Monday, May 15, 2017

Let no good deed go deflated

For about two years I’ve been driving around with a movie ticket stub on my car console. It was the stub for a movie that I had to see at the time, but now I can’t even remember the title. It was about the Beach Boys. The acting was good, but I can’t remember the name of the actor who played the lead and I can’t remember which Beach Boy he was playing. That’s all I can recall. It was a good idea at the time.

In order to see this film that I can’t recall, I had to go to a small independent theater out of my usual travel-safe zone. I rather like this theater because it’s not part of one of those big chains and it shows films that aren’t showing in the big-box theaters. I was feeling slightly feisty just to be going there alone, in rush-hour traffic no less. Feisty until I got to the ticket window and found that I had left my wallet at home. I dumped the contents of my over-size purse on the dirty floor, thinking somehow my wallet had become lodged behind a crumpled Kleenex. There was no one else in line, so my crazy old lady-ness wasn’t an issue. No wallet. I looked at the ticket clerk in dismay, said “I’ve driven here on the beltway from McLean. I can’t go back and get my wallet in time. How can I be such a fool?”
The clerk took pity on me, said, “It’s okay, ma’am. Here’s a ticket. Just come back and pay for it when you get a chance.”
“I will! I promise I will come back and pay you. Thank you so much for your kindness.” I didn’t have the nerve to ask him if I could have popcorn too.
The promise to come back and pay for the ticket burned my conscience every time I saw the stub on the dashboard. It burned for months, into years. The ticket stub just sat in my car turning yellow from time and sun exposure.
Recently, I veered off my beaten path to drive to the theater to purge the guilt of not repaying the theater. I walked up to the ticket window where a bored teenage girl sat, staring vacantly. With the jauntiness of someone feeling slightly smug about her good deed, I handed the clerk the ticket stub, told her a brief version of my story, and gave her a ten-dollar bill.
She looked at the stub and said, “The stub says six dollars.”
My Polly Sunshine self said, “Oh, it’s okay. Just keep the ten dollars. Consider it interest paid on my debt.”
She took the ten and continued to stare vacantly.