I ran out of toilet paper on Saturday and decided to order a pizza, opting for their large supply of free napkins over having to put on pants and go down to the store in the rain.
That morning, I had woken to find a twenty-dollar bill in my hand. I wasn’t sure why I had slept with the money and was further vexed when I discovered that my wallet was missing. I can only assume a burglar broke in during the night and we negotiated terms.
Whenever ordering food I instruct the delivery person to call upon arrival and I’ll meet them downstairs. While this means an inconvenient trip to the lobby, it avoids the potential for any interaction with my neighbor across the hall. He’s developed a strange interest in me of late and I fear he lingers outside my door listening. I once randomly looked into the peephole and saw his ear.
Mainly though I don’t enjoy giving delivery men my exact location. I’ve grown supremely wary of them over the years due to their unfettered access to apartment buildings all across the city. They’ve been granted an enormous power but remain anonymous, a faceless bicycle army who, if they ever turn violent and organize with mailmen, would be unstoppable.
So I ordered a large pizza with extra napkins and about an hour later received word that the food had arrived. When I got to the lobby the delivery man was standing outside the front door, looking cold and drenched from his journey. I worried for the pizza.
As I opened the door, another resident entered with the delivery man. I panicked.
“Oh good,” I said. “The food is here. My party of friends upstairs will be so pleased. I should call my girlfriend and let her know she doesn’t have to cook for me like she always does because she loves me. She is very attractive and real.”
The delivery man informed me that I owed $11.94 and I pulled out the twenty-dollar bill, holding it in front of me while I determined how much to tip him.
Okay, $11.94, round-up to $12, give him a $2 tip which makes it $14, ask for $6 back. Hmm, do I tip an extra $1 for rain? That would make it $5 back. A $3 tip? Is that too much? He’s not delivering a kidney. Will I have to always tip $3 from now on regardless of service? That’s an outrageous precedent to set. What if he talks to his friends? They’ll expect that every time.
While I was pondering, the man reached for the money and his wet hand grazed mine, making my decision much easier.
“Just give me $8 back, please.”
He handed the pizza to me and dug into his pocket, pulling out only more twenty-dollar bills. I knew what was coming.
“Oh, sorry sir. No change.”
“No change? What does that mean?”
“I mean, I have no change.”
“Yes, I know what you mean, but what does that mean?”
“Do you have anything smaller?”
And we just stared at each other. This lasted five whole minutes.
I’d seen this scam before in New York. They expect that you’ll just say, “Ya know what, pal? Don’t worry about it. Keep it! It seems like pretty rough weather out there tonight anyway. Be safe and Happy Holidays!”
I looked him square in the eye.
“You’re not getting an $8 tip. That’s just not fucking happening.”
We stared at each other some more.
“Well, I can take the pizza back and you can order another one online with your credit card, sir.”
“Oh really, smart guy? Well I think a burglar stole my wallet while I slept last night and only left me $20, so try again.”
“Do you have anything else? Maybe to trade?”
“No, because we’re not 19th Century Native Americans. All I have upstairs are quarters.”
“That’s no problem.”
“Oh, brilliant. Okay, wait here and I’ll come back down with 48 quarters.”
I started to walk to the elevator when he stopped me.
“Sir, I can’t let you take the pizza with you until you’ve paid for it.”
“Are you serious? Those are hooker rules.”
“It’s policy, and they said you never gave them your apartment number.”
“Fine. You can come upstairs, but you’re waiting in the hallway.”
I debated blindfolding him so he wouldn’t know which apartment was mine, but felt it unnecessary since I’d already taken off the numbers from my door when I moved in. When we reached my apartment, my neighbor was outside pretending to look for his keys, but I knew he had been out there listening. He disappeared inside and I yelled after him.
“I know what you’re up to!”
The delivery man seemed nervous for some reason.
“Do you know him?”
“What? No. He just listens at my door. Wait here and I’ll be back with the quarters.”
“Do you think it’d be possible to use your bathroom, sir?”
My first instinct was to laugh.
And I did.
While laughing in the face of another human being who merely asks to use your bathroom may seem callous, I stand by the reaction.
“Please? If you let me use your bathroom you don’t have to tip me.”
“I wasn’t planning on tipping you.”
“It’s just that I’ve been driving around for the past hour and I really have to go.”
Since I’m such a generous man, I showed him in and went to count out what would now be exactly 47 quarters. Soon after, I heard a voice from the bathroom.
There is no good question that emerges from a bathroom.
“Um, you’re out of toilet paper.”