“Can You Break a Fifty?”

That’s what I should have said. Alas, I didn’t say that, and was nearly robbed of forty dollars.

My current paying guest paid his rent all in fifties. I set out that morning knowing I needed to break one, to give him change. After enough of the day went by that I wasn’t thinking about fifties anymore, I drove through a fast food place and paid with a fifty, because that was all I had.

When I received change from a ten, at first I was confused. I told the cashier I gave her a fifty. She immediately replied, “No ma’am, I don’t have any fifties in my drawer.” Now that I think of it, that may have been a literal truth – she was gone from the window long enough to go into the back and put it in her purse.

I counted my money and determined a fifty was gone. I mentally reviewed my day and realized I had not had a ten dollar bill. I parked and went inside and repeated that I gave her a fifty.

“No ma’am, I don’t have any fifties in my drawer.”

After I made an ugly scene and dialed the police, a different employee gave me the missing forty dollars. There was no manager on duty. If all the employees had been in it together and stuck to their story, I would have been defenseless.

From now on (until I forget), anytime I pay with a large bill, I’m going to say, “Can you break a fifty?” That way we all know I’m handing over a large bill and there’s no room for confusion, error, or con artistry.

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