So. Money has been tight lately. I’m on the fast track to pay down my grad school loans and am trying to buy organic groceries as much as I can, which means that even with my recent raise (!) I end up superbroke as a joke at the end of every month. It’s lame! And to compound the issue, my very very very favorite pair, actually, my ONLY pair, of flipflops bit the dust last month when I was stepping off a bus and gave myself a flat tire and somehow one of the straps snagged on a piece of metal. I did that weird jump-step forward thing you do when you come really near to falling but don’t quite, and I was left walking janky and lamenting the loss of what had begun to feel like two extensions of my physical body.
Those flip-flops were only a year and a half old, but they really meant something to me. I bought them in Missouri to replace a previous awesome pair of black flipflops which I’d bought while I was living in Mexico years before and which were seriously gunning to last a decade before my insane roommate stole them. So I cut my losses and picked up a new pair of kicks. Tevas that took me all the way across Central America last summer, mile after kilometer, and even though they’re sort of smelly and ratty by this late hour, I’d figured on wearing them at least through another full summer. Not so.
Ever since, I’ve been lusting after this black pair of North Face flipflops for sale in a PacNW kinda sporting goods store down the street from my house.
This morning, on my way home from a beach run, I passed by the sporting goods store and, as per usual, peeked in at the sandals, and the price tag. $28. A decent deal for a high-end pair of flip flops, but, ahem, a little out of my current meager budget. I keep telling myself, “Wait one more paycheck.” But I still never have the cash.
This morning, paused outside that store window, I thought about that pathetic scene in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” where Charlie is peeking through the candy store window at the creepy candyman guy who is tossing out taffy and ribbon candy and licorice lozenges to a line of well-dressed and much more deserving rich kids with sticky, rosy faces and warm wooly mittens and the whole bit. While poor, dirty Charlie is shivering out in the cold in his ratty, homemade scarf and just wanting those sweets so bad he’s gonna go nuts.
And – here’s the weirdest part – remember how later in the movie Charlie is lamenting how he’ll never EVER get a golden ticket cause he has no cash to buy chocolate bars and then he randomly finds some weird-looking crusty bills in the gutter and then he can buy the chocolate bars and, miracle of miracles, he gets hold of one of the magic tickets?? WELL, practically that same thing happened to me this morning!!! Well, not really. But the first part, at least.
I was wandering away from the sporting goods store sipping my latte and then, right in the parking lot of the hotel next to the store, I saw a wad of money. My heart leapt and I quickened my steps as I got closer. I was in that wonderful moment of anticipation when you think you see something really cool on the ground but you aren’t yet sure if it’s just going to turn out to be a nasty old lottery ticket or a filthy crumpled up liquor receipt or something. But you believe so HARD that it’s going to be something great. Hope springs eternal, right?
As I got closer, I could see it was definitely cash. How much would it be?! Five? Ten? I reached the mysterious green wad and picked it up. A tenner was on top, followed by two ones and another ten! Score!! $22. I was stoked. But then. I remembered the time when I was six and I had this cool little purse that looked like a shoe except it zipped up one side and had a long, thin strap. And once I had $19 in it (I was a saver, even then) and I LOST IT in a crummy dollar store in Milwaukie. I fretted over that purse and that cash for straight years. Remembering that terrible, terrible turn of fortune, I started to worry. What if this was a trick? A test? A chance to fill up the karma bank? What if some little kid was right at this moment scrambling to find his vacation money and discovering that it was straight just gone? What if, by some chance, someone came back for it?
Alas, I hung my head, turned in the direction of the hotel, walked through the automatic doors, and handed off the wad of cash off to the girl behind the check-in counter. She looked confused, like she didn’t know what she was supposed to do with it, but she took it and tucked into a spot at the side of her register. Of course she did!
Later, I sort of felt like an idiot. I really, really want those flipflops. And who would ever bother to track down a lost pocketful of cold, hard cash? It is so untraceable. At least in the ways you can see. All I can say is this: I better get something good back in return, and FAST!