Monday, September 26, 2005

I Wish I Had Been Able to Keep It

Yesterday as I was leaving My Favorite Upscale Discount Emporium, I saw Team Asset Protection swing into action with stunning precision, talking into their walkie-talkies, milling around urgently, eyes darting, whispering to one another. Exciting stuff. I wanted to hang around and see whose ass was going to be grass. It reminded me of this time that I worked in a store I'll call, oh, Zervyn's, and some girl there was caught shoplifting.

And while that's kind of an interesting story, I think a better story is the time I got some guy busted for trying to pass a counterfeit bill.

It happened when was working in the Student Union cafeteria as a cashier. See, the plan originally was for me not to work at all in college. I would work in the summers, save money, then stretch it out over two semesters while I focus on my, ahem, studies. The summer before my sophomore year, I managed to save in the neighborhood of $2,000. Then I was off to college with my ATM card and not a clue how to budget. I spent nearly all of that money before the first semester was even over. I made daily trips to the ATM, which magically spit out 20s as though they were candy, and as many as I wanted. It was the greatest thing! I bought the good cereal at the supermarket. I turned my nose up at the Ramen. I treated my friends to dinner. I bought lunch at school every day instead of brown-bagging it. We went to the movies, and not just the matinee. I kept no log of what I was spending or what my balance was. Oh, the fun times. Totally not in line with the average starving college student experience. I was living like a freaking Rockefeller.

Then my parents got wind of how low the balance on my account had gotten, and I think they may have wondered if I was doing drugs or had a gambling problem. They were pissed.
"But where did your money go?"
"I DON'T KNOW! I swear!"

I was ordered to get a job for the spring semester, and they reminded me that I'd be lucky if anyone hired me because competition for those glamorous on-campus jobs sure is fierce. I must have been a fantastic specimen, because I had no trouble getting work in the Student Union. It turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. The hideous uniform was embarrassing, but I met dozens of people. Anytime I went to a party, people recognized me as "Student Union Girl" and came up to talk to me. For someone who usually stands in a corner doing a death grip on her drink in a room full of strangers, this was a godsend. There were regulars in my line. It was a really fun job.

One day, a man I didn't recognize came through my line. I rang up his food and gave him the total. He passed me a $20 bill. I started to put it in the drawer and make change when I noticed it looked really perfect. It had a sheen. It was crisp. The ink was just a little too green, too vibrant. I stared at it for a moment, then thought "Holy shit. This is a counterfeit. This is SO AWESOME!" I debated with myself. Do I want to make a scene? Will this guy kill me, or send someone to kill me from jail, if I tell someone? It's only $20, should I just make change and shut up? Can I keep the bill to show to my friends later? If I say nothing, I'll probably be fired. Ahhh, what do I do?! I opted to bust his ass.

"Excuse me, could you wait here? I'll be right back."
"Sure!"
What? He's waiting? I'd take off running if I were him.
I went back to my boss's office. "I think this is a fake bill."
"Wha...wha...huh? Are you sure?"
"Yeah. I mean, look at it."

She inspected it. "It does look funny." She called campus police. When they arrived, the guy was still there, and they pulled him off to a corner to begin the interrogation. I began to wonder whether he was truly not guilty, or just incredibly stupid. I went back to my register and worked while I listened to them speak to him. He denied knowing the bill was fake. I felt terrible -- what if he was telling the truth?

Still, you should have seen this bill. It wasn't exactly hand-drawn, but I have a hard time believing anyone could really not question whether it was real.

The police took him away, and I don't know what happened after that. A few hours later, one of the other employees found a duffel bag in the seating area. It was packed with hundreds more of the same bills.

For doing my part in enforcing the law, I was named Employee of the Month, which came with a gift certificate and a 20% discount at the student bookstore.

It wasn't exactly going to rocket me back to my Rockefeller days, but I took it.