Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Order Experiment

In my acting class, our first assignment was to venture out into society and troll someone.

No, quite seriously. That’s what our assignment was. We had to go to some poor service-employee and ask for something so inanely specific it’ll get us over our fears of doing stupid things. At the same time, we would get some laughs.

Then we were to report back to class next time and share with the class our stories of complete ass-itude. Here’s mine.

Order Experiment
I figured I’d start my assignment with the bank because it turned out that getting the necessary change for the assignment was pretty interesting.

I went to Bank of America to get the change (my personal account is at Wachovia), and a young female teller called me up to her desk. I asked her if she’d be able to exchange my twenty-dollar bill for some change, and she said yes. So, I proceeded to ask her for one 10-dollar bill, three 2-dollar bills, three dollars in dimes, and one dollar in nickels. It turned out that she didn’t have any 2-dollar bills, but she sent me over to a different desk that had them.

So I walked over there and the teller (also a mid-twenties female) welcomed me to Bank of America, how could she help me? So, (counting on my fingers as I went so that I wouldn’t mess up) I asked her for three 2-dollar bills, three dollars in dimes, and one dollar in nickels, please. I handed her the twenty.

“You want what?”

I repeated myself, holding up my fingers as I did so.

“Alright.” She fished out the three 2-dollar bills. “And how much in dimes?”


She plugged something into her computer and stared at the screen. “So you’ll have fourteen dollars in change?”

I looked at her funny, quickly figuring in my head how this added up. I repeated my order to clarify (fingers still in the air, but this time, it was for her benefit, not mine.) She said “Oh!” and typed something in the computer again. She turned to her change organizer and began to count out dimes. “Why couldn’t you ask for five dollars in change? It’d be easier.” Said jokingly, but meant seriously. Once again, I silently checked myself to see if that, indeed, would have been easier. It didn’t seem like it.

Dimes were added to the pile. I wasn’t entirely sure if they were all there. “And one in nickels,” I said again. “One in nickels…?” “Yes.” She turned and began to count out nickels. She seemed confused. She said, “So you’ll have sixteen dollars?” I thought again, figured she’d counted the 2-dollar bills in that as well, and said “yes.”

So here we are, staring at my strange combination of change and dollars. I was waiting for the ten dollar bill to be added. Awkward pause. “Wait…” We exchanged glances. She stared at the presented twenty-dollar bill. She looked to the 2-dollar bills. I held up my fingers, once again presenting the math, and I repeated my order. “That’s ten dollars left over,” I added. “Oh! Oh!” She suddenly exclaimed, nodding quickly. At this point, I was beginning to wonder if the smile on her face was merely a formality. “Alright, I get it. You were right. Would you like a ten dollar bill?”

It briefly crossed my mind to say ‘no, I’d like another set of three 2-dollar bills, three dollars in dimes, and one dollar in nickels’ but I decided that wouldn’t have been very kind. So I said “Yes please.” She offered me an envelope to hold it all as I recounted the money to be sure it was all in order. As I left, I waved and said “Thank you very much,” my bright voice stopping all conversation in the line behind me. She waved back with a smile, “No more service for you.”


Holy. Crap.

Alright, get this.

For my assignment I decided I should go to Applebee’s for dinner. There, I would order a Shirley Temple and specify that the sprite, the ice, and the grenadine would be in all separate cups and there should be one cherry in each of them.

I have to say that ordering this was almost depressingly simple. The waitress (twenty-ish, amiable, blonde) just jotted down the note, smiled, and continued about her business. It was so easy that I considered if this request should be scratched and perhaps I find something else to attempt. When she came back with the drink, she gave me a large cup of Sprite, a large cup of ice, and a full gin glass of grenadine. In the Sprite and ice there were two cherries each, and in the grenadine there was five cherries. I considered returning it and requesting that there only be one cherry for each glass, but I absolutely love cherries, so I decided to settle for the given amount.

The rest of the dinner went by normally.

I have to say, I did not expect that the most difficult part of this assignment would be paying for it. When you look at it, it seems simple enough. You’ve got the proper amount in change, just pay for the damn thing and get out of there. When I first thought it over, I figured it would be hardest for me to make a specific demand from someone. I realized afterward that making the actual request was simple for me because I do similarly crazy things on a regular basis; I just don’t do it for a class assignment.

So, I’m sitting there with exactly five dollars in dimes and nickels from the bank, and I’ve also got a huge number of dimes, nickels, and pennies left over from the bottom of my purse. I get the check, and the meal (including gratitude) cost me $12.54. I swear to god, I pulled out $10.54 in dimes, nickels, and pennies. I added two dollars in quarters and I placed it on the table. I then pulled out my wallet and produced the three 2-dollar bills and tucked them under the grenadine glass.

The waitress came to the table, and I just watched her expression completely shift from a formal smile to a ‘holy shit, what is this?’ look. The first words out of her mouth were, “What’ve you got going on here?” She’d momentarily dropped all pretenses. I feared for my life.

“I’m paying for my meal.” It was incredibly difficult to act as though this was an everyday thing for me. I swear, I really did try to act normal, but it’s really hard to do when you know the waitress is just dying to wring your neck.

“Coin Star is so much better for this.”

I stared at her. Blankly.

“I can’t carry around all this change, but,” she lifted her finger and pointed across the room with an irritated look, “you can go talk to the bartender, and give him your money.”

I glanced in that direction and looked back at her. I gave the waitress a look that said ‘Yeah right, that’s your job, so you better damn well do it.’ (I was nearly shocked how easily the expression came to me despite the situation.)
She looked back at me, and a fake-smile came to her face. “I don’t have time to count through all this.” Another pause. I was still staring at her. She leaned over the table and began to count out the change. “Here, you can help me.”

I decided that humoring her was good enough. Of course, I already knew how much money was there, and I also knew that if I helped her, she would only have to recount it, but I decided to go along with it. I placed a few quarters together, a few dimes. A penny here and there. She got up to five dollars and walked over to the bartender. She came back and we counted out the rest of the money.

“And what are those?” The waitress suddenly asked, eyeing the small stack of 2-dollar bills almost suspiciously.

“Additional tip. It’s for you.” With that, I got up and left. I stepped out onto the sidewalk, and I let out a deep breath that I didn’t realize I had been holding. I slowed down, crossed the street, and spent a few minutes to take some notes for the assignment. I returned to the car. I was home free.
It wasn’t until I was standing in front of the cashier at Borders, order already rung up, when I realized I had forgotten my wallet back at Applebee’s. I’ve never been so flustered and distracted to the point of forgetting something as important as my wallet, but lo and behold, it happened. My first thought was, ‘oh crap, my money’s gone.’ I immediately began to regret seriously pissing off the waitress right before leaving. At this point, I could only rely on her moral code in response to her possible knowledge that I could have spared her all the coin trouble if only I had paid with that fresh 10-dollar bill that was happily tucked in my tri-fold wallet.
I moaned and returned to Applebee’s.

I stepped inside, and the hostess (30s, short, Latino) immediately recognized me. “Back for another table?” she asked, unsure if she should grab a menu.

“Uh, no…” I said, glancing around. I was hoping to god that my waitress didn’t spot me from across the restaurant. Turned out that the bartender already had, and he wasn’t shy about it either. I quickly glanced away. I felt my hands slip into my pockets. “I think I left my wallet here…?”

“Ah, yes, I believe so.” The hostess turned on her heels and headed directly for the woman I knew was the manager. I recognized her because the woman that sat at the table beside me had quite loudly complained about something her waitress had done. That discussion had ended in a free meal that I personally didn’t believe was rightfully earned. Anyway- the hostess and the manager briefly discussed something, and the administrator disappeared into the back room.

After a nervous moment of waiting (I swear it felt like fifteen minutes,) the manager walked to the front. She was an abnormally tall, broad-shouldered woman with high, plucked eyebrows and dyed blonde hair that made her head look on fire when the light hit it just right. Her bright blue eyes were so wide I thought they’d pop out and hit me in the face. I shrank. “Hey you,” she said crisply, smiling with her thin, painted lips. By this point, I was growing rather weary of supposedly cheery people. It’s incredible how easily a practiced customer service person can lie to you. “This yours?” She held up my small, black wallet. I nodded. “Mind if I-?”

“Ah, yeah, go ahead…” My attention briefly scanned the floor as if I had dropped something, and then it returned to my poor forgotten item.
She opened up the wallet and scrutinized my ID. “Ah, yeah, I recognize you. Sat right over there,” she pointed to my table. The woman’s glances flickered back and forth between my face and the terrible three-year old photo. “I figured you might have gone off to see a movie, so I knew I couldn’t follow you there.” Her flickering eyes paused, and she took the silence as an opportunity to broaden her toothy beam.

“Ah…nah. I actually just spent a few minutes across the street there…” I immediately wondered if this was the right thing to say.

The wallet was briskly snapped shut and presented to me. “I see.” She made eye contact. “Now you go run off and have a nice night, alright?” A quirk of the head. Impossible grin plastered in place. She lifted her hand and did the synchronized-4-finger-buh-bye-ee wave.

I half-cringed and half-grinned, wiggled my fingers farewell, and nearly bolted out the door. As I darted, I quickly opened the wallet and scanned through the many pockets. It seemed as though everything was still in place. Another final, deep breath and I slowed my pace to my usual stroll.
I think I’ll wait a couple weeks before going back there.


Despite the uncomfortable social situation I found myself in, something very unrelated, completely unexpected, but positive did happen. It turned out that one of the two dollar bills that I got at the bank was a Where’s George bill. I got to look it up online at and I found out that the bill had been previously used just last Saturday to purchase a Spicy Gespacho Sandwich from The MidTown Bennigan’s here in Sarasota. I decided to go ahead and enter my own data into the travels of this two-dollar bill. Now whenever someone looks up my bill online, they’ll be able to get a little peek into my own adventure.

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