09 October 2007

Stored Value

NSTIW,* at a Starbucks on the Jersey turnpike. I was just about to hand over my $2.09 (Grande Awake tea - may I put the bag in myself, please? Thanks!) to the nice barista when the young gentleman behind me said, more frantically that would seem necessary under the circumstances, "I'd like to pay for her drink!" And as he looked more like Ralph Rakestraw or Florian than Dick Deadeye or Gama, it was charming, not unnerving.

But.....Okaaaaaaay. I mean, I'm cute and all, but I'd been traveling since morning and looked like it and I'm, um, a little older than this guy. And it's a Starbucks on the turnpike, not a hotel bar, so I'm pretty much gonna pay and leave. As a potential pick up it seemed somewhat...unlikely.

As it turned out he wanted to use his Starbucks stored value card to pay for my drink so that I could give him the $2.09 in cash and he would have enough money to get off of the damned turnpike. His rental car was the first one he had gotten in a while that had no E-Z Pass and he was a tiny bit short of the exit fare.

And he was friendly and charming and seemed perfectly happy to engage me in conversation while we prepped our beverages and he pocketed my former money. I think he chose me because I am universally regarded as approachable and because I bought something reasonably cheap with cash. I think the frantic part came from his sudden realization that I was going to pay in cash, so - ding! - he could possibly turn his stored money into, shall we say, a more liquid asset*** and thus avoid having to resort to being the cutest panhandler in New Jersey that day, and that once it hit Starbucks' till he have no shot at it.

But guess which Kingston Trio song has been stuck in my head ever since?

Well, let me tell you of the story of a man named Charley
on a tragic and fateful day.
He put ten cents in his pocket, kissed his wife and family,
went to ride on the M.T.A.

Well, did he ever return? No, he never returned and
his fate is still unknown.
He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston.
He's the man who never returned.

Charlie handed in his dime at the Kendall Square Station
and he changed for Jamaica Plain.
When he got there the conductor told him, "One more nickel."
Charlie couldn't get off of that train.

Now, all night long Charlie rides through the station,
crying, "What will become of me?!!
How can I afford to see my sister in Chelsea
or my cousin in Roxbury?"

Charlie's wife goes down to the Sculley Square Station
every day at quarter past two,
And through the open window she hands Charlie a crabcake
as the train comes rumblin' through.

Now, you citizens of Boston, don't you think it's a scandal
how the people have to pay and pay?
Fight the fare increase! Vote for George O'Brien!
Get poor Charlie off the M. T. A.

*Oh, come now, you don't really need me to tell you that NSTIW stands for "No shit, there I was" do you? And, shirley**, you remember that NSTWW would be the plural.

**Oh, for pity's sake. Yes, I know that it's spelled "surely," but as everything is going to think that dumb joke, I might as well just spell that way. See? This is why my stories seem so long. Because you people keep interrupting me.

***Liquid asset. Get it? Liquid asset! I crack me up, I swear.


David Gorsline said...

Hey, Flib, this was a new one on me: the Boston MBTA system calls their stored value farecards CharlieCards.

Brett said...

I am startled and amazed that the story did not include 'I turned around and it was [fill in name here] from my High School!' Having lived through that story many times I was unaware there could be any other ending.

Unknown said...

That is a fun story. Being from the Boston area, I had to comment. A bit of trivia: The Boston area light rail system used to be called the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), then changed its name to Mass Bay Transit Authority (MBTA), apparently to reduce confusion with the other MTA: the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

And on the Charlie song, I believe Charlie's wife handed him a sandwich rather than a crabcake. When I was growing up, I could not understand why Charlie's wife didn't hand him another nickel, but now that I am more wise (or wizened?), I think I understand.... ;-)