From now on, I’ll keep the mail and the cash

Kristine Gill

It’s happened a dozen times since we moved into our first apartment this summer. Mail for previous residents gets sent to their old address and we new tenants are stuck with it. At first it was junk mail, and I took it upon myself to spare Sally or Jim the trouble by ripping up credit card offers and pitching them. I even took it upon myself to pitch those irritating utility bills to lessen financial burdens for Sally and Jim. Then a package came.

I was curious. Inside was Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” framed and accompanied by a card thanking someone named something like Sally for a job well done at her summer internship. Now it was personal. I didn’t want to pitch that package, but it didn’t match the decor in our apartment. So I did what any well-intentioned Samaritan would do. I duct taped the package shut again and prominently displayed it on the kitchen counter for a few weeks while I wondered how much it would cost to ship it back to the sender.

I eventually commissioned my mother to take care of the package, which despite my initial thoughts, had blended quite nicely with our apartment decor once a fine layer of dust had settled on the top of the box.

A few weeks ago, I got a greeting card in the mail. I was curious. Was it a birthday card? Was it a kinky love letter? Did it contain money? I opened the card. It was a Christmas card and, as if to add to the suspense created by that last monetary question, the card unfolded in three layers. Under the last flap of generic Christmas wishes, was a crisp $20 bill.

Mother of God. Free cash. I triumphantly thrust the bill high into the air, then looked down to read the card. It was signed: Grandma DuBois.


Now that thing called guilt started to creep up. I could a) take the cash, pitch the card and buy a sandwich; b) take the cash, burn the card and buy a shirt; or c) return the card and the cash and regret it for weeks to come.

The sandwich was delicious.

No! I kid! I sent the card and the money back to Grandma and told her what had happened in a messy, hand-written note. I was sure to explain that I assumed the mail was for me as I opened it.

During one of our post-Christmas shopping excursions, my sister and I went to Target. She had a gift card to spend and wisely chose to invest in a lava lamp rather than wait to purchase a necessity. At the checkout, the total came to $5. My head snapped up at Katie as the attendant read the amount. Our eyes locked and time slowed as we each did impressive mental math. Katie’s eyes narrowed. The lava lamp had not been rung up, yet it was sitting in a bag, ready for the taking, free.

In a James Bond-esque move, I put my finger to my lips without the clerk seeing. Katie got the message, but in a fatal, reflexive moment, her mouth opened and words stumbled forth.

“Um…wait…did you get it all?”

NO! The attendant laughed, thanked my sister and charged her the full $15. We walked out of Target feeling like schmucks. Katie wasn’t trying to be nice. She wasn’t trying to be moral or honest. She had a knee-jerk reaction that cost her 10 precious gift-card dollars.

The moral of this story is: Don’t be moral. Keep Grandma’s money. No one will know. And let Joan ring you up for the wrong total. The worst that can happen is she gets the rack when a lava lamp goes missing on her watch. Just don’t be a sucker. If you stumble upon cold, hard cash, it’s your lucky day.

Kristine Gill is a junior newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater who never plans on doing something nice for a stranger ever again. Contact her at [email protected].