A Hungarian benefactor living in the US gave our department at the university a check for $2,000. An American check here is worthless. You cannot cash it for less than $60.00 in fees and it takes up to six months. The faculty on the other hand was all salivating at the prospect of spending it. The list included a projector for PowerPoint presentations, an all-in-one fax/copier/scanner, and the list went on. This demanded a faculty meeting to decide how to spend this worthless piece of paper and how to cash it.
While sitting in the meeting fairly disinterested since none of my suggestions were receiving any attention, when it came around to how to cash the check, I felt six pairs of eyes burning into my face. Well here is an idea, we will give it to Ryan and he can deposit it in his US bank account in CA and then give us the money. Oh, boy! Did I NOT like that idea. But, I had them mail the check certified to a friend in CA who deposited into my account. Then the next issue was how to get it back. The options were to take it out in $400.00 increments, my daily ATM allowance from the bank with a $5.00 charge for each plus their ‘we can screw you’ currency conversion charge of 10%. Option two was more fiscally sound. I could shop for what they wanted, pay by credit card and then pay off my credit card immediately with the money in the account. They wisely chose option two for ¾ of the money.
However, the patron gave them yet another check for another $2,000. My nightmare all over again, but this time they wanted it in cash. Yikes! It seemed like a brainstorm to get a cash advance from the ATM on a credit card. I took out the max equivalent of $1,000.00 and shoved it into a pocket in my wallet. I would do this in two installments; after all, they were dependent on my generosity to get the cash either way. They would just have to wait for the cash sequel.
So I have this thick wad of Hungarian forint bills stuffed in my wallet and I am heading to the metro. This was one of those days when the ticket inspectors were checking tickets before you could attempt to get on the escalator to the trains. They mob up there like defensive guards at a sporting event. Traffic is slowed to a snail’s pace and everyone is suddenly in a hurry even if they were not five minutes before. Not being concerned, having my annual pass, I open my wallet to display it as I go gliding by onto the moving stairway. I am bumped in the back by the next anxious passenger throwing me forward as I am trying to put my wallet back in my backpack. That does not happen, though. The wallet goes flying into the air, gravity and airflow of the escalator tunnel pulling it open and forint bills go flying through the air like confetti at a wedding. A thousand dollars of forints are traveling faster than I am and in all directions. People going down are angry and disappointed that those on their way up have the catcher’s advantage and the best escape. I immediately visualize wrestling Hungarians to the ground or getting a second job to recoup this money.
When I finally reach the lower level, my reverie comes to an end, I loosen the tight grip on my wallet and put it snuggly into my backpack thinking of what could have been.