The other day I was running my Metrocard through the turnstile when it struck me that I hadn't put money on it for a while. I looked down at the balance: $1.50. On my next ride, I looked at the balance again after I ran it through: $1.50. I ran it through again: $1.50. And again. Still $1.50. I looked to my left and my right, convinced this was some kind of joke. It wasn't. There were no MTA suits waiting on the other side to seize me. God had reached down and given me a true gift, an undeniable, joyous, unexpected gift. Just in time for Chanukah.
As I enjoyed dozens of free rides over the course of the next two weeks, I soon got visions of myself as an altruistic female Santa. I'd swipe the whole city—the homeless, a new date, a forlorn-looking kid, everybody. I could be as generous with my gift as I wanted; nothing was at stake. And the beauty of it was that it could never be traced.
After a week of bragging to everybody I knew about my good fortune, though, I started to get a little unsettled. There was something eerie about possessing something with unlimited potential (or nearly unlimited; the card expires September 1997). As blessed as I felt to have been granted my many free rides, there was something sort of disturbing about that perma-$1.50. Each time I swiped, a part of me wanted that number to change. I felt like I'd been handed an idiot-savant Metrocard. Each time I ran it through, I imagined a tiny little Dustin Hoffman in there going, "One fifty, one fifty," ...