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Finding Cash

I have an eye for money.

Somewhere between my sense of sight and taste is the unique ability to find money in unlikely places. It’s a nose for currency, you could say: I can identify quarters on intricately patterned airport carpets or dollar bills amongst leaf dappled streets while biking or wads of cash stuffed into Winter coats that do not belong to me. Cash and I are connected in a strange way, like long lost parents and children discovering each other over and over and over again. There is a bond. Perhaps I’m sensitive to green and silver or maybe this is a late stage gift from growing up poor: money jumps out at me.

But that’s only part of the gift. What was once a stray dollar or five has evolved into large sums that shouldn’t be left outside of a wallet or palm or bank account. Yes, we’ve all found a few folded bills in an old jacket or a well of coins in an old bag – but street money? I have been blessed with this.

Once, walking my dogs, twenty dollars waved from beneath a bush. I didn’t believe it, no, so I looked in further, making sure no one peed on the bill: yes, it was twenty dollars. Pretending to pick up shit, I took the note too, stuffing it into my pocket for future inspection. This is the most elementary street cash, a little rogue dollar who decided to stray from the wallet. These are common.

Another time, while exiting a friend’s car in Thai Town outside of my first apartment, I stepped into a wet gutter to notice a little green patch just under the vehicle. I bent down and, to my surprise, at least $120 in twenties found their way into my pocket. “Is this yours?” I flashed them to my friend. “No…where did you find that?” she asked. I explained, pointing out that they were unlisted and stray, an amount organized in a way that appeared to have fallen on accident. This might have been the type of cash that slips out when a poorly angled wallet exits a shallow pocket. That happens. Perhaps it was related to the tattoo parlor under my building: unsure. Unfortunately for whoever owned this cash, the money sang out and I chose to listen to the song after looking around for anyone in search of dollars. This type of money is rare since it is both large and small, an innocent amount despite bloat. They are a once or twice in a lifetime occurrence, only bestowed to the truly lucky.

This past Saturday, I was biking home from a haircut. I was a block north from my apartment. It was sunny and bright and I was minding the street for holes and bumps and other things that could harm my bike or me. Then, as if a small speed hump, money jumped out to me – or so I thought. I turned my bike around. Was anyone on the street? Does anyone see me? I circled back to what I had just seen: a money clip with a blue, green, and yellow $100. I pocket it, thinking this is wrong. I get home and look at the money: there are three hundreds, one fifty, six twenties, and multiple fives and ones that I refuse to acknowledge as to let this money invite itself into my pockets. This, truly, was an obscene amount of money framed in a way that was clearly not tossed to me to take. It was a test despite the clip missing any identification: unlike a wallet, this only held dollar bills together. There was no ID, no credit card, no business marks: nothing. This type of money finding pushes you from lucky to thief and presents an ethical impasse: try to find who lost the money, potentially attracting untrustworthy people hoping to social engineer cash, or keep the cash and watch for someone posting that nearly a grand went missing. Decisions.

After some philosophical breakdowns and texting friends, Nextdoor – a means to amplify neighborhood concerns and neighborhood annoyances – called me to. I posted the simply titled “Found Clip” along with a message: “Found a money clip on Sycamore, North of 1st while biking home today. If yours, please send a note with brand and color of the clip as well as an approximation of what was in said clip.” That would help? I waited. I hoped the message would be ignored. A $600 payday for free? Yes, please. But whose money was this and why was it just lying around? Was this a stunt from a television show? Was it tied to a witch’s curse? Did I insert myself into a drug dealing narrative?

Alas, late Saturday I got a message from a suspicious person who asked to call them in exchange for the necessary details. I waited. They followed up. “If you can relay the brand, color, and contents via message / this thread, that would be great,” I said. And they did.

Its a Black, Tumi metallic clip… All Cash – Not sure exactly how much but I can tell you there is probably in the neighborhood of $600-$800. I know there are 4 or 5 $100 bills, 1 $50, several $20s and smaller bills…

The price was right. After some arrangement, the money was returned.

“Can I give you a reward?” the man asked.

Yes, I thought, before replying, “No, don’t worry about it.”

“Are you sure?” they asked.

“Yeah, thanks tough,” I bit into my lip. I wanted all that money but, no, karma would be all I needed.

That’s the problem with this sense: it’s fabulous and fun for finding money until you realize that nothing is free or, really, that there are causes and effects tied to stray cash coming to you. This isn’t always true but, in unique scenarios, it absolutely is. Maybe the financial sixth sense comes with it a greater inability to lie, higher empathy, or a unique Catholic guilty that instills that anything you get must be earned: nothing is free – and luck is a product of the imagination.

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