We've got this barfly named Coolidge. He's a bearded white guy, a little overweight, average height, about 50 years old. He's a decent tipper and pretty low-maintenance. He's far from being my favorite client but we're OK and I've never had a problem out of him. Coolidge works for a trucking company and travels a lot for them. I don't know what his job is there; if he's a driver, a mechanic, a sales guy or what. We usually just see Coolidge at night but one day early this month he joined us during the lunch shift.
I was waiting tables that day. I walked past the bar a couple times and nodded hello to Coolidge as he sucked down some draft Coors Lights. I was cut and nearly done when bartender Veranda B asked if I'd take over the bar, allowing her to go home and see about her kids, or something. I reluctantly agreed. Veranda got Coolidge another brewski and he closed out. She turned in her bar drawer. I hadn't done a check-out so I was just going to ring anything on my server number.
The bar didn't do any business that hour or so I had it. Coolidge drank the final beer he'd gotten from Veranda but he didn't get anything from me. He seemed to be preoccupied with some paper or something he was looking at. I tried unsuccessfully to find a Grapefruit League game on the TV. Coolidge finished his beverage and asked if he owed anything. I assured him that he didn't and he bailed.
I picked up the empty beer vessel and wiped underneath it. I noticed Coolidge had left some out-of-state lottery tickets he'd been scratching. No surprise, he does that a lot. I tossed two of the tickets but I studied the third. It was a $20 ticket and I haven't seen too many of those, although I buy scratch-offs when I'm in a state that sells them. I noticed a number had matched on that ticket. Coolidge had overlooked a $50 prize!
Coolidge had already left the building and driven off in his white '02 Ford F150 with the W sticker still on the back window. I stuck the ticket in my server book, finished up and went home. I figured I'd see Coolidge again soon and I'd give him back the ticket in person. It can't hurt to have a bar regular feel that he owes you a favor. Besides, if I'd of told GM Brenda B about it, she probably have laughed and insinuated I was a dumbass for saying anything.
A few nights later I was waiting tables again and Coolidge showed up at the bar. I walked over there. "Remember you were in here the other day?" I asked, "I looked at those tickets you left on the bar and ya missed a winner." I pulled my server book out of my apron and gave Coolidge the ticket that had been stashed there. He thanked me profusely and offered to give me some money or to buy me a drink or some food or something. I declined with, "That's OK. Just tip me real good the next time I wait on ya!" said jokingly but really, actually meant.
I'm sure I hadn't been messed with in some weird way. Coolidge had just misread his ticket. What I'm less sure about is what he would have done had our situations been reversed. Oh well.
I could have kept the ticket. I thought about it. There's a way to mail winners to lottery HQ and they'll send you a check. My friend Jakey G goes up there to visit relatives sometimes, he'd have cashed it for me. I could have driven up there myself, maybe waited 'til April and checked out a baseball game (tommorow's opening day!) on the radio and between innings listened to that rockin' new Decemberists CD I got for my birthday. That's not such a bad evening. Gas would have run less than 20 bucks. Or I could have anonymously mailed it to a children's charity up there.
This little adventure made me think about Karma. It seems like everyone believes in it, at least a little. But really, does it exist? Would it have been "wrong" to keep the ticket? Was something "bad" going to happen to me if I had? Who, if anybody, is the arbiter of Karma? I think a good argument could be made that Karma isn't real, it's just a little fairy story that's caught on 'cause people like it. I wonder. And I wonder what I would of done had that ticket been worth a lot more than 50 bucks.