On missing Banksy
How my search for a penny kept me from being a millionaire
It wasn’t until I was standing knee deep in Bethesda Fountain, smiling manically at a submerged penny, that I realized I didn’t know what I was doing with my life.
So absurd was the revelation that Central Park tourists were taking pictures of me — leaving me at an all time low when an Asian girl took a selfie on her iPad, specifically positioning me in the background. The peace sign and duck face only added insult to injury.
It all started three hours before when I decided to go for a run. I put my Nike shorts on, grabbed my phone and some headphones, and headed over to the Park I didn’t know what my destination would be — I only knew I had eaten an entire day’s worth of calories and fat by an oversized cookie and I really, really needed to run. Three miles into the Central Park loop, I decided to go to the Met.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is my favorite museum in the world. Original, I know. Hopefully one day I can go to an interesting exhibit in an exotic foreign country and then I will sound so much more cultured, but until then the Met’s Monet gallery is my go-to.
A few miles later I found myself facing a teller without any money, since I failed to grab some before leaving my brother’s apartment. Penniless, and unable to make any sort of donation to gain admission, I headed back out into the concrete jungle, convinced I could quickly find some change on the ground. Easy enough, right?
But, there were no coins to be found in a five block radius.
Undeterred and more determined than ever, I ventured back into the Park, winding my way back to Bethesda Fountain. Out of breath, I scoured the ground for any change that maybe missed the water, abandoned wishes waiting to be found.
There were none.
Eventually, I got so desperate I took my shoes off and climbed right into the pool to get a penny, ending up in the background of a couple’s engagement shots. I pray for the poor photographer who has to photoshop my sweaty, neon-clad body out of those pictures.
Cue: smiling manically.
I was so happy to find the penny I neglected to realize how absurd it was I had just run five miles to climb into a fountain. As the water from my wet hand dripped down my arm and dampened my sleeve, I saw the penny story as a reflection of much larger personality problems — I am heady, irrational and far too determined.
When these traits meet my horrific negligence to plan, disasters occur. I find myself in housing messes with unsigned leases and unfulfilled promises, forgetting my helmet in a cross-Grounds bike race for free cookies in Alderman, paying for items I convince myself I need and climbing in fountains to get change I could have borrowed from strangers behind me in line.
Somehow this realization made me convinced I was going nowhere with my life. If I couldn’t plan far enough in advance to think to bring money when I left the house, how was I supposed to apply for internships, organize the new CIOs I wanted to start, or even figure out where I was living next year?
Dejectedly, I walked back to the Met feeling pretty lousy about my lack of self-discipline and kicking myself for a living in childish disorganization. I had to get it together.
I walked into the Met and handed the same teller my penny, wet sleeve and all. I couldn’t help but mention I climbed in the Bethesda Fountain to get it.
The look on his face affirmed I was crazy. “Wow,” he muttered. “That’s dedication.”
I saw the scenes of Giverny in the Annenberg Gallery I had gone out of my way to see and left the Met feeling better… or at least neutral. At least, after all of my hassle, I got what I wanted.
It wasn’t until later that night I learned the moral of my story. Scrolling Facebook, I saw a link to a Gawker article that informed me Banksy — the Banksy — had picked this day of all days to set up a booth in Central Park and sell his original work, valued in the millions, on canvases to the general public. I, along with thousands of other people, walked right by and missed it. In fact, only three people bought a canvas from him, none of them realizing the incredible purchase they were making.
I was so absorbed in my own life, in feeling dejected about a penny, that I missed the opportunity to be a millionaire, to meet Banksy and to utilize the currency of serendipity readily available to those who take the time to look beyond themselves.
So what if I’m heady, irrational and far too determined. It’s who I am. I learned Sunday night if I embrace who I am and look up and out at the world, instead of in at myself and my flaws, then maybe I won’t miss the Banksy-sized opportunities lined along my path.
Lauren’s column runs biweekly Fridays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.