It was approaching midnight on a Los Angeles Tuesday, and I was at danger-zone hunger. There were no open options close to my Super 8, and this was pre- Grubhub or anything like that, so I just called around and finally found a place that was still delivering: Domino’s.
In my hunger haste, I forgot to pay with credit card over the phone.
45 minutes later, the driver arrived at my door, and I was as excited for that delicious cheese pizza as was Kevin from Home Alone.
“Small pizza with delivery fee is…$9.80 please.” In this, I sensed a touch of edginess, maybe because I was flirting with the delivery minimum, maybe because his life had come to delivering pizzas in the wee hours of a Wednesday morning, or maybe because this was his last delivery of the night, but probably all three.
The last thing on my mind was to be a difficult customer, so I quickly muttered, “Oh, can I still pay with card?”
“I’m sorry sir, not at this time. Cash only.”
I opened up my wallet to find nothing but a crisp $100 note. I had one of those annoying ATMs back in Peoria, Illinois that gave the minimum amount of $20s possible, so when I pulled out $300 in cash for this trip, I was given three bills, exactly two of which I used to save like $1.20 each time I filled up my gas tank.
I sheepishly offered him the $100 bill and asked for change. He only had $14 in cash, so that would amount to an $86 pizza.
‘That’s okay, I’ll simply get a $20 from the ATM downstairs.’ I took him with me.
It seems like a purchase on my credit card is blocked every single time I leave the city I’m supposed to be in, but my debit card has been blocked only once. Of course, the once was at this current moment, not in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, or even Kansas, but in the lawless foreign country of California; I never called the card company to say I was taking a road trip to the west coast.
‘I’ll get change from the front desk attendant.’ I walked over to the desk and, preparing to ring the bell, I noticed the sign: “Away from 12:01AM – 1:30AM. Sorry for any inconvenience.”
With panic looming, I looked outside the window for help. I was in a rough neighborhood in the middle of the night, and there were no businesses in sight.
‘Should I just tell him nevermind? Is that possible?’
The pizza guy was clearly annoyed at this point, and I was about to collapse from hunger, so I did what I do best and thought on my feet: I handed him the $100 bill and told him to keep the change. He was somewhat surprised but didn’t really argue against it.
I tried to starve myself the remaining two weeks of the trip by eating only carrots, apples, nuts, and string cheese, but to this day, I’m still trying to recoup that $90 tip.