...is, of course, "Could I borrow P10,000?"
Lest you think otherwise, this is not chump change we're talking about. That's ten thousand in Philippine pesos, which makes it a little more than two hundred US dollars, and a good chunk of my post-tax salary. It's not the kind of amount that you can casually carry in your wallet, and I'm far more likely to talk to a bank manager about it than I am to have it processed by the local ATM.
And speaking of which, I was conveniently given this statement by my mother on a Friday night, when all the banks were likely to be closed for the long weekend. To make matters worse, I forgot to drop by a cash machine last Saturday, so I found myself stuck at home late Saturday night, wondering how I was going to come up with the money by nine the next morning.
The solution, of course, was to start scrounging. My pack-rat tendencies mean that I hoard the strangest things from time to time — money among them — and even if I couldn't come up with the entire amount, then I could at least provide a substantial contribution. Besides, wouldn't you be curious to see if you had ten thousand pesos stashed around the house somewhere?
So the first thing that I did was check my wallet. My miserly habits meant that I usually had about P1,500 in there — which turned out to be correct — so it was a start.
Then I checked my "emergency fund". Call me paranoid, but most of my money is tied up in various insubstantial venues: closed-investment accounts, savings accounts, antique teddy bear collections... but I figured that I wanted a failsafe in case I couldn't access these for any reason. Thus, I maintain a home-based "emergency fund" in a secure location, which means that it's a wad of bills stuffed into an old sock that's wire-threaded to the back of my CD cabinet.
Said "emergency fund" held only two thousand in dusty old bills. I made a mental note to increase the allocation in the future, then folded everything together. That was P3,500 so far.
Then I raided the envelope stash. This happens to be a mishmash of old form letters on my desk — bills, solicitations, bank reports — stuff that I get over the mail, and set aside after reading. There were two fortunate things about this stash: The first is that it includes the money and gift certificates that I receive from relatives over the past few months; The second is that I hadn't gotten around to my yearly cleanup yet.
Here, for example, was the two thousand and four hundred pesos that I got in a red envelope on my last birthday. Sitting in a different sealed package was the two hundred that I won during October's mooncake dice game. Then there was the neatly-folded stack of hundred-peso bills (all new) that I had left over from a previous vacation, and on top of that, there were also remnants of my fee from a earlier freelancing engagement.
When the dust cleared, I was at the P8,300 mark. I was a little surprised at that point; I'm clearly in the territory of bachelor living here.
Interestingly enough, I still had one more place to look: My slush file, hidden in the deepest recesses of my bookshelves. This was where I held my long-term storage, the stuff that I put away without the intention of opening up until it was needed. It contained sealed envelopes with some of my older story ideas (which is a great way to prove copyright claims, by the way), old calling cards, and memorabilia from bygone years... among other nastier things.
It apparently also contained stuff that I had completely forgotten about. One of the things I fished out, for example, was a bank check for an amount that I'm not at liberty to disclose here... which captured my brother's attention almost immediately:
Brother: "Why do you have a check in there?"
Sean: "I don't know. I haven't seen this stuff in years."
B: "Why is it for [insert significant amount here]?"
S: "I don't know. I don't even remember why I have it."
B: "Why is it dated December 2005?"
Crazily enough, I scraped together another P1,600 from the slush file... along with a Starbucks gift certificate (valid until December 2002); a collection of ten-, five-, and two-peso bills; and half-a-dozen membership cards for commercial services that no longer exist.
That brought my grand total to a staggering P9,900... and I was only too happy to add another P100 from my wallet to bring it to the intended ten thousand. It is not, strictly speaking, the easiest way to get a quick shot of funds. Moreover, it doesn't speak very well about my hoardish tendencies, which probably got the last cleaning lady running away and screaming.
My mother was surprised that I had somehow come up with the money without an ATM in sight. She also mentioned that it wasn't an urgent need, that she could just pass by an ATM herself early the next morning, which gave me my regular dose of irony for the week.
She did wonder where I got all the gift certificates, though. I mean, it's not as though they were just lying around the house or anything...