I enjoy the occasional prop bet as much as the next man – well, more than the next man if I’m being honest with you. I say that it never hurts to make a question more interesting by putting some money on the outcome.
A few times in college, I offered other students various amounts of money if they could eat a certain amount of a certain food in a certain amount of time… ten bucks for a bottle of mustard in fifteen minutes, twenty for a jar of grape jelly in ten minutes, forty for a gallon of Pace thick and chunky salsa in an hour. None of those three finished, and two of them threw up.
The most I ever had to pay out was $100, when one of my friends jumped into a sewage canal fully dressed and swam fifty yards to a ladder he could climb out on. Never bet against a drunk person doing something stupid.
Remember when I said that I pick my teeth with staples at work? I wasn’t lying. Well, it bothers the girl who sits closest to me, so we came up with a decent bet (if you can call it a bet): every time I pick my teeth with staples, I put a dollar in the jar between our desks. She has to put a dollar in every time she checks her Blackberry Pearl for messages. We didn’t really plan what we would do with the money after it accumulated for a while, but we had the feeling that we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.
But another co-worker (Peggy, who happens to be my cousin) surprised us with a concern we hadn’t considered. “Someone is going to steal that money,” she said, pointing to the three dollars that I had dropped in the jar that morning.
“Surely not,” I said. “The employees here have integrity, class.”
But Peggy was unconvinced. “I wouldn’t be so sure,” she said.
And of course, being myself, I chimed, “well, care to make it interesting?”
In a minute, we had another prop bet on. If the money stayed in the jar for more than two days, Peggy would owe me four dollars. If it was stolen within a day, I would owe Peggy four dollars. If it was stolen on the second day, we would call it a push.
The first day, the first night passed. Evening came and morning followed. The money remained. Satisfied and confident, I let Peggy know that I couldn’t lose – that the best she could hope for now was a tie… and then I went home. Evening came and morning followed.
The second day, I came into the office to find the money gone, the jar empty. That was it, stolen and done.
I emailed Peggy my congratulations on her narrow escape, and was content to let it go at that. Until…
Evening came and morning followed, and on that morning of the third day, I noticed three crisp dollar bills in the bottom of the jar.
And paperclipped to the front, there was a thin strip of typewritten paper. I fished it out, and read it:
“Sorry, I took the three dollars for lunch money. Here’s some extra back.” Sure enough, beneath the bills were four shiny quarters. 33% interest, not bad. But not enough to cover my forfeited winnings from the bet.
I didn’t know whether to leave a scathing note back in the jar and hope that the mysterious borrower would return for another loan… or to cut my losses.
And then the “wait just one minute” moment occurred. Wait just one minute, I said to myself. The money was taken after I had left for the evening and before I had come in in the morning. So it was either a late worker or an extremely early riser… ok. But then why would this person steal money “for lunch” early in the morning or late at night? Breakfast money, perhaps. Money for a late-night snack, I can see. But lunch money? Really? Or is there a more sinister explanation?
And a possibility occurred to me. Maybe Peggy was just saving herself from losing the bet. Maybe those quarters she left afterwards were the product of a guilty conscience. Maybe she taken three and given four when she should have left the three and lost the four.
And I have two questions. Did Peggy take that money? And if she did, was she cheating, or did she just pull the wool over my eyes?