When Ryan Dubray was given a $50 bill from his grandparents as he headed off to college in case of emergency, he never dreamed it would be spent at a toll — more than two decades later.
Dubray’s grandparents, Leo and Anna May, gave him the money so he could find his way home in case of an emergency. They signed it, and Dubray tucked it into his wallet — just in case.
“I carried my grandparents with me everywhere I went and it kind of was like they were always there in case I ever got into trouble,” DuBray told News 4.
He stayed out of trouble for 21 years, never needing to use the emergency funds. His grandparents would ask to see it when they saw him, their signatures acting as a means of verifying he hadn’t switched it out for another bill.
“I felt like if I ever had to spend it that would be the lowest point of my life and I would be in the depths of despair or I’d be in a whole lot of trouble and it was a life or death kind of situation,” DuBray said.
It was that level of attachment Dubray had to the $50 that makes what happened to it all that much more anti-climactic, he says.
Dubray was driving back to his Massachusetts home with his family from a Myrtle Beach vacation when he hit a series of tolls, including the $15 charge at the George Washington Bridge. He quickly realized he did not have any cash left — except for the $50 bill from Nanny and Papa.
After snapping a few pictures, Dubray handed the bill over to the toll collector.
“It didn’t really occur to me that I’d ever have to spend it,” Dubray admitted. “I guess I took it for granted. And once it was gone I got real sad.”
When he got home, he shared the heartfelt story on Facebook, saying if someone ever finds it he’ll happily trade it for another, plus interest.
But he was not expecting to get the interest it has online — with hundreds of thousands of people sharing his story around the country and even the world, total strangers pledging to keep an eye out for the sentimental piece of legal tender.
“It was surprising. I wasn’t expecting this kind of reaction,” DuBray said.
While DuBray, who said his father and children will ‘”absolutely” carry on the tradition when they get to college, would love to get the bill back, he’s not expecting it. His grandmother has passed away since giving him the money all those years ago, but his grandfather says the $50 has served its purpose: It helped Ryan find his way home.