*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
This is about that time I found a bag stuffed with money at work and turned it in despite temptation.
When I was nineteen years old, I took a second job working nights at a convenience store. I already had a full-time day job as a bank teller across the bridge, but I needed the extra money. I had recently gotten married, and my husband and I were trying to buy a house.
I arrived at my night job one afternoon having driven there directly from my day job. I didn't even take the time to grab something to eat. Fortunately, we were allowed to eat on the job at the convenience store. Since there was only one person on duty during any given shift, we were unable to take real breaks.
In addition to not being able to take breaks, I had to remain at work long past the end of my shift to clean up, stock the shelves, mop the floors, and count the cash register drawer before I could leave. Yet they paid me only up until the moment I locked the doors for the night.
To this day, I can't believe I let them get away with it. I often clocked out at 11 p.m. only to finish mopping at 2 a.m. before letting myself out of the building and locking the door behind me. Allowing me to eat while I worked was the least they could do.
During a lull in the flow of customers, I bought an ice-cold cheeseburger from the cooler, grabbed some ketchup and mustard packets, and heated the burger in the microwave customers used. I set up my dinner behind the counter where we kept the cigarette cartons and prepared to tuck into my rubbery microwaved burger.
That's when I saw it. The manager, who had worked the day shift, had left an open canvas bag stuffed with money on a low shelf behind the counter where I worked. It wasn't just stuffed. It was overstuffed. There was money spilling out of the bag onto the shelf. The bag had a zipper with a lock attached to it, but neither the zipper nor the lock were fastened.
There has to be at least $5,000 in that bag, I thought. It was more money than I'd ever had in my life, and I knew for a fact we didn't have any cameras behind the counter, and my oversized purse was right there. Furthermore, once I started my shift, there was a zero percent chance anyone would be by to check on me. The store simply didn't work that way.
I was afraid to touch the bag. Terrified. I picked up the phone and called the store manager. He didn't answer. I ate my cheeseburger.
Five minutes later, I called the fellow employee who had trained me. He served as an unofficial assistant manager only without the title or the pay raise.
I asked him what I should do, and he told me to shove the unruly bills into the bag, zip it up, lock it up, and stuff it in the large safe under the window that I often used as a seat between customers. And that's exactly what I did.
Despite being exhausted, overworked, and underpaid, I did the right thing, and I am still proud of myself.