‘You got the check and you got the certification. So what is the question?’

‘Shouldn’t I be returning the check to you for the week I worked?’

‘Return the check?’ I sense his voice spike by a few decibels. And then there is a pause on the line. I hear the silent tick of his brain. He is probably thinking: now what sort of an idiot am I  dealing with? He has doubtless never heard of anybody offering to return the payment already made. There is probably no provision in their system to accommodate a returned check. It suddenly occurs to me that I must have been a rare bird to want to return the hard cash to Uncle Sam. It also occurs to me that by attempting to do so means that I am pointing out an error someone in his office committed and therefore putting him in a predicament.

‘I don’t know anything about returning the check. Just hold on to it and we will get back to you.’ He says after a long pause.

A week or so later, I get a phone call from one of his supervisors – a Mrs. Lopez. I go see Mrs. Lopez and it seems everyone is confused about the over payment. She wants me to see her supervisor, a Filipino gentleman Mr. Lamagna.  He weighs in the situation and realizes that I am just being honest, and yet everyone seems to shake their heads at my simple mindedness. How naïve can you be?

Still not knowing what to tell me, Mr. Lamagna finally says: ‘I have made a decision that you should go ahead and cash the check. I will instruct our people to take money out little by little from your future checks.’

Everyone lets out a sigh of relief while I run to the bank. As far as I can remember, there was no such taking out of the over payment from any of my future checks.

Is it for the people like me that the expression honest to a fault coined?

© Haresh Shah 2014

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

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ON FRIDAY, JANUARY 17, 2014

THE DOUBLE DOUBLE TAKE

Hanging on the wall of my rheumatologist Dr. Harpinder S. Ajmani is the progression of a female figure from her childhood till ripe old age. Even though this chart is meant to show the deterioration of the bone structure, in my mind it conjures up the near mirror images of the three generations of beautiful women I once came across.

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