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Suburban Island

Fifty Dollars
Friday, Jun. 13, 2003, 9:57 p.m.

QUESTION: Why me? Why not?

WHAT I LEARNED: There are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

I arrived back home from New York City tonight and I must say that it’s really nice to be home again. I especially missed:

  • My kids
  • My own bed
  • My DSL line
  • Diaryland
  • Starbuck’s coffee
  • Diet Coke that cost 4 bucks a case not 4 bucks a can

My trip to NYC did not start out well. In fact, I lost $50 immediately upon my arrival to town. This came as a surprise to me and frankly, I felt pretty stupid about it too. I had decided to refrain from ever telling this story to anyone because it would make me feel really foolish publicly while now, I just feel really foolish about this moment of stupidity privately. But it is an interesting tale about getting back what one thought was lost, and the strange way that life works, so I have changed my mind.

Here’s the whole sad story –

When I got to NYC, I haul my overstuffed suitcase through the train station, cursing myself with every step for over-packing. Why do I always do that? I’m compelled by some strange urge to prepare for every possible contingency. Thank God, there are no fancy dress balls or skiing junkets that I might be called on to attend. I am sure I would be dragging around a steamer trunk full of appropriate attire. I also notice that no matter what I pack, there is always something I need and it always cost a lot more than it should to buy it once I arrive at my destination.

As it was, I had one overstuffed suitcase, my laptop (which I probably shouldn’t have brought), and an oversized handbag full of gummy bears, reading materials, all the makeup I owned, and about 5 pounds of change. When I got out to the area where I thought I would find a taxi, a man asked a whole bunch of us if we needed a cab. There were a lot of people and we were all following him because he seemed so official and in charge – and no, he wasn’t wearing a damn uniform. So we were all traipsing along after him like little country lambs to the big city lamb roast. He hailed the cab for me first – lucky me - and as he threw my bag in it, I went to give him some money and he asked me for change for the driver so he could get his commission. The driver, he said, needed change for a fifty. A fifty – that’s right. I know it’s unbelievable but everything is more expensive in New York – right? Obviously so as this story will illustrate.

Have you ever done something and the whole time it was occurring there is a little voice in your head that says – warning, warning, warning – don’t do it? Well, it was like a major alarm going off in my head at that moment or maybe it was the voice of that angel sitting on my shoulder shouting some guiding words through some tiny megaphone. I ignored it all. Why listen to my own common sense or a little divine inspiration when this poor man needs his money? I mean, it’s hard to make a living after all. The next thing you know, I just found myself giving him this money, so the driver could change the bill, so he could get his commission, so we could all help each other out, and everyone would be happy and the world would be a little bit better place to live. We wouldn’t want this poor man to not get his commission would we? Okay, I know – how naive can you be?

Well, obviously – pretty naďve.

There was no commission involved in all of this really - as you might have guessed. I had been properly scammed within 5 minutes of arriving in the Big Apple and I was pretty angry and distressed and embarrassed about it all in one big bolt of emotion. I almost started bawling in that cab because that was my cab fare money. I think the taxi driver felt pretty bad about the whole thing too and he tried to cheer me up with a pep talk standard that I always enjoy – the what goes around comes around message and then he said - maybe you were meant to lose that money. Well, maybe I was. I was pretty bummed out about it though but we stopped at an ATM and I decided to just go with that thought and the solace of knowing that ill-gotten gains are never worth having. Yeah, that scammer was going to get his at some point but that didn’t help me get back my fifty bucks now did it? I was just glad that the taxi driver didn’t speed off with my luggage while I was fumbling with the cash machine.

Now, here’s the strange but true ending to this whole story. This morning when I checked out of the hotel, I didn’t read the big bold message at the bottom of my express check out bill that had been slipped like a secret message under my door while I slept. If I had, I would have know just to head on out without visiting the desk after simply pushed a code on the phone or the TV remote in my room. Unfortunately, I was out of the room already and my baggage was residing cozily with the bell captain. So what was I to do but stand in the line and formally check out. So stand in the line I did and check out I did. For some reason, I decided to tell the woman behind the counter that for 2 out of the 5 days I was there I had no maid service at all. I was actually kind of shocked about it because I was looking forward to some swell hotel living for a couple days including a nice clean room every evening upon my weary return to the hotel. Instead, I wound up making my own bed and doing my own housekeeping. Where was the turn-down service and how about those little chocolates on the pillow? Where were the clean towels?

Then with a few taps on her keyboard, she made an adjustment in my bill of – yes, you guessed it… $50. That $50 paid for all my incidentals and expensive diet coke splurges from the min-bar. My stolen cash had been strangely restored and so was my faith in the value of just hanging in there when things seem to be going awry, without falling to pieces and crying out to the Heavens – Why me?

And next time, I’m going to pack a smaller suitcase and find the taxicab stand all by myself – thank you.

DETAILS: Coffee: Just can’t find a Starbucks + Listening to: click-clack of the train track + Observing: passing scenery from a train window + Thinking: I will never pack so much stuff in one suitcase again + Weather: rain and no umbrella

Today’s Suburban Strategy: Curious about high school rankings?

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