A Test of Character on El Camino Real


The bill wasn't nearly this crumpled when it caught my eye. I was on my bicycle, navigating a treacherous segment of sidewalk, making the big dangerous turn onto El Camino Real. Traffic is never light at this corner. Never. The rest of the valley can be snuggled up warm and informed in front of their PCs at home, but there's always something doing here.

The bill was folded in half and so smooth that I expected to it be a cleverly camouflaged ad for LOZANO'S BRUSHLESS CARWASH. That I'd feel like a fool for stopping my bike and stooping to pick it up. That some cruel someone was watching, knowing that a gullible soul would fall for the oldest trick around -- the wallet on a string, the phony hundred. That greed and curiousity could turn me from a commuter into a dupe.

But no. It had the guileless look of fresh U.S. currency on both sides. Smooth, smooth, green on green.

A Supernote? Skeptical, skeptical, it pays to be skeptical. I held the bill up so the sun could shine through. The telltale plastic strip showed through.

I looked around. No pedestrians nearby. No one loitering outside the liquor store. No one waiting for the Santa Clara County Transit bus. Nobody on the bench just killing time, drinking a nameless brew from a brown paper sack. Cars rushed by, Mercedes, BMWs, Lexuses.

Did this portrait of Ben Franklin flit from the purse of a smooth-haired well-coiffed matron? Did one of those cavelier Yups let it slip through his fingers while he was lighting a cigar? Those waifs, smoking a joint in the 7-11 parking lot, talking on their cell phones -- could it be theirs? Everyone is in their Silicon Valley bubble, ignoring everyone else.

It is a certain test of virtue, this C note, a measure of character.

I will not tell you what I did with it. I wouldn't want you to think of me in that way.


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