmacked and truly grateful. Then again, I also tend to see the positive in almost everything, so perhaps I am only remembering the good and forgetting the bad.

What does any of the above have to do with anything? Well, getting ready to move into my new apartment has been more of an expense than I had expected, and I am getting somewhat low on funds (awaiting payment from a couple of my clients, this is mostly a temporary cash-flow problem). I was just yesterday thinking about how I needed a little something to drop out of the sky.

And just like that, it did. Yesterday on the street in the Village, I found a pretty nice ring (what looks like a wedding band, but I’m no expert), and I took it into one of the pawn shops in my neighborhood where they said they would give me several hundred dollars for it. I decided not to sell it, thinking if it was worth that much, perhaps it was quite meaningful to the person that lost it. (Then again, perhaps they threw it at their spouse in disgust after finding out they had been cheated on and left it in the street, bidding good riddance to the both of them. Who can say really?) In any event, I placed a couple of ads online on Craigslist and the Village Voice, saying that I had found a ring and waiting for the owner to claim it. So far, I haven’t received a single reply. So my dilemma is this:

If I still get no response within a couple of days, would it be wrong of me to sell it? Is there another, better way to contact the probable owner? Maybe they aren’t even aware that it is missing. Maybe they are off on their yacht eating caviar and poking fun at the hoi polloi. Then again, maybe this was the most valuable treasure they have, the only memory of a long departed relative.

What would you do?

2 lousy dollars


There is a cafe that I have been working at most mornings, and I really enjoy the atmosphere in this place. I have even struck up a little acquaintance with my cute and friendly waiter, sharing small talk about our lives. I learned that he just arrived in NYC a few weeks ago from Arizona of all places. He is just a sweet kid of about 22, struggling to make it in the big city.

This morning I logged into my bank account online (as I do occasionally) and noticed an odd charge from the cafe. It was dated yesterday, the last time I used my card there. It wasn’t a huge difference, but I didn’t remember spending that much there, so I found my folded up receipt from yesterday’s pants pocket and sure enough, my card had been charged more than the total I had filled out including tip. As I said, it wasn’t a huge amount, only 2 dollars more (from 19 to 21, which would have increased my 20% tip to 33%, but I digress).

At first, I thought perhaps there was an old charge that had been dated wrong and had coincidentally come through on this day. But when I checked through my records, every other charge was there and was in the correct amount. So I am left with the following possibilities as to how this happened:

– My waiter added a couple of bucks and put the charge through (purposely or by accident)
– Someone else at the restaurant added a couple of bucks and put the charge through (purposely or by accident)
– There was a bank or credit card error in the amount of two dollars

And now there is a dilemma about what to do about it:

– Take my receipt down to the restaurant and demand to talk to the manager to get them to reverse the charge
– Talk to the waiter directly about it, giving him a chance to investigate
– Pretend it never happened (it is only two dollars after all)

If I go down to talk to the manager, what will happen to my waiter if he is to blame? Will he be fired? The poor kid just arrived in New York and is struggling. I don’t want him to be fired over this if by chance he is at fault, and yet if he is, he clearly should not be engaging in this type of behavior. If he is not to blame and someone else is, what happens to them? Perhaps it would be better to confront the waiter directly, giving him the opportunity to explain or investigate without management knowing?

Maybe it is all just a misunderstanding, an accident easily rectified.

I am a practical person. I don’t believe in making a big deal out of things that are trifling. I am not one of those people who is so wedded to “the principle of the thing” that I lose sight of reality. Life is too short really. And yet, I feel a little as if a trust has been betrayed. I have really enjoyed spending time in this cafe, chatting with my waiter, sipping coffee and working. My image of this place is now a little tainted. I would like to be proven wrong, but can only do so by bringing it up.

On the other hand, I could just let it drop, continue to enjoy the environment and pay cash from now on. I think I like the sound of that best. What do you think? (besides the obvious “Haven’t you just wasted more than 2 dollars worth of time and energy thinking about this?”)