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April 7th, 2005

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01:58 am - more signs of the end times
SIGNE THE FIRSTE: There are school buses in Medford with ads on them. Same ol' regulation School Bus Yellow school buses as usual, except these have ads for Comcast painted along the side under the windows. Are schools really in such desperate financial shape?

SIGNE THE SECONDE: A lovely news article from the Baltimore Sun which, due to registration required and whatnot, I'll shamelessly gank and post right here:
PUT YOURSELF in Mike Bolesta's place. On the morning of Feb. 20, he buys a new radio-CD player for his 17-year-old son Christopher's car. He pays the $114 installation charge with 57 crisp new $2 bills, which, when last observed, were still considered legitimate currency in the United States proper. The $2 bills are Bolesta's idea of payment, and his little comic protest, too.

For this, Bolesta, Baltimore County resident, innocent citizen, owner of Capital City Student Tours, finds himself under arrest.

Finds himself, in front of a store full of customers at the Best Buy on York Road in Lutherville, locked into handcuffs and leg irons.

Finds himself transported to the Baltimore County lockup in Cockeysville, where he's handcuffed to a pole for three hours while the U.S. Secret Service is called into the case.

Have a nice day, Mike.

"Humiliating," the 57-year old Bolesta was saying now. "I am 6 feet 5 inches tall, and I felt like 8 inches high. To be handcuffed, to have all those people looking on, to be cuffed to a pole -- and to know you haven't done anything wrong. And me, with a brother, Joe, who spent 33 years on the city police force. It was humiliating."

What we have here, besides humiliation, is a sense of caution resulting in screw-ups all around.

"When I bought the stereo player," Bolesta explains, "the technician said it'd fit perfectly into my son's dashboard. But it didn't. So they called back and said they had another model that would fit perfectly, and it was cheaper. We got a $67 refund, which was fine. As long as it fit, that's all.

"So we go back and pay for it, and they tell us to go around front with our receipt and pick up the difference in the cost. I ask about installation charges. They said, 'No installation charge, because of the mix-up. Our mistake, no charge.' Swell.

"But then, the next day, I get a call at home. They're telling me, 'If you don't come in and pay the installation fee, we're calling the police.' Jeez, where did we go from them admitting a mistake to suddenly calling the police? So I say, 'Fine, I'll be in tomorrow.' But, overnight, I'm starting to steam a little. It's not the money -- it's the threat. So I thought, I'll count out a few $2 bills."

He has lots and lots of them.

With his Capital City Student Tours, he arranges class trips for school kids around the country traveling to large East Coast cities, including Baltimore. He's been doing this for the last 18 years. He makes all the arrangements: hotels, meals, entertainment. And it's part of his schtick that, when Bolesta hands out meal money to students, he does it in $2 bills, which he picks up from his regular bank, Sun Trust.

"The kids don't see that many $2 bills, so they think this is the greatest thing in the world," Bolesta says. "They don't want to spend 'em. They want to save 'em. I've been doing this since I started the company. So I'm thinking, 'I'll stage my little comic protest. I'll pay the $114 with $2 bills.'"

At Best Buy, they may have perceived the protest -- but did not sense the comic aspect of 57 $2 bills.

"I'm just here to pay the bill," Bolesta says he told a cashier. "She looked at the $2 bills and told me, 'I don't have to take these if I don't want to.' I said, 'If you don't, I'm leaving. I've tried to pay my bill twice. You don't want these bills, you can sue me.' So she took the money. Like she's doing me a favor."

He remembers the cashier marking each bill with a pen. Then other store personnel began to gather, a few of them asking, "Are these real?"

"Of course they are," Bolesta said. "They're legal tender."

A Best Buy manager refused comment last week. But, according to a Baltimore County police arrest report, suspicions were roused when an employee noticed some smearing of ink. So the cops were called in. One officer noticed the bills ran in sequential order.

"I told them, 'I'm a tour operator. I've got thousands of these bills. I get them from my bank. You got a problem, call the bank,'" Bolesta says. "I'm sitting there in a chair. The store's full of people watching this. All of a sudden, he's standing me up and handcuffing me behind my back, telling me, 'We have to do this until we get it straightened out.'

"Meanwhile, everybody's looking at me. I've lived here 18 years. I'm hoping my kids don't walk in and see this. And I'm saying, 'I can't believe you're doing this. I'm paying with legal American money.'"

Bolesta was then taken to the county police lockup in Cockeysville, where he sat handcuffed to a pole and in leg irons while the Secret Service was called in.

"At this point," he says, "I'm a mass murderer."

Finally, Secret Service agent Leigh Turner arrived, examined the bills and said they were legitimate, adding, according to the police report, "Sometimes ink on money can smear."

This will be important news to all concerned.

For Baltimore County police, said spokesman Bill Toohey, "It's a sign that we're all a little nervous in the post-9/11 world."

The other day, one of Bolesta's sons needed a few bucks. Bolesta pulled out his wallet and "whipped out a couple of $2 bills. But my son turned away. He said he doesn't want 'em any more."

He's seen where such money can lead.
Okay, we now have fifteen seconds to point out the Things We Think Are The Most Wrong With This Article.

I'll start off with a doozy: "It's a sign that we're all a little nervous in the post-9/11 world."

First person to relate how 9/11 relates to Best Buy employees unable to comprehend legal tender wins this limited-edition Dale Earnhardt Jr Memorial Coke Can (#75 in a 168-can collector's series.) I mean, it's not as if Zacharias Moussaoui & Co. paid for their plane tickets with two dollar bills. And I'm pretty sure an OMG TERRIST!!1 bent on the destruction of the decadent capitalist American society isn't exactly going to go around buying a blingin' CD player for his son's car. Unless maybe he's planning on sticking an OMG DIRTY BOMB!!!1 into it or something. Sure, maybe an ink smear might've been a problem and counterfeiting is an OMG TERRIST!!1!! red flag, but honestly, shamelessly sticking in 9/11 as an excuse for flipping out, even after the dude's cleared his name, is just sad. We're not "all a little nervous." We're apparently "all a lot stupid."

But then again, we're the biggest, roughest, toughest country around that don't take no shit from no one, and we're all positively obsessed with and scared shitless by our boogymen.

(16 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2005 06:24 am (UTC)
Isn't also illegal not to accept legal tender, too? Maybe I'm way off base about that, though.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2005 08:00 am (UTC)
I was yelling this as I was reading the article.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2005 08:28 am (UTC)
It is? Strikes me that if that was the case it'd be impossible to check for forgeries without getting sued.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2005 09:46 am (UTC)
Um... well, see, that's why you check. If it's legal tender, you accept it, but if your examination determines that it is not legal tender, then you don't have to take it. Thus the word "legal" in "legal tender" means you are perfectly free to inspect the tender for its legality before accepting it.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2005 10:27 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure that it's illegal to not accept legal tender to pay off debts, but a store could have a policy of not accepting certain types of money by basically saying "we don't accept [whatever]" and thus not actually entering into a contractual relationship with somebody trying to pay with it. (Also, I'm not sure, but maybe the requirement only applies to banks.)
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2005 02:54 pm (UTC)
No, you're right; you (for all individual, collective, and corporate values of "you") have to accept legal paper money to pay off a debt, as distinct from refusng the entire transaction in advance. In this situation, Best Buy clearly felt that he owed them a debt for something they'd already done. I don't know precisely what happens if they refuse your money at that point, though.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2005 12:51 pm (UTC)
Actually, I"ve been told recently that any company can refuse a form of payment if they wish - just like company x won't take checks, company y won't take a payment in pennies, and company z doesn't have to take $2 bills if they don't want to. It's obnoxious and stupid, but it's not illegal.

Now, being arrested for having a lot of $2, THAT goes beyond obnoxious and stupid. Spatch and I, we don't agree on a lot of the political aspects (which is why I rarely comment on them, cause I hates arguing with someone I like so darned much!) but this is absolutely the stupidest thing I've read in a long time, and the idea that 9-11 would have anything to do with the local law enforcement flexing their collective muscles to the point of calling in the Secret Service is moronic. This is just local police on a power trip. All they'd have had to do was call his bank and verify with them.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2005 07:37 am (UTC)
Interesting. I have a friend in LA who pays for almost everything with $2. I'll have to let him know.
Sounds like Best Buy are idiots anyway... oh wait, that's not news.
Date:April 7th, 2005 10:42 am (UTC)
What I particularly like about this article is how it portays the victim as this wacky eccentric who pretty much deserves what he got for being so non-conformist. That anecdote at the end shows the real comeuppance -- he may not have learned his lesson, but his son certainly has!

(I must admit that the guy did sound a little weird at first, but the thing about tricking schoolkids into spending less money makes perfect sense.)
[User Picture]
Date:April 8th, 2005 03:49 am (UTC)
Yeah, that whole "don't go against the grain, folks!" angle is disturbing as well.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2005 02:35 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, stupidity about $2 bills is not news with 9/11, this story was posted (rec.humor.funny, I think) in the early '90s.

Taco Bell $2 Bill Incident
On my way home from the second job I've taken for the extra holiday ca$h I need, I stop at Taco Bell for a quick bite to eat. In my billfold is a $50 bill and a $2 bill. I figure that with a $2 bill, I can get something to eat and not have to worry about people getting pissed at me for trying to break a large bill.

ME: "Hi, I'd like one seven layer burrito please, to go."
IT: "Is that it?"
ME: "Yep."
IT: "That'll be $1.04, eat here?"
ME: "No, it's to go." [I hate effort duplication.]

At this point I open my billfold and hand him the $2 bill. He looks at it kind of funny and

IT: "Uh, hang on a sec, I'll be right back."

He goes to talk to his manager, who is still within earshot. The following conversation occurs between the two of them.

IT: "Hey, you ever see a $2 bill?"
MG: "No. A what?"
IT: "A $2 bill. This guy just gave it to me."
MG: "Ask for something else, there's no such thing as a $2 bill."
IT: "Yeah, thought so."

He comes back to me and says

IT: "We don't take these. Do you have anything else?"
ME: "Just this fifty. You don't take $2 bills? Why?"
IT: "I don't know."
ME: "See here where it says legal tender?"
IT: "Yeah."
ME: "So, shouldn't you take it?"
IT: "Well, hang on a sec."

He goes back to his manager who is watching me like I'm going to shoplift, and

IT: "He says I have to take it."
MG: "Doesn't he have anything else?"
IT: "Yeah, a fifty. I'll get it and you can open the safe and get change."
MG: "I'm not opening the safe with him in here."
IT: "What should I do?"
MG: "Tell him to come back later when he has real money."
IT: "I can't tell him that, you tell him."
MG: "Just tell him."
IT: "No way, this is weird, I'm going in back."

The manager approaches me and says

MG: "Sorry, we don't take big bills this time of night." [it was 8pm and this particular Taco Bell is in a well lighted indoor mall with 100 other stores.]
ME: "Well, here's a two."
MG: "We don't take those either."
ME: "Why the hell not?"
MG: "I think you know why."
ME: "No really, tell me, why?"
MG: "Please leave before I call mall security."
ME: "Excuse me?"
MG: "Please leave before I call mall security."
ME: "What the hell for?"
MG: "Please, sir."
ME: "Uh, go ahead, call them."
MG: "Would you please just leave?"
ME: "No."
MG: "Fine, have it your way then."
ME: "No, that's Burger King, isn't it?"

At this point he backs away from me and calls mall security on the phone around the corner. I have two people staring at me from the dining area, and I begin laughing out loud, just for effect. A few minutes later this 45 year oldish guy comes in and says [at the other end of counter, in a whisper]

SG: "Yeah, Mike, what's up?"
MG: "This guy is trying to give me some [pause] funny money."
SG: "Really? What?"
MG: "Get this, a two dollar bill."
SG: "Why would a guy fake a $2 bill?" [incredulous]
MG: "I don't know? He's kinda weird. Says the only other thing he has is a fifty."
SG: "So, the fifty's fake?"
MG: "No, the $2 is."
SG: "Why would he fake a $2 bill?"
MG: "I don't know. Can you talk to him, and get him out of here?"
SG: "Yeah..."

Security Guard walks over to me and says

SG: "Mike here tells me you have some fake bills you're trying to use."
ME: "Uh, no."
SG: "Lemme see 'em."
ME: "Why?"
SG: "Do you want me to get the cops in here?"

At this point I am ready to say, "SURE, PLEASE," but I want to eat, so I say

ME: "I'm just trying to buy a burrito and pay for it with this $2 bill."

I put the bill up near his face, and he flinches like I'm taking a swing at him. He takes the bill, turns it over a few times in his hands, and says

SG: "Mike, what's wrong with this bill?"
MG: "It's fake."
SG: "It doesn't look fake to me."
MG: "But it's a $2 bill."
SG: "Yeah?"
MG: "Well, there's no such thing, is there?"

The security guard and I both look at him like he's an idiot, and it dawns on the guy that he has no clue. My burrito was free and he threw in a small drink and those cinnamon things, too. Makes me want to get a whole stack of $2 bills just to see what happens when I try to buy stuff. If I got the right group of people, I could probably end up in jail. At least you get free food.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2005 02:58 pm (UTC)
f I got the right group of people, I could probably end up in jail. At least you get free food.

[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2005 04:31 pm (UTC)
Hey, that's Captain Sarcastic! Nice to see someone else is up on the classics of modern Usenet literature. :)
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2005 02:56 pm (UTC)
I think what bothers me the most about this is the contrast with the clerk who willingly took the fake $200 bill with the picture of George W. on it.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2005 04:32 pm (UTC)
Are schools really in such desperate financial shape?

Sadly, yes, actually they are....

I once had someone try to refuse a dollar coin. He said he didn't have to take it. I told him it was legal tender, and yes he had to. Call the manager. He finally took the coin.

People are so stupid.

And to blame it on "9/11".... Don't even get me started.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2005 07:28 pm (UTC)
Gun shows often give change in $2 bills. Something to do with the letting local businesses know their customers are gun supporters when they see the $2 bills popping up.

The things you learn living in military town...

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