It happened on a Saturday about two weeks into my being back in New York City after a year and a half away. The day was beautiful with a clear blue sky and a gentle breeze—perfect for a walk. As familiar as the city streets were to me, at every corner I found myself turning to confirm my whereabouts and feeling a little like a foreigner. The crowds of people shocked me mildly, the overall energy a little unnerving. But I walked along with my head up as if I’d never been away; as if the city was mine; as if I had it together. In the middle of a daydream I spotted out of the corner of my eye the pale green and white of a crisp bill lying in the middle of the sidewalk, so out of place. Lucky for me to be the one to have stumbled upon it. As I got closer I noticed in disappointment that it was only a single – but hey, money is money, I thought. People bend down to pick up pennies all the time. If one of those is good luck, a buck would calculate to one-hundred times that, right? So I stopped to pick up the bill and be on my way. Not a second later the morsel of joy Mr. Washington had brought me quickly disappeared as I noticed that on the other side was none other than DOG POOP! As fast as the dollar was in my hand it was out, tossed back where I’d found it as I gagged in disgust.
My initial thought was that I deserved it having actually stooped so low as to pick it up. Why, I wondered would anyway smear dog crap on the back of a dollar and leave it on the sidewalk? As I worked on getting my composure back I thought that perhaps the stinking surprise had been the result of the unfortunate but sometimes common conundrum that comes with owning a dog—forgetting the baggie! With a mess on the sidewalk and a nothing but a dollar in your pocket, what else is there to do? So I continued on, and then it hit me! The other, perhaps more probable scenario was that I was the victim of a prank. Of course. There I was on the street while inside a pub, there was most probably some group of pranksters laughing as each gullible passerby bent down to find a poop-smeared buck. Suddenly I felt like an idiot. I walked on laughing to myself (as I have learned it is best to do in situations like these) and seconds later heard a reaction similar to my own coming from another fool down the block who had also fallen for the cruel but sort-of-funny prank.
Welcome back to New York!
I suppose though with every misfortune comes some good fortune eventually. Last week upon leaving work after a long, tiresome day I spotted the familiar green and white, only this time in the form of two fives. I stopped and thought for a second as another pedestrian quickly approached. Ten bucks, I thought. Go for it. Thankfully this time it was poop free!
So, the lesson here– when you encounter money on the street, in NYC or anywhere for that matter, just remember to be cautious…because you never know what surprise might be waiting on the other side.