Thursday, 24 June 2010

Where iz ze money, Lebowski?

What? You don't know who Lebowski is? Seriously?

A very long time ago, when I was still quite young and innocent, I was asked to book some tickets for an important football match in Baku. It was a major event ( the 1996 qualifying match for the world championship, against Switzerland) and I, not being a big football fan in general, thought I would go just for the experience. In hindsight, it was quite a bizarre bunch to go with: two British contractors and an elderly British English language teacher.

The tickets were not cheap. Especially for someone like me, on a decent for locals, but still not a huge salary. The game was great and Azerbaijan beat Switzerland. Does not happen, you say? Well, it did, once. The atmosphere was amazing.

Anyway, back to the story. The boys gave me money for their tickets in advance. However, the elderly British teacher did not. I was not happy. I really wanted my money back, but did not know how to ask for it. I was also about to go to the UK on holiday, and really needed every penny.

I kept waiting for him to remember. But he just would not. Finally, I approached him and, very quietly, asked if I could possibly have the money for that ticket.

What I still remember is the overall feeling of humiliation and embarrassment. I stood there for what felt like ages and he did not make any effort to stop me. And then he gave me a little patronizing speech. He said that I should never be embarrassed to ask for my money back. He said he remembered all along, but waited for me to ask. To teach me a lesson, I assume, or just enjoy my embarrassment.

I have to tell you, I never really liked the guy, but after that incident, I hated his guts.

Years later, I am still not doing well on that front. Whether it is a matter of what is considered polite back home, or my personal complex, I am still a coward.

Recently, we went to a park with a mummy friend. I did not have any cash on me and we decided to have lunch. ‘Let me pay with my card,’ I told her ‘and you can give me cash back for your share.’

Considering that we had three kids between us, I ended up buying a meal for 5 people. Which, let me tell you, was not cheap. Later, we decided to have ice-creams and more drinks. By the time we finished and were ready to leave, I paid close to £40 for us all.

She was not saying a word.

A flashy and proud Azeri in me said ‘No! Don’t humiliate yourself. Just leave it. So what? It is only a lunch. She can get the next one.’

The new me objected strongly. ‘That was not the deal! You cannot afford to pay for everyone’.

After some more thinking, I decided to ask. I reminded myself of a rich girlfriend of mine who, in front of other people, openly told my friend she owed her money. No hesitation, no pathetic complexes, no ‘Oh, does not matter!’ gestures. She brought it up so openly, in such a direct and poised way, I could not help but admire her for it. Possibly one of the wealthiest people I know, she had no problem asking for what was owed to her. So why should I? And yet, I waited. I waited until the very last minute as we were about to leave, wondering- did she forget?

Because, and this is another of my things. I am paranoid of forgetting that I owe money to someone else. Just like I hate to ask for it, I would hate for anyone to have to ask me. But clearly, not everyone has that problem. The number of times people forgot to pay me back and I never asked! Flowers, going away presents bought by a bunch of people at work, party booking fees at restaurants… Why is it that some people just don’t worry about it? And I am sure if I approached them and asked, they would not feel embarrassed. But I would.


  1. Ha-ha,we have remembered our debtors for ages,but they always have bad memories,it is the low of life.

  2. Well Scary, did you ask her?

  3. Oh God, i have this problem. I probably have so much money if i knew how to ask for it back. I learning though. x

  4. Interesting little story. Money - it is true - can be an awkward thing - and different cultures have quite different attitudes about it. Americans, for example, are much more used to having everything monetized. Put a price on everything. It can make life efficient - but not necessarily fun.

  5. You're describing such familiar experiences, Scary. It's ridiculous, we shouldn't think twice about asking for our money back - and yet we do. Absurd.

  6. @Emily: Yes.I just said by the way, it was a total of...whatever it was.She said 'Gosh, expensive!' And I wish I could afford to treat her to lunch and feel good about myself. But this country is just too expensive and we go out a lot! Maybe one day, eh.

  7. Money is always a delicate matter. I have friends who never leaves debts unpaid and I have the other kind of friends.
    To me, is always embarrasing to ask other for money they owe me. Sometimes, legal fees for works already done! But then again, I overcome my fears and ask for my money. It's hard, but collecting it's fair. Fair to me, of course.

  8. In spite of being Dutch I would never ask. In fact, my best friend and I never calculate, but always take turns in paying. Works perfectly! And why shouldn't I trust her? Ofcourse there's always people that will try and leech. Generally not the type of folk I like to hang out with...
    I don't mind paying for my friends if they're tight on money, in the end I also have friends that will treat me every now and again. The only thing the world needs is a little bit of balance.

  9. @Bianca: Oh, of course! We all do that but I think it is a different situation, with your best friends,etc.

    I was not prepared to buy an expensive ticket for an expat teacher on a lot more money than me and was not a friend. Also, there are moments when you are happy to treat someone (and it should be your choice and decision) or just made feel like it was an "accident", often when you cant afford any. :)

  10. I am very similar, but luckily I don't really have friends who forget.

    btw Thank you so much for your mention in an earlier post, I did miss it. I've been so busy recently I haven't been reading blogs like normal (now on over 500 posts to read in Google Reader!). Hoping to be back in blogland properly after I break up for summer. WM x

  11. I have always been paranoid about returning money I owe right away (it runs in the family). I also had to demand money owed to me a few times, and I just could not treat those people the same way after that. I lost my respect for them. Only once in my life so far, I had someone remind me about the money I owed. And it was because I was so busy/stressed out in my first semester of graduate school in the US that I forgot to write a check to my landlady for rent. (I have never been late before!) She sulked for a week and then confronted me. I said, Why did you not remind me earlier??!! I just forgot! I felt offended by the fact that she thought I was irresponsible when I simply was overwhelmed with endless papers and exams.

  12. @Marianna: That is totally understandable to forget when you are busy. Most of the people, I am sure, truly forget. Only small % does it on purpose.

  13. Sacry, I guess you don't have enough jewish blood in you :) For me I think I am 150% a jew. I don't mess when it comes to money. If I owe I will return if somebody owe me I will remind :)

    I guess that is why I was able to pay my 150K house in 2 years :)

    Love ya!

  14. I would have definitely asked (football) money from the teacher. I wouldn't ask for money from the mummy friend when it comes to lunch in the park with kids. However expensive. Its totally different. Period.

    Happy to elaborate more, if you want me to (you know who I am :-)
    Lol X