Stories: “Call Your Bank”
Today’s story feels longer than usual so if you’d like, print it out and take it with you when you have some time to read it in its entirety. Or not. Doesn’t matter. Just a suggestion. Enjoy!
I hope I don’t get arrested for telling this story. Here goes nothing….
As is usually the case, my dismal financial situation was hindering my ability to have an epic night. Luckily for me, I was at an open bar event. I think at the time I had $30 to my name, $10 of which was in my pocket. Granted, payday was just around the corner and would soon change all that, but on this particular night, $30 is all I had at my disposal.
I knew this going into the evening so the plan was keep to myself. Open bar be damned, I wasn’t spending any money on anything except the couple of dollars I would tip the bartender who served me and maybe if I was hungry, five dollars to one of those street food vendors on my walk home to the subway station.
The plan was going well. I received two drinks, tipping the bartender a dollar per drink and since I’m a lightweight, the drinks were taking their proper affect on my system. By the time I crunched my last ice cube in the second drink, I felt like being social. That’s how I ended up meeting this girl whose face was unfamiliar to me.
Usually these industry parties bring out the same old crowd, very rarely are new faces seen. But this girl’s face was new to me, and it was nice to look at too. Apparently, this was my lucky night because she had a friend with her whom I did know, and it was her who introduced the girl and I.
Of course, there would be no story to tell if the girl and I didn’t hit it off immediately.
There are people who meet and get along, then there are people who meet that know they’re going to sleep together right away. This girl and I were those people. Everything we were saying was so spot-on to each others ears, recapping the conversation would be pointless. Just know we were saying all the right things to the point where we didn’t even need a drink to make things more comfortable.
Since the event we were at was held during after-work hours, things were wrapping up around 10. The night was still young. The plan now was for me to get this girl to come over to my place, and I felt things were going well enough with her that I wouldn’t need to be savvy about it. Instead, I planned to ask her pointedly, “Would you like to come over.” But before I got the words out of my mouth she suggested another party.
That’s when I begin to worry. Remember, $30, that’s all I had, and even though I was the one being invited, I just knew I was going to have to come out of my pocket for something not in my budget, maybe pick up a cab fare or pay some sort of cover, probably drinks at the second party.
This left me with two options: 1) Decline the invitation, go home alone. 2) Accept the invitation and be super careful about my spending with the understanding, I still might be going home alone.
Of course, there wouldn’t be a story here if I chose option one. I went with option two and accepted the invitation with the carefree attitude of a man who had money to blow.
When we walked out of the party, the girl hailed down a cab as I was putting on my jacket and when we got in, she told the cab driver where to go. As it turns out, our stop was only but a mile away, so cab fare was going to be under $10. I could afford that. While we were in the cab, the girl made a phone call to a friend of hers who apparently was working the door at the next party we were headed to. “Hey, I’m on my way with a plus one, you got us?” I heard the person on the other end say “No problem.”
The cab pulled up to the party with a final fare of $7.00. I had $8 in my pocket, so I opened up my wallet to give him everything I had. The girl also already handled the situation at the door. So far, I felt like the nightlife gods were smiling on me.
Now the only dilemma I was going to have was with drinks. If this was really my night, the girl was going to avoid the bar like me, but as it turns out, the nightlife gods wanted to have fun with me
The very first thing the girl wanted to do was go to the bar and get a drink. As we walk up to the bar, I was doing all sorts of math in my head as to what each drink could possibly cost. Understand, the $20 I had left to spend was not “spending money”. Spending money implies there’s other money set aside I don’t spend.
The $20 I had was all my money, so the best I could do was one drink for her and a soda for me.
We arrived at the bar and she ordered a Jack Daniels neat. My kind of girl. I ordered a Coca-Cola neat. When I handed my card to the bartender, she said there was a $50 minimum on all card transations. Now here is where I tried to be slick.
If there was one thing I learned in my years working at restaurants with bars, it is actually against the rules to mandate some sort of credit card minimum. The reason why most places do it is because credit card companies take a little percentage for themselves from the money made off the purchase. At least, this is what I was told and to some extent I saw put in practice. Most corner stores in New york try to mandate a similar minimum, usually $5, but I always noticed how the regulars were able to put $1 or $2 purchases on their card, so really, it’s not like card machine wouldn’t work if a purchase was made under the minimum, most places just wanted it to take less of a hit.
With this knowledge stored in my head, I told the bartender the $50 wasn’t going to be a problem knowing I wasn’t about to buy anymore drinks. The girl was going to be plenty inebriated with that neat Jack Daniels in her hand, and I was sipping my Coke so slow you’d of thought it was a McDonald’s milkshake.
The girl and I enjoyed ourselves at the party, dancing and chatting each other up some more. When she got down to the last drop of her drink, she pounded the glass down and said she was ready to go, but she didn’t want to go to my place.
“Come with me back to my place,” she said.
“Okay, well, where do you live?” I asked.
“New Jersey, right over the river.”
Oh how the nightlife gods were laughing at me now.
Jersey wouldn’t be a problem for me if this girl had a car, but she didn’t. Jersey wouldn’t be a problem for me if we weren’t out past the time the $2 shuttle bus she said she usually takes home was operating, but it wasn’t. Jersey probably wouldn’t be a problem for me if I had money to blow on a cab to take us there, but I didn’t.
I wasn’t going to go home with this woman. I gave up once she said Jersey, and I told the girl Jersey wasn’t going to work for me. I had to go to work the next day (this was true) and I couldn’t afford to be late. The girl gave me a pout, I gave her a shrug, kissed her real quick and told her to wait where she was while I went to close my out tab.
At the bar, I told the bartender to close me out. It looks like the bartender is going to let me slide at the $50 minimum until she stops her hand, turns around, walks over an says, “Sir, $50 minimum.” That’s when I explained to this bartender my vast knowledge of how credit card machines work in places such as these but she wasn’t buying it. “Sir, if you don’t want to buy anything else to drink, you can either pay the balance in cash or I’m going to have to put a gratuity charge on this to get you to $50.” The balance was $12; that was $12 I didn’t have on my person, so I told the bartender to give me my card, hold my ID, and point me in the direction of an ATM.
The ATM was actually outside and down the block, so I went back to the girl and told her to hang tight for five more minutes while I ran tot he ATM, explaining to her I was going to be right back.
When I arrived at the ATM which was inside a corner store, I noticed the card given to me was not my card. It was the same bank, it definitely looked like my card, but that wasn’t my name on it. The name that was on it didn’t even belong to a person, it belonged to a company. The bartender accidentally gave me someone’s corporate card.
Now I was laughing with the nightlife gods.
Perhaps I should state the obvious here: If this was another person’s card, I would have done the honest thing, returned the card, asked for my card, and paid my tab in cash. But something about this situation was almost too good to be true. It was a corporate card, no one was going to get hurt if I used this card for my benefit. It’s not like I was about to go back to the bar to buy it out. I just thought I should live, if only for one night, on someone elses dime, especially the dime of a Fortune 500 company. In my head, I was like some sort of Robin Hood, stealing from the rich (the company the card belonged to) and giving back to the poor (me).
I made a mad dash back to the spot and a beeline to the bar where I waved down the bartender. Keeping my nerves in check, I politely told the bartender I was going to pay with my card, but not before ordering two shots of Jack for my new friend and I, and two bottles of water. That put my balance at $40, when she said I needed to spend $10 or be charged $50, I said calmly, “Okay, but only if that $10 goes to you.” The bartender smiled, closed out my tab, with my card and ID. I went over to the girl with the shots and she gave me a look.
“What are these for?” she asked.
“I’ll tell you in the cab,” I said.
“But I told you I need to go to my place and it’s in Jersey, I can’t stay with you tonight,” she said.
“I know, just drink up, then let’s get out of here. We’re taking a cab to your place.”
The girl and I took shots, I handed her a bottle of water, grabbed her hand and we made a beeline to the exit. The entire time I was holding my breath, hoping no one would stop me and call me a fraud.
Outside, on the street, I hailed down a cab and told the girl to tell him where we were going since I didn’t know. Then she looked at me and asked, “What’s going on? Why’d you change your mind.”
I told her about the credit card mix-up and how I wasn’t going to put $50 on my card if I didn’t order $50 worth of drinks. To my surprise, she didn’t freak out at any of this. Actually, she agreed with what I was saying and what I was doing. Her exact response was actually, “You need to call your bank and cancel your card right now.”
I did just that and by the time I was off the phone with my bankd, we had arrived at the girl’s apartment in Jersey.
Total cost of the cab ride, $70. Moment of truth was now: Would the corporate card still work or did the person whose corporate card it was call up their bank too. I slid the card in the cab’s credit card machine and waited for what was the longest five seconds of my life before the screen read,
The nightlife gods were smiling on me tonight. The girl and I walked into her apartment where the very first thing I asked for was a pair of scissors. She handed them to me and I took the corporate card and cut it up over her trash. The next day, she covered the $2 shuttle bus fare back into the city.
The Process: Yeah, about that whole running two miles every day this week? Day two of this week and the number of miles run is still 0.
Poppin’ Questions Podcast: Episode 27 going up this afternoon. Hit me on my Formspring or email me at email@example.com for a question to be considered for Episode 28. Listen to Episode 26 in the meantime.
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