It started with a dollar bill.
Growing up, it was always the same…
“But Mom, it’s only a penny!”
“It starts by picking up a penny. Next it will be a nickel. Then a quarter. Pretty soon, you’ll find a thousand dollars and won’t think twice about keeping it. It’s a slippery slope.”
I always thought this line of reasoning illogical, but this oft repeated refrain ingrained itself in my subconscious and kept me bypassing all that loose change for the last twenty years.
That is until I found the chair and ottoman on Craigslist.
Having recently moved into a new apartment, I was in need of furniture—an ottoman or coffee table to be exact. I had tried various furniture stores and shopping centers but couldn’t find anything within my budget that I liked. Taking a moment to scroll through Craigslist, I came upon a headline: “Chair and Ottoman – $10.” The color wasn’t ideal and the chair itself wasn’t gorgeous, but the seller lived nearby and the price couldn’t be beat. I exchanged emails with the seller and set up a time to see it.
As the evening rolled around, I decided it would be beneficial to be prepared with the money in case I decided to buy the chair and ottoman (C&O). Wouldn’t you know it? My cash stash was low. A $5 bill, three $1s, and some quarters.
That’s when I remembered…
For my thesis, I had checked a book out from my library. Flipping through it the night before, I had found a dollar bill slid in among the pages. I had planned to leave it there – childhood indoctrination after all – but then I wouldn’t have enough for my purchase. I faced a moral crisis.
Flipping to the back of the book, I looked at the check-out dates. This particular book was old school. It was stamped with the previous readers’ due date. The book hadn’t been checked out since December 12, 1994 – 24 years ago. Would someone really miss this dollar bill? Is someone coming back for it? Taking a deep breath, I made my choice. I snatched the dollar out of the book and stuffed it in my wallet.
As the time for meeting my C&O person drew near, I had reasoned out exactly what the scenario would be. The chair belonged to a young woman who wanted to rid herself of this giant piece of furniture, but she lived on the second story and had no one to haul the chair away. Why else would she leave a rather ugly chair on Craigslist for a week and only be charging $10. I planned to stop by after work and check it out. If I liked it, I would come back to get it with help. If I didn’t, I could claim my lack of transportation as a means to extradite myself from the situation.
“Are you sure you want to go to this strange person’s house by yourself?” I was asked.
“No one who sells an ugly chair for $10 on Craigslist is going to be a serial killer. They would have something much more enticing than that chair.”
The time of the meeting arrived, and I climbed the narrow flight of stairs to apartment 612. Taking a deep breath and double checking my directions, I raised my hand and knocked. I stepped back waiting for C&O girl to answer. After a few moments, I heard the unbolting of a lock. The door opened.
Instead of my petite, brunette C&O girl, it was a 6’2, blond-haired gym-short wearing, white-shirted, 30-something-year-old C&O guy. He shook my hand, introduced himself, and opened the door for me to enter. I stood on the threshold, my mind quickly recalibrating to absorb this new information. Is this a wise decision, Angela? The guy’s cross necklace gave me a little reassurance so I took a deep breath and stepped inside. The door clicked shut behind me.
“This is the chair,” he said leading me farther into his living room. “It’s 5-years-old but still in good shape.”
I walked around it, running my hand over the suede fabric and feeling some relief that it wasn’t the burnt yellow color it looked in the picture. I sat and sank in. It enveloped me in the way that a comfy chair is supposed to.
“I’d like to get it,” I told him as I climbed out of the chair and inched toward the door. “But I’ll have to get someone to help me move it.”
“I have a truck,” he said. “If you’re comfortable with it, we could load it up, and I’ll drive it over to your place.”
I stood there blinking at him. Should I be comfortable with this? The fact that the question had to be asked made me wonder if perhaps I shouldn’t feel comfortable with it.
“Sure,” I drew the word out. I am not one who likes making spontaneous decisions but the convenience of having it over and done won out.
He told me it wasn’t very heavy, but I think he lied. After much huffing, straining, and knuckle scraping we succeeded in getting it out to his red truck.
“Do you want me to give you my address,” I said between gasps for air.
“I’ll just follow you home,” he said. “If you’re comfortable with that.”
That phrase again….making me wonder if I was doing something irrational and irresponsible. He gave me his address, I thought to myself. I suppose it is okay if he has mine.
We drove the five minutes to my apartment, and he followed me to my door. I began mentally checking off the state of my apartment. Laundry appropriately hidden…check. The onion smell from last night’s dinner mostly eradicated…check. Overall apartment clutter…at a minimum. The stuffed animals…in plain view but thankfully not set up on the couch facing the TV.
Unlocking the door, I threw it open, and we both entered making two trips to get everything inside. As we stood there alone in my apartment, I handed the tainted dollar bill to him. He said he was happy we could help each other out and headed back to his truck.
Locking the door behind him, I sank into my new chair with a sigh of relief.
I suppose in one way, my mother was correct. Taking that dollar bill did indeed lead down a slippery slope…showing up on a strange man’s doorstep, willingly stepping into a unknown person’s abode, inviting a young man I had never met before into my apartment unchaperoned. But on the other hand, I met a neighbor, discovered someone who owns a truck, and have a ridiculously comfy chair that was only $10. Perhaps I should reevaluate some of my mother’s advice after all.