Change You Can Believe In (In Your Bag)

I have a personal rule that I will not return to my house after I have left my house unless it is the Most Dire of Circumstances. Like: Leaving my phone at home (the horror). Leaving my laptop at home (this has happened twice on my way to the office and I don’t want to even talk about it). Leaving without tampons when I really need tampons (I have a fifty/fifty track record on this — often I’ll just buy new tampons, because: You can never have too many tampons.) I just really hate to backtrack.

But: Today I left a pen at home and I was halfway down the stairs before I realized: I don’t have a pen. I was planning on making a list on the subway (tasking in multiples), and I really required a pen. I stood on the stair for more than a few moments to think a way out of my pen-dicament. I could buy a pen, but I couldn’t think of anywhere on the way to the train that would be sure to have them. (Do bodegas have pens? I didn’t know the answer, and I didn’t have the time to find out.) I thought about going into a shop and begging the waiter to borrow a pen and then … leaving with the pen. But this seemed awkward and dishonest. I mean, I’m sure there would be a way to do it in an in-and-out situation (“Can I see that pen for a sec?” [RUNS AWAY]), but it was early. Plus: I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I walked back upstairs and got the pen.

I was in and out and down the stairs and down the block and then I was in the train station. The sign said the next train was two minutes away — I was obviously a genius of time management. I smugly swiped my card and started to walk through the turnstile when I was barred by two terrible words: “INSUFFICIENT FARE” (caps not mine, for once). I had to re-up my MetroCard. Fine. FINE. I could do that in two minutes and the machines were just right there and fine. I turned around and approached the first of three machines. I started tapping buttons, impatiently. NOTHING WAS HAPPENING. “Out of order.” Oh, I see. I moved to the next machine. Pushed a button while fumbling for my debit card — “TEMPORARILY NO CREDIT AND DEBIT,” it said (or maybe it said “NO CREDIT OR DEBIT RIGHT NOW,” or “SORRY SUCKER,” or, “WHY DON’T YOU HAVE REAL MONEY LIKE A NORMAL PERSON” — my memory is fuzzy on this detail).

Third machine: SAME THING. What. What. Whaaat. An attractive Irish man had come up to the second machine while I was staring at the third and was pushing some buttons. He asked me if I knew whether the machine would give him change for his $50 bill. I did not know. But I stared at his $50 for longer than one second because I had not seen one in a long time. It looked nice. He decided not to chance it, and a good thing, because I later saw that the max amount of change the machines give is $6 and wouldn’t that have sucked. He went upstairs to get change, which is what I should have done in the first place, gone upstairs and used an ATM. But: I hate to backtrack. So instead I started feeding coins into the machine. I had three quarters and some dimes in my wallet. Then I dug around my laptop and my bag of almonds and my bag of carrots and my tub of hummus and my laptop cord and my shirt in case I got cold later and my pen that it was so important that I get and my bottle of water and my phone (so glad I didn’t forget that) and my two notepads and about twelve tampons and three things of hand sanitizer and two things of lipstick until I had a fistful of change, which I fed into the machine. $2.65 — fifteen cents more than than the $2.50 one-way ticket. Success.

I think the lesson is that I should keep a twenty in my wallet hidden for emergencies just like this emergency, but I feel that psychically, I’d be too tempted to treat that emergency twenty dollar bill like I used to treat my emergency credit cards, which was: For anything but actual emergencies. So for my mental health I will not be doing this thing. But you probably should. Emergency twenty dollars: a good idea.

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