28 November 2007

Got change for a million?

The stories of "stupid criminals" consistently amuse because we, as a culture, like to think that anyone who goes into crime is a first-class idiot. Sadly, this is not universally true, since plenty of clever crooks are ripping off decent people daily, and even the not-so-bright ones can grab enough firepower and moxie to steal from much smarter people. A Ph.D. doesn't mean much when staring down the barrel of a shotgun, even if the finger on the trigger belongs to a fellow who flunked first grade—twice. Tales of idiot criminals are a rebellion against this, where the honest and sharp folks trump the bullies of the world.

Still, how stupid do you have to be to try to open an account at a bank with a one million dollar bill? (By the way, whose face is that supposed to be on the bill? I would suggest placing a no-account president like Millard Fillmore or William Henry Harrison—who was president for a whole whopping month—as the cover star.) What's more amazing is this sort of thing has happened before. My favorite case is a 2004 incident where a woman tried to pay for $1,671.55 worth of purchases at Wal·Mart with a $1 million dollar bill. (This one had the Statue of Liberty on it.) Aside from the stupidity of imaging the clerk wouldn't question this unheard of denomination—which would only makes sense in a futuristic comedy as the punch line to a joke about the devaluation of currency—did the would-be perpetrator think that the cashier would just hand over $998,328.45 in change? Imagine if she had asked for it in singles… or quarters! (For the laundry, you know.) If a million dollar bill did exist and you had a few on you, would you really be shopping at Wal·Mart? Why aren't you jet-setting it in Paris, Milan, Singapore, Beverly Hills? Even Key West, for cripes sake.

Perhaps our clever con-woman Alice Pike figured that the more outrageous an amount she had, the more likely people would believe it. After all, who would seriously carry around a million dollar bill? It's so ludicrous that no trickster could hope to succeed with it... so it must be real!

Uh… wait. That's putting too much thinking into this. It's more likely that anyone trying to pass off a million dollar bill is just really really stupid and assumed everyone else is equally really really stupid. We all know what a million dollars in cash looks it: it comes packed in paper-bound stacks inside a silver metal suitcase carried around by a man in a dark suit with mirrored glasses who uses a zodiac-based codename.