NEBRASKA MEMORIES #1
I spent part of my childhood in Lincoln, Nebraska. My father, a professor at NU, used to take me to campus in the morning and let me run free all day while he taught his classes. He’d always give me a dime for the vending machine in the gymnastics room. The machine was one of those wonderful types, now largely vanished, where you pull a knob and draw it straight back to acquire your preferred candy, not unlike the spring apparatus you use to shoot the metal balls in a pinball machine. I would always choose M&Ms and make the cherished bag last through the day as I wandered about the campus making my rounds.
One morning, I was buying my sacred M&Ms when I discovered in the change receptacle FIVE MORE DIMES. After a flush of Charlie-Bucket-finding-the-Golden-Ticket ecstasy, I realized, with a dispiriting spasm of letdown, that the money wasn’t mine. It passed through my eight-year-old mind that, for the purpose of enlisting help in finding the real owner of this treasure, I needed to find a police officer.
I glanced around the room for some authority figure but only saw gymnasts. Sweaty guys were doing gravity-defying somersaults in mid-air whilst gripping rings suspended on ropes, maneuvering rapidly side-to-side across the “horse,” and executing hair-raising dismounts from the uneven bars (on another day, I would witness a man fall and seem to die in an accident on those bars, a different story). No policemen.
A guy with a huge, protruding belly, garbed in the same grey-green gymnast uniform as the actual gymnasts (he was obviously some kind of non-athletic gym employee, maybe someone who handed out locker keys or something) approached me and said, “hey, find something, kid?”
I timidly held out the five dimes, then, fearing I had done something wrong, made to put the money back into the change box.
The man laughed and said, “no, no. That’s your money now.” I looked up at him questionably. “Put it in your pocket, boy. Finders, keepers, losers, weepers.”
So it passed on that fortunate day that I engorged myself joyously on four whole extra bags of M&Ms. I never told my father but didn’t feel guilty because I saved the extra dime for future needs.