1. Last year Greg and I are gchatting and he says, “I just got a Facebook message from J.” He’s an old friend from high school; neither of us have talked to him in years. ”He’s asking me to buy him a bus ticket. But something doesn’t sound right. This message is erratic, weird. He says the cops have his wallet and also stole his laptop? Also, why is he asking me?” Maybe it’s a real emergency, I suggest. Or something else. “Drugs?” I ask. “I don’t know,” he says. He goes back and forth. I decide I’ll buy the bus ticket, whatever, end this little conversation and everyone’s questions right now, move on from speculating whether our long lost friend is in crisis and actually needs our help, or has hit bottom in a different way. I look up the bus ticket. It costs $178. I can’t afford it. “I can’t either,” Greg says. We don’t buy the ticket. We don’t know what happens.
Sometimes I think, this is either the best excuse for having an emergency credit card—I would have bought him that ticket—or the the worst (I would have bought him that ticket).
2. A friend gchats me from her office across town. “Can I buy a bus ticket with your debit card?” she asks. “Yes,” I say. “I have the cash to pay you, but it’s just not in my account.” I buy her the bus ticket. It’s $20. Later, we meet up and hang out, and she tries to hand me a twenty. I try to refuse. “$20 is whatever,” I say. “Take the money,” she says. She stuffs it in my purse and it stays there.
3. This morning my bank account is at $0. A check is in the mail, and some cash is in my wallet, but that doesn’t change the fact that my bank account is zero. I gchat Lauren and ask, “Can I ask you for a favor?” I type “embarrassing favor” then erase “embarrassing,” then put it back in. “Can I ask you for an embarrassing favor? Can you buy me a bus ticket from NYC to DC?” The bus ticket is $16. ” Yes I can do that,” she says, and she does. I get the email confirmation and type back, “I am forever in your debt.” “Not forever,” she types back. “Just $16 worth.”