Friday, June 5, 2009

Luck comes in many forms

Note #1: Only peripheral poker content in this post.
Note #2: Despite the contents of this blog entry, I actually go through most days making hundreds of perfectly sound decisions with absolutely no stupidity at all. I only blog the outliers.

As mentioned in a previous post, the Wall Street Poker League ran a very successful tournament series to send one of our representatives to Vegas to play in a WSOP event this year. The winner, "Big" Paul Weiss, won $2,500 of a $3,000 grand prize (the other ($500 got chopped as 2nd and 3rd place the day of the big tourney). The grand prize was not going to get paid out until the winner showed intention to honor the agreement and travel to Vegas. Well, Paul did his part and showed me his travel plans and we made arrangements to hand off the money today at noon. I picked the Upper West Side as the hand-off location because I've been showing my girlfriend's apartment to prospective renters and I was going to make three showings today.

So, I got up this morning at 7:00am (the first showing was 8:15a) and put 25 hundred dollar bills into a security envelope (the ones that are lined so you can't see what's in them), sealed it and wrote Paul's name on it in big letters. Then I packed it into my laptop bag and headed to the apartment.

The first showing was a nice gentleman who worked at Deutsche Bank. He and his wife were just starting to look for apartments and it seemed like he liked our place but wasn't thrilled with the view (a common theme). He left graciously and it was not 8:30a. My next showing wasn't until 12:30p and I was meeting Paul at Shake Shack at 12:00p to hand over the money. I figured the best thing for me to do was to set myself up at the local Starbucks with my laptop, take over a table, and make it my office for the next 3 hours.

Things went swimmingly at first. I was having my coffee and bagel and everything was peachy. I played a little poker, did a little job research and bought a few items for a really cool crafts project I'm planning to make(hey, unemployment leaves me with lots of time). About two hours in, the coffee and bagel took effect and the men's room called. Here's where logistics comes in.

I needed to go to the men's room but I didn't want to leave the envelope stuffed with $2,500 in cash in my laptop bag. Yes, it would probably be safe, tucked away in my bag, but why take the chance. I was much more comfortable leaving the laptop, because that's only worth about $700 retail and it's out in the open with lots of people watching it anyway. But if someone wanted to walk away with my laptop bag, I reasoned, it would be less noticeable and the thief would gain a nice bonus. So I did what I thought was reasonable and I took the envelope with me to the men's room. Just for clarification, the men's room is really a single unisex bathroom with a locking door, so it's not shared while in use.

Walking towards the bathroom, the envelope in my hand, I got the notion that I didn't want the envelope in plain sight, lest someone do a snatch-and-dash on me. So I tucked it in between my zipped up hoodie and my t-shirt. Note that I did NOT put it in my jeans pocket. Everything was fine right until I business. Ali called me on my cell phone and I took the call. So there I was, all set to wash my hands, with a cell phone in my hand. So I (you can see this coming, right?) took the envelope. Out of my hoodie. And placed it on the sink. So I could wash my hands and balance my phone on my neck without fear that the envelope would fall out.

And that, my friends, was the dumbest thing I've done in a LOOOOOOONG time.

Needless to say, I finished washing my hands while I was talking to Ali and proceeded to walk straight out of the Starbuck's bathroom, with an envelope stuffed with $2,500 in cold hard cash sitting on the sink. Just writing that sentence is making me throw up a little in my mouth.

I sat back down at my laptop, finished my conversation and got back to surfing the web. It was 11:45a, a full 45 minutes later, when I was packing up to go, that the first wave of panic hit. The envelope was not in sight. I double-checked, triple-checked my bags and my person. The second wave of panic hit. This one was stronger. I was immediately frantic. My mind went in 12 directions at once. Did someone steal it while I wasn't looking? Did I leave it somewhere? Was I pickpocketed? Is there some chance I can figure out who? Is there a camera with tape in this place?

All of those thoughts cascaded through my mind and I broke out into a flop-sweat, just like in the comic strip Cathy. The barrista closest to me was looking at me funnily, almost with a look of recognition in her eyes. So I posed the hopeful question: "Did someone return an envelope to you?". It only took her a second to respond but it felt like that second stretched out into an hour. She nodded, careful not to describe anything. I filled in the blanks for her. "It has the name Paul Weiss on it". She broke into a smile and the tension lifted. "Yeah, they have it in the back."

I collected the envelope, still sealed amazingly enough, and tipped the staff $20 for their kindness. It's amazing to think that if I hadn't used a security envelope, or if the patron who had found it hadn't returned it, or if the Starbucks staff was a little less scrupulous, I would have been out $2500 and personally funded Paul's trip to Vegas. And that would have been a shitty situation.

As is, it was a full FOUR HOURS, before I recovered from the event psychologically. And I really hope this fills my quota for incredibly dumb things I've done this year. My body can't handle any more.

1 comment:

chris said...

holy crap!!! that is crazy. my heart rate picked up just reading about it. wow, so glad they had it and gave it back, and that you sealed the envelope and wrote paul's name on it... the employees were prob trying to guess how much was in there. well, there are good/honest people out there.