Editor’s Query: Tell us about a time when you got something for nothing

March 1, 2012

I ran a little bookstore in the basement of my all-girls high school in Chicago my senior year. One day, the pay phone down the hall rang. I answered it, and a technician on the other end said he had a report that the phone wasn’t returning change. Would I put in a dime, and he would try to fix the phone automatically from his site. I put in the dime and hung up. Suddenly, the phone started to spit out dimes, nickels and quarters. There was so much money I had to make my skirt into a “bucket” to catch it all.

The technician called back. I was laughing really hard, but I caught my breath and asked him if I should put all the cash back in the phone or make a long-distance call. He said no, I could keep it. There was $47.38 — someone had jammed the phone using pennies.

Susan Whiteaker,

Ava, Mo.

***

One winter, pulling out of a downtown parking garage after work, I misjudged the right turn I was making and crunched the right-side sliding door of my minivan against a bollard hidden in a snow bank.

The door looked terrible, but thankfully it was still workable. My wife and I didn’t have the money to get it fixed, so I just drove around with an ugly, crumpled door.

About a year later, I was parked in a grocery store lot. The spaces to my right were empty. While waiting for my wife to emerge from the store, I noticed the driver of an SUV diagonally behind me pull head-first out of her parking place.

Just as she left the space, her engine stalled, but she had momentum and kept slowly rolling forward. For whatever reason, she seemed completely frozen, and as we both watched, her SUV picked up speed, rolled across the parking lot and crashed into my minivan — right into my damaged sliding door.

Result: a wonderfully repaired door at no cost to me!

Keith Arnett,

Front Royal, Va.

***

We had been living in our neighborhood for a relatively short time when, returning home from work one day, I discovered a large stack of roofing materials on one side of my driveway. Mystified, I looked for a company name on the materials, but found none. I called several companies over the next few days to no avail.

Then a heavy snow fell and covered the materials for a couple of weeks. When the snow finally melted, I came home to find half of the stack gone; the rest was gone the next day. Looking up, I realized I had a new roof!

A few weeks later, a neighbor walked by as my wife got home and asked her if we liked our new roof. Upon hearing that we did, he told her it was supposed to be his. The roofing company had gotten the address wrong and installed a new roof on our house by mistake.

Ron Rabbu,

Centreville

New query: Tell us about a time when you let the cat out of the bag.

The Washington Post is partnering with the Public Insight Network (PIN) to hear more of your 100 percent true stories taken from your own experience. Submit your answer to the query above online at wapo.st/ed­query. By sharing your story, you become part of PIN — a network of more than 130,000 people who contrib­ute to high-­quality journalism. Editors will choose an entry to run in the Maga­zine, but we will also share more of your stories online. You can also submit to The Washington Post Magazine, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Include your daytime phone number. Recount your story in 250 words or fewer.

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