I found a $100 bill, and didn’t know what to do with it…

Walking out of St. Peter’s after Mass yesterday, I bent to pick up a cough drop wrapper from the sidewalk. A fellow parishioner walking up behind me joked, “If that’s a hundred-dollar bill, it’s mine.”

“Funny you should say that,” I told him…

My wife and I spend most of the weekend raking and bagging pine straw. My estimate is that we filled, and put by the curb, 50 39-gallon lawn and leaf bags (our trash people won’t take it unless it’s bagged). I say “estimated” because on Saturday night, someone in the neighborhood took about half of what we had bagged that day. They’re welcome to it, but it threw off my count, but it was somewhere close to 50 bags.

After we ran out of the bags we had on hand late Saturday, I went to Walmart to get some more, along with a couple of other items I needed. But when I got to the checkout, I had forgotten my wallet.

100_bill_back-565x246So, I ran home, apologized profusely because I knew the sun would be down before I completed another round trip, and rushed back to Walmart. And when I got out of my car and started to rush in, there, on the pavement between my car and the SUV next to it, was the sight at right.

“That’s not…” but I bent and picked it up, and it was — a crisp, new, $100 bill, folded in half and dropped on the grubby tarmac. (My initial doubt arose partly from that cheesy, block “100” that makes the new bills look cheap and phony.)

I’ve never found that much money. Have you?

I didn’t know what to do. The chances of finding the person it belonged to inside Walmart during Christmas shopping season seemed dim. What would I do — get customer service to get on the P.A. and say, “Did anyone lose a hundred-dollar bill?” That didn’t seem practical. I started to walk in and figure it out on the way, and was about to stick it in my pocket while I walked, but suddenly got a shock of “Candid Camera” paranoia. What if this was a prank, and I was being watched? Sticking it in my pocket would look like I had decided to keep it. So I held it up in front of me so anyone could see I had not appropriated it for my own, and looked about ostentatiously.

I decided — not because it was certain, but I felt that I had to decide something (remember, I was in a hurry) — that it must have come from the SUV. A passenger had gotten out, and in sticking a handful of things into his or her pocket, dropped it. I figured I would concentrate on trying to return the bill to whoever had been in the SUV, because if the money belonged to anyone else, my chances of finding that person were close to nil.

So I walked around the SUV. It was dark green, with a couple of Dallas Cowboy stickers on the back window. Not helpful. With my phone, I took a picture of the license plate. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with that, but it seemed it could be handy in a last-ditch effort to find the people it belonged to.

Then I thought, “Maybe it’s unlocked!” So I tried the passenger-side front door, the one closest to where I’d found the bill — and it opened!

And immediately, the antitheft alarm started blowing the horn, over and over (did you know that would happen with an unlocked door? never having had a car with an antitheft system, I did not). Got to get this over with! I dropped the bill onto the seat, and closed the door. Then I walked slowly and casually into the store. The whole way, with that obnoxious horn blowing behind me, I expected to be accosted by someone who thought I was trying to take something from the vehicle — and kept imagining how that conversation would go: No, actually, I was trying to put a $100 bill into that vehicle that didn’t belong to me…

But I made it, eventually found my way to the register where I’d left my stuff, paid for it and headed out.

Immediately when I got outside, I noted that the alarm had stopped blowing. As I approached the two vehicles, I could make out that there was someone in the driver’s seat of the SUV, just sitting there looking down at his phone. A young man, black, about 30-40 years old. I tapped on the window, he opened the door, and I asked, “Was your alarm going off when you came out?” He said it was, and he was calling someone about it. I told him what had happened.

“Did you find the bill on the seat?” He said yes, he had. Good, then, I said, and started to leave. And with real feeling, he said, “You have a blessed day!” You too, I said.

Note that I didn’t ask him whether the money was his. I left it up to him to tell me if it wasn’t. I was just happy to have concluded the business in a way that was good for somebody. I went home, and managed to fill of three or four of the new bags before it got too dark out.

It was only on the way home that I wondered, Where was the person who had been in the passenger seat? And if there hadn’t been anyone in the passenger seat, how did the bill fall on that side of the vehicle? I decided he had dropped it on his side, and wind had blown it under the SUV to the other side. Except, I reminded myself, there had been no wind that day while I was working outside.

Whatever. As I type this, I recall that there was a bunch of stuff sitting on that passenger seat — a jacket or sweater and several other items — and I had just dropped the bill among the clutter. So… that would indicate that maybe no one had been sitting there. Which means… oh, I don’t know.

I think it was his money. But honestly, I was just glad to get rid of it.

A brief postscript: On Sunday, as we were about to resume bagging up the pine straw, I walked up to a pile of it right by the curb, and… there was a $20 bill there. I said, this one I’m keeping, and stuck it in my pocket, thereby increasing the amount of money I had on me by 2,000 percent. It was on my property, after all. And we laughed. But we knew it probably belonged to our daughter, because she sometimes parks in that very spot.

I meant to ask her about it when she got home from work last night. I forgot…

37 thoughts on “I found a $100 bill, and didn’t know what to do with it…

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    Compost your leaves next time–or better yet, mow over them with a lawnmower a few times. Great for the soil. Free fertilizer.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That’s what I would do if I had LEAVES. This is pine straw. I’ve always heard that the PH levels in pine straw were bad. Also, unlike leaves, they don’t ever seem to decompose.

      You have to understand that we have a thick mat of it that kills what little grass we have left.

      One thing I thought of doing was to try to use it to smother the vast field of poison ivy that we get every year, back in the “wild” part of our huge yard. But I wasn’t sure it would work, and I didn’t like the idea of having several feet of pine straw back there, concealing who knows what…

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Nope. Pine straw is great mulch and fine to leave, after you mow it–maybe a couple of times, if you have a really thick layer. It won’t smother poison ivy/oak–ever been in piney woods? That stuff loves pine straw. There’s a special Round-up type spray you can use in the spring on the leaves, though.

        You may want to check your soil in the spring if you are a serious lawn person, but you should do an annual soil test anyway before you use unnecessary chemicals. (Thanks, Rowland Alston.) Several internet sources say the pH issue is bogus–the issue with growing grass under trees is shade. If you have a thick mat of needles in the fall, mowing over a few times it will speed the breakdown.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I am far from being a “serious lawn person,” as a glance at my lawn will tell you. Basically, I just want to give what little ground cover I have (a distressingly small percentage of it is what you would call “grass” any more) a chance to live and keep its root system in order to check erosion, because I’m on a hill.

          Just FYI, we’re composters, big time — have done it for decades. And we don’t believe in chemicals — but we’ve violated our own principles when it comes to poison ivy, which really has reached nightmarish proportions. I’ve sprayed poison on it the last couple of seasons — a herculean task, there’s so much of it — and felt enormously guilty about it. But you have to see what happens to me if I come in contact with the stuff. I have to do a course of prednisone pills to have any chance of getting the gigantic blisters to stop erupting on my body….

            1. Norm Ivey

              Wow. That’s a lot of poison ivy. If you have access to goats, let ’em go to town on it in the spring. They love it, and the oils don’t affect them. Only humans are allergic to poison ivy.

              If you’re going to use chemicals (and I admire your reluctance), find one that’s specifically formulated for poison ivy. Most pesticides are designed for killing herbaceous nuisance weeds, but poison ivy is a woody plant and needs something stronger.

            2. scout

              Wow that is a lot of poison ivy. I learned the hard way, and in case you don’t know, in addition to leaves of three, and reddish stems – when it grows up trees, it can look like a big hairy leafless vine. You have enough of it back there that you could have a big hairy vine going up one of those trees. If you ever venture in, watch out for that.

              On the upside, if you want an upside, birds love the berries. It doesn’t affect them either. So wildlife thanks you.

              You could put on a haz mat suit and pull it all out by hand. Whatever you do, don’t burn it. That is very bad.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            Yeah, with poison ivy/oak, I am perilously close to having the dreaded secondary reaction that sends you to the ER. Fortunately, I have gotten extremely good at avoiding it.

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              There are services that rent out goats to eat brush.

              –although I am sure your grandchildren would prefer you just get a couple.

  2. Doug Ross

    Not sure I would have opened a car door to try and return the bill. Maybe a note on the windshield saying “If you lost some money in the parking lot, call XXX-XXXX.” Then you could have asked for specifics.

    Opposite side of the car from driver? I think you just became his Secret Santa.

  3. Bryan Caskey

    Good for you. Reminds me of an old joke that my economics professor at W&L used to tell, as a description of how some economists think of “efficient markets”. This is basically the idea that consistent excess returns in financial markets (i.e. free money) are impossible because market prices reflect all available information. The rationale behind the efficient markets hypothesis is that there are plenty of people and firms (hedge funds, etc.) just waiting to take advantage of any mispricing in the market, and capitalizing on these opportunities tends to adjust prices such that the opportunities go away.

    Anyway, that’s a long run up to the joke:

    An economist and a normal person are walking down the street together. The normal person says “Hey, look, there’s a $190 bill on the sidewalk!” The economist replies by saying “That’s impossible- if it were really a $100 bill, it would have been picked up by now.”

    I know, I know. Jokes about economic theory are not exceptionally funny. I guess that’s why you don’t see too many economics professors on the comedy circuit.

  4. Bob Amundson

    I found a $100 bill on Christmas Day several years ago, right next to a truck parked on a street in the Rosewood Neighborhood. I knocked on the door of the house nearest the truck, handed the person the $100 bill, and said, be careful, you lost this, and walked away.

    Good karma; my wife and I look for change as we walk. This year we have a quart jar more than half full of change; wife Joan counts the money each New Year’s Eve. Last year we found over $27, and this year it will be more. We’ve found several hundred dollars over the years in change and bills.

    We have learned where to look, usually in places where people have to reach into pockets for keys, or near schools. Owens Field Park in the Rosewood Neighborhood is a prime spot, as many sporting activities occur there, and we live adjacent to the park. Just today I was taking my Monday walk around Owens Field Park with dog Bonehead, looking for change. I noticed a very small coin reflecting in the morning’s sunlight, and it was clearly not an U.S. penny, nickel, dime or quarter.

    The coin was a 1857 Sitting Liberty Half-Dime, value probably about $20. It goes into the container of old and foreign coins and currency we’ve collected over the years, all of which will become a gift to grandson Rhys when he is old enough to appreciate numismatics.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      I never find any change or other cash in my neighborhood–the students use plastic, I surmise. I have found unopened cans of beer on multiple occasions. The beer fairy?

  5. Rose

    My mother and I once found several bills scattered in store parking lot that totaled over $100 – I think was something like 130. We asked a clerk if anyone had reported losing money. No one had, so we donated the money to the local food bank.

  6. Dave Crockett

    Mine is not quite as entertaining a story….

    Back when my now 35-year-old son was but a wee tyke of 4 (or so), he rode with me to the local 7-11 to put gas in my car. As he was assisting, we both noticed a $20 bill on the ground next to the pump. I, too, was faced with the conundrum of keep-it-and-count-my-blessings or make it a learning moment of sorts. For the eternity of 3-5 seconds I wrestled with the question and then, looking at my son’s innocent face, I said “Well, someone clearly lost this and he may really miss it. Let’s turn it in to the clerk in case the owner comes back…” And we proceeded to do just that.

    I’ve often wondered if the clerk dealt with the same conundrum. My cynical side doubts that he had a four-year-old watching him debate the question…

    Years later, I recounted the story to my son. He hasn’t the faintest memory of the incident. But maybe, just maybe, the owner of the money DID come back and maybe the clerk made his day. I hope so.

    1. Norm Ivey

      This isn’t quite the same, but I worked part-time for an auctioneer for several years. While I was unpacking a box I found several hundred dollars tucked into the bottom of a piece of pottery. I turned it over to the auctioneer, who in turn returned it to the consignor.

      Later, when I had my own license (no longer hold it), I was setting up a house for sale and found a couple of thousand dollars hidden throughout the house, which I also returned to the consignor. I’ve always wondered how much I missed…..

  7. Bart

    Not the same as finding money but when we lived in Roanoke, actually Vinton, Va., one day at the local supermarket, the meat department had made a mistake and marked a stack of steaks at $.25 each. My first instinct was to get as many as I could in the basket and check-out before the error was caught. As I started to walk away, the realization that what I was about to do was the same as stealing. My wife and I went back and called the department manager and told him about the mistake. He almost fainted. Honesty pays, he gave us 2 steaks at $.25 a pound. Afterwards, when we went into the market, he always made sure we got the best cuts at the best price he could approve. When a young couple with a baby is struggling to make ends meet, doing the right thing still matters.

    You did the right thing Brad.

  8. Barry

    Just 2 weeks ago my nephew – a 9th grader- found something of value at his school that someone had lost.

    He turned it into his teacher.

    A week later he was awarded the student of the month at his high school. His teacher said that the administrators gave him the award because- in their opinion- only a small percentage of the students at the school would have done the same in their opinion.

    Sad- but glad for my nephew.

      1. Barry

        huh? uh – Those low expectations are reinforced every day of the week. They aren’t just making stuff up.

        Just today at my wife’s school – a 6th grade student slapped another student so hard that it put severe marks on her face.

        Last month, two 6th grade students got into a fight at her school and the resource officer had to be summoned to break it up. When the officer got control of things, one of the girls started attacking him- a police officer in full uniform.

      2. Barry

        You should give one of these middle schools a try and see what happens with your expectations.

        It’s easy to say such things sitting above it all.

        One of my wife’s fellow teachers is in her first year teaching after a successful career in private business. She gave it up to teach.

        My wife has told me repeatedly that she sees crying many mornings in her class before students arrive because of the discipline issues that she faces in her class- that have no real answer.

        My wife was put on medication a less than a month ago for her similar issues. My wife says her team leader says that at least 50% of the teachers at her school are on some sort of medication to deal with school issues that leave many of them disappointed, frustrated, sad, etc.

        It’s not all related to discipline. Many of these kids come from homes that are so damaged that calling them “broken homes” is too kind.

  9. Motte'sMom

    You’re a far more honest man than I, Brad.
    After FINALLY finding a spot to park in the spookiest parking deck in downtown
    Columbia, I’m rushing in to make my gynecologist appt, spy a crumpled something on the pavement and BINGO.
    Made my day.

  10. Leon Smith

    You are going to think that I am crazy but my wife backs me up on this story. This really happened. When we go to bed at night we toss all those decorative pillows sitting at the head of the bed onto the floor. One morning several years ago my wife got up from bed and asked me where the money had come from. I got up to see what she was talking about and on one of those pillows unceremoniously tossed on the floor the night before was a neat little stack of six crisp $20 bills. To this day we have no idea where that money came from. I even checked our bank accounts online to see if one of use had sleep-driven to the bank and used one of our atm cards to withdraw the money. We had not, of course. We considered it pennies from heaven and we gave the money to a friend in need.

    1. Norm Ivey

      That jogged my memory—
      When I was in high school, I found $22.00 in Daddy’s truck–2 tens and a two-dollar bill. Nobody in the family claimed it, and the only non-family we could think of that may have lost it also did not claim it. I put it to a rather ignoble use. I played pinball for a week.

  11. Karen Pearson

    Kathryn, I’ve never found any money over a quarter, but someone threw a full six-pack of beer right beside my house. Brad, if I find myself involved with poison ivy (and I try hard to avoid it), I go straight to the doctor for prednisone. I recommend the goat.

  12. Kathryn Fenner

    When I was a kid, I found $20 in a motel parking lot. My little brother decided to go see what he could find, but all he found was a book of Green Stamps.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *