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Idiot of the Year is Michael Anthony Fuller

He's the guy who tired to pass a $1 million bill

I don't believe there actually is a competition called Idiot of the Year, but I would like to nominate Michael Anthony Fuller for that honor.

Mr. Fuller, you see, is the 53-year-old Lexington, N.C., man who back in November tried to pay for merchandise at his local Walmart store with a $1 million bill.

Really.

According to the Winston-Salem Journal, Mr. Fuller went shopping at the Lowes Boulevard Walmart on Nov. 17 and bought a vacuum cleaner, a microwave oven and some other stuff, all of which came to a total of $476.

He then handed the cashier his $1 million bill and insisted it was real. After repeated attempts to pass the bogus bill, employees called the police and he was booked at the Davidson County Jail overnight, with bail set at $17,500.

OK, class, this is mind-boggling on so many levels I'm not sure where to start.

First of all, let's try to imagine what kind of mind might expect a Walmart cashier (or any cashier, anywhere in the world, for that matter) to have $999,524 in change available.

"I'm sorry, sir," but I'm down to my last half-million in this register. Perhaps you could go to another checkout?"

Secondly, there never has been - and I'm going to go out on a limb here and add that there probably never will be - such a thing as a $1 million bill.

The largest bill in circulation in this country is the $100 bill for crying out loud.

I now know, from my careful reading of this story online, that there was a time, back in 1969, when there were $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 bills in existence but not in common use by regular humans like you and me. Apparently, they were just for banks and government institutions.

Also - and this is a great bit of trivia for you - the biggest bill on record was for $100,000, and it only lasted from Dec. 19, 1934, through Jan. 9, 1935 (that's right, just 21 days) and was only used between Federal Reserve districts.

I must admit, I usually have to wonder what's up with the guy ahead of me in the Starbucks line who wants to pay for his latte with a $100 bill. I often jump to the conclusion that I am in the presence of one of those goofs who report to police that his computer, camera, golf clubs, automatic weapons and a bag containing several thousand dollars worth of cash were stolen from his car that was parked overnight on the street.

Perhaps, when paying for power tools at Sears, or for diamond jewelry at the mall (where price tags are just naturally going to be a little higher), it could make sense to expect change back from a hundred.

But not always.

And a million? Shut up.

I honestly believe that a cashier should have every right, when presented with a really big bill, to come out from behind the counter and slap the customer's face - repeatedly, if necessary.

I would venture to say that there have only been three or four times in my life that I had $100 bills in my possession, and they always involved the withdrawal of a big wad of cash from the bank, which I then drove nervously across town to meet a guy who was going to sell me a used car or a boat or a guitar or something - you know, one of those weird deals where they don't want to mess with credit cards or checks, and you have to meet up in a Shari's parking lot at 10 p.m.

The other thought that crossed my mind when I hear about this $1 million bill-wielding character was the old joke about the stupid counterfeiters who accidentally printed a bunch of $18 bills and decided they'd go out into the boondocks to a very rural country store to pass them off.

"Got change for an 18?" they asked the clerk wearing bib overalls.

"Why, shore," he replied. "Whattaya want, three sixes or two nines?"

(Former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections, puts together the Living Here section and contributes a regular column.)