Friday night I was out with a few friends in the East Village. At the end of the night it was time to go home. Leaving the last bar I started walking home. One guy suggested a slice of pizza, then we could split a cab home. I didn’t want to pay cab fare at all, but everyone was going so why not.
Walking in the pizza place, I noticed a couple girls at an in-store cash machine with one of those giant keg-shaped cans of Heineken. After a few moments at the counter ordering pizzas I happened to glance toward the ATM. The girls were gone and there was a $20 bill sitting in the machine!
I picked up the bill and showed it to my friend, “Check it out, free $20!” My rule is if I find something identifiable, I should try to return it, but cash I can keep. Then I realized I could identify the girls by that giant Heineken can.
I walked out and saw them and that beer can down the block a ways. By the time I caught up with them, they had walked up a couple steps to their building and were about to walk in.
I tapped one on the shoulder, they turned, and I said “Hey, were you in the pizza shop just now?”
Before describing the interaction, I should mention I will occasionally talk to someone on the street I don’t know and would say they generally react positively. My friend Sebastian pointed out that if you approached someone to return a wallet they dropped, you’d expect them to be gracious and appreciative. Well, a wallet is just money. If you’re a good person offering your time, shouldn’t you expect the same graciousness and appreciation?
I have come to expect this gratitude and appreciation since my street interactions tend to go well. This time I took for granted I’d get it since I actually was offering them something they’d lost, though they didn’t know it yet, so I was surprised to see their looks of “Who is this and why is he bothering us?”. I think they thought I was trying to pick them up.
So they answered my question of if they had been in the pizza shop with a no. They were being unfriendly to a guy they’d never met trying to do them a favor.
I said “Are you sure?” They said “Yes.” I asked if they were sure three more times, the last time really dragging out the “suuuurrrre” to give them every chance to say they could have been there.
After the fifth time they said they couldn’t have been in the pizza shop I pulled out the twenty, showed it to them, and said loudly “Cause you left $20 in the cash machine!”, turned, and left!!
As I walked away I heard “That’s our money, bitch!”
“Ha!” I thought. They just told me five times it couldn’t have been theirs when I was trying to do them a favor. What can I say? They convinced me it wasn’t them.
I walked back the the pizza shop and said to my friend, all smiles. “The coolest thing just happened.”
He said “Yeah, I know, you gave the money back,” crestfallen, like it’s not that great a deal to give money away. So I showed him the $20, told the story, we laughed at the expense of people acting unfriendly for no reason, and everyone’s evening ended positive.
Read my weekly newsletter
Subscribe for a weekly update of musings on leadership, the environment, and burpees.