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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