I drove home yesterday through a flurry of cash.
Just after I got on the highway, I saw cars pulled over to the median and shoulder, cars scattered akimbo across lanes. People were running every which way and darting between cars. Luckily traffic had slowed to about 20 mph. It took a few minutes to realize that it wasn’t a major traffic accident—people were laughing and picking up things off the road.
Then I ran over a $20 bill. And another. That’s when I began to see bills fluttering down the highway. Cars were swerving across lanes and stopping in the middle of the road, drivers, hanging out of doors and scooping up money. Traffic sped up further down the road to above 40, yet people still sprinted into lanes and attempted to hold up traffic, all while grabbing cash.
My first reaction was fear. I didn’t want to hit a pedestrian, or a swerving car, and I especially didn’t want to see someone else hit a pedestrian. After seeing the cash, I thought, this is a punchline. Massive amounts of cash on a highway is the end of a story, and the beginning surely begins with crime, possibly violent. I didn’t want that cash, I didn’t want to touch it. I just wanted to get away from the frenzy of people and money. This scene, it felt wrong and dangerous in equal proportions.
The traffic report said there was a high-speed pursuit and drug dealers or bank robbers were throwing money out the window. The newscaster quipped, “Where was it there’s free money?” If he’d been there, he would have thought much differently. In fact, I wondered whether the traffic reports would only indicate there was debris on the roadway, to prevent a total mob scene. Well, too late for that.
At one point a mile down the road, traffic was moving and nobody was on the shoulder. A lone $20 bill tumbled along the shoulder. Surely I could pull over quickly and grab it. Nobody would care. Then I imagined getting home with that money sitting in my pocket. Drug money. Or, money that someone rightfully earned and had just deposited in the bank earlier that day.
I drove home shaky and empty-handed.
Epilogue: Here’s the cover story on the Union-Trib this morning. Sure enough, much of the money was confiscated and some people, surprisingly including a 15-year old, returned the money. How much was kept? Do those people feel any remorse, now being connected to the drug market? Looking at the readers comments, I think many couldn’t care less, thinking, “Money’s money.” I might have given up on some free cash, but I slept well last night.