My room was in shambles after a prolonged, desperate search for a red and green Christmas card envelope. Drawers I had pulled out lay empty on the floor. Empty grocery bags and wrapping paper floated down around me like deflating balloons, but it was nowhere to be found.
You can imagine my horror when I finally stumbled upon the partially shredded envelope — alongside two halves of a hundred dollar bill — lying at the bottom of my trash can.
The mystery was fairly easy to solve; nevertheless, I put on my Sherlock-esque trench coat and puffed on a metaphorical pipe for a while, purely for drama’s sake. The card was from my grandmother and had been placed inside another, larger envelope for safe-keeping. The culprit, upon discovering that the card in the larger envelope contained no tidings of college student Christmas joy, had ripped it in half and discarded it. Case closed.
Now I had a bigger problem. I was out a hundred bucks, and in this economy, or any economy, I needed that hundred bucks. I held the two halves of the bill, split right ‘twixt Ben’s ears, in my hand. Was it ruined forever? Was it still worth $50 per half? Could it be repaired?
There was only one way to find out.
It only took several strips of transparent tape to bring the two pieces back together. Ben’s face looked relatively unbroken. I felt like a forger. To be honest, I took extra measures to generate this feeling; the coal miner’s headlamp strapped to my forehead was the only light in the dark room as I pieced the dilapidated bill back together. This gift was worth a dozen or so trips to Slader’s Alaskan dumplings — college student Christmas joy indeed.
However, I needed a less conspicuous place to make the exchange. Pulling one over on my favorite restaurant was not high on my to-do list that week, so I settled on a gas station instead.
My palms were sweaty as I handed the cashier, a 20-something with double lip piercings, my stitched-up Frankenstein bill. I asked for 10 dollars on pump seven, plus a package of Trident Layers. Her hand closed around the fragmented paper. It crinkled slightly at the seam, as only a strip of transparent tape will do. For a fleeting second I felt like the jig was up. My brain told me to run, but my legs said no sir.
Then she nodded her head, punched a few buttons on the register, put my gum in a bag and handed me my change — wholesome, legal sheets of currency, with no remnants of tape or shame to taint their soft green features.
The woman gave me a look, as if to ask why I was still there, leafing through my cash.
“You’re good to go,” she said, with more than a hint of judgmental amusement.
Oh sister, if only you knew, I thought. But I wasn’t going to blow this, not here at the 11th hour. After all, I had done it. I had pulled off the impossible.
It wasn’t until the next day that I learned the truth about my heist. Needless to say, I was quite torn up to learn that “mutilated” currency is perfectly valid, as long as at least 50 percent of the bill is present. The Federal Reserve Bank Services further explains that any “badly soiled, dirty, defaced, disintegrated, limp, torn or worn out currency note that is clearly more than one-half of the original note, and does not require special examination to determine its value, is not considered mutilated.”
Regardless of legal dictations, I will continue to tell this story my own way. I saved Ben’s life; that is all anybody needs to know.