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Borrowers and Lenders

Today I had one of the oddest postal experiences I've ever had.

I went to send a birthday gift package and was scrounging around for CDs to stick in the box, because I hate wasting postage. I finally found some CDs I thought the birthday girl might like, but by then it was lunchtime. So I went to Chipotle, and found I only had $6, and only pocket change afterwards.

Anyway, I went to the bank to get cash from the ATM, but I found that my ATM card doesn't have a working PIN. Turns out they issued me a PIN with the ATM/debit card, and I never logged in with it and changed it, even though I activated it when I activated the credit card. So, I went to the bank and got cash the old fashioned way, with a withdrawal slip.

I took the $10 I had withdrawn to the post office. The lady gave me this very snug box that just fits the height of the present and the CDs, but I needed the recipient's address (which I hadn't memorized) and some newspaper for packing. I went over to Throckmorton, the Plant Sciences building, and I got online with my PDA phonee, and look up the address in my GMail.

I then went back (Throckmorton is right next door to the PO). In front of me was this Chinese woman, evidently a grad student or postdoc, a little younger than I am, filling out a priority mail address label. She was blocking the labels, so the woman at the PO desk had to point them out to me. So, I put down the address. The Chinese lady went up to the desk where my insurance receipt is, and looked at me and the PO worker. I say "oh, please go ahead" and finish filling out the address. So she gave her Priority Mail package to the lady. "Express," she says, looking a little stressed from her job or something. "That'll be $17."

"Seventeen?!" she replied with some surprise, and I gathered that she took this figure to be higher than expected. I watched her looking kind of shocked, and said "ni hao". Then I noticed her looking at me kind of pleadingly. She leaned forward and said in a slightly awkward tone, "ni shi zhong guo ren ma?" (are you Chinese? I say "shi" and she says "en, wo bu gou le, ke bu ke yi bai tuo?" (uh, I don't have enough; may I impose on you?).

So, I replied "hao, qing den yi xia, wo xu yiao xien zhao chien" (all right, please wait a bit, I need to get change first). She nodded and I reached to pay the postage for the package, already knowing it's more than $5 and that I had only a couple quarters in change in my pocket. "I need to finish helping her first," replied the post office lady.

Naturally, at this point, I just handed her the $10 and let her pay for her package with it.

"Xie xie," she said, and paid, pocketing the $5 change. Wondering what had just happened with that transaction, I suggested, "wo ba wo di zhi he mingzi xie xia lai gei ni, hao ma?" (I'll write down my address and name for you, OK?). She agreed, "hao, wo yi ding hui lai huan gei ni" (sure, I'll definitely come pay you back). Thus, I wrote down my name and department on the back of her receipt, hoping she would look me up in the department directory.

The post office lady started to ring up my package.
BANAZIR: Hold on... (Sheepish look.) I've got to go to an ATM.
POSTAL WORKER: (Bemused look.) Okay. And you can leave this here.

So, I walk back to the Student Union and then back to the post office (the better part of a mile), thinking that it's exercise I needed. I told the teller at the bank (where I turned in another withdrawal slip): "You wouldn't believe what just happened to the $10 I took out just now..." The teller lady, who recognized me by this point, wondered with amused consternation whether I was sure I would get back the last $10 I had lent to a strange Chinese woman.

"Well, I think she was a student..." I said hopefully.

"Oh," came the knowing reply.

ETA, 07:00 CDT Thu 17 May 2006 - Here's the coda.

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be," muttered Banamum sagely. "Borrowing money is easy, as is lending it; returning it and getting it back are not always so easy." When Banamum's age you reach, algebraic will you sound.
[21:18:10] figgylicious: see bana that's what happens when you're nice.
[21:18:11] figgylicious: ;)
[21:18:32] figgylicious: lol
[21:18:54] taiji_jian: ROFL
[21:19:15] figgylicious: prro bana

The next morning, I arrived around 10:00 and found a $10 bill in a campus mail envelope apparently hand-delivered by the student, with her name on the envelope. So, all's well that ends well. Or "that'll teach me". Or something like that.


--
Banazir

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
May. 17th, 2006 04:48 pm (UTC)
That's a wonderful story. Too often, particularly in the US, we stand in insulated silence watching others struggle. Thanks for doing a kind thing for this woman.
abrichar
May. 17th, 2006 04:50 pm (UTC)
Ooops
That anonymous comment was me, failing to notice that I'd failed to log in.
wudu_wasa
May. 17th, 2006 10:36 pm (UTC)
那是相当好的您, 我是骄傲有一个朋友象您。(:
bojojoti
May. 18th, 2006 06:36 am (UTC)
It is amusing that she pocketed the change!

I'm very glad she was an honest individual. Belief in the goodness of man gets battered a bit throughout life; it is good when it gets reinforced.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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