Sing, Orphaned Dollar Bill

July 15, 2010

ON THE GROUND of the parking garage, right in front of the door, laid a dirty, crumpled one-dollar bill. The first time I saw it, I was coming home from work, and I stopped to stare at it, to think about picking it up. I could see myself reaching for it and it jumping away, kids laughing around the corner. I had the same trick as a kid—just a piece of fishing line and some gizmo that retracts. I didn’t want to look like a sucker. And, frankly, I didn’t want to look like the type of guy who would go out of his way to pick up a single dollar bill. I left it.

Hours later, I carried out the trash and the bill was still there. There were new cars in the garage now: more people had come home. Surely they’d seen it, maybe even kicked it around as it had moved a bit, but, like me, had ultimately left it. I stared at it again.

Why won’t I take it? I wondered. If it were 5 dollars, I’d take it. If it were 10 dollars, I’d take it. But a single dollar? It felt greedy, desperate, petty. Why was taking one dollar so much greedier than taking ten?

I shook my head and walked to the trash room, dumping the evidence of my affluence down a three story metallic chute, and when I passed the bill on my way back, I didn’t stop.

Eventually, someone took it (it was gone the next morning). Someone had the humility—the audacity—to bend down for an orphaned dollar bill. But it wasn’t me. I was too humble—too arrogant—to admit that what I really wanted to do was snatch up that filthy dollar, shove it deep in my pocket, and make a run for it.

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