Friday evening I lost my wallet. I should have known better. It had jumped out of my pocket previously: Twice at restaurants, where it was spotted by sharp-eyed companions before it could get away. Once when I was walking on the canal path and I heard it plop to the ground behind me. Little devil. And a couple times it slipped out in my car, hiding under the seat. It’s not like it is camouflaged or anything. It’s bright orange, (because if it was a dark color I would lose it in my backpack!) But it’s a slippery devil and with all the other bionic devices I have to keep track of in middle age—you know, two pairs of prescription glasses, keys, phone—sometimes a wallet can just get away. And it did.
It must have popped out of my car right in front of my house when I returned from a nearby restaurant, onto the sidewalk, where it hid, in plain sight, in the twilight, until I realized it was missing an hour or two later and discovered it had escaped and was gone.
I was so sure where I had lost it, that there was NO DOUBT that someone had picked it up. And what were the possible outcomes? Well, let’s review the tempting contents:
- $50 cash
- 3 credit cards
- Driver license
- Business cards with my email address and phone number
Clearly the money and cards were at risk. Hours had already gone by, and no one had called. Not a good sign. Was “Wallet Finder” a good samaritan who would leave my little orange wallet with the police?
I called and filed a report. No one had turned in my wallet to the local constabulary. I checked with my bank, and there were no new charges on my cards. That was good. Rather than cancel (what a pain!) I suspended all the cards. I could wait a few days. I kept telling myself, “Have faith in humanity.”
But why hadn’t she called? If a potentially good person found the wallet, wouldn’t that be the first thing she would do? The number was there. I supposed if it was found by an only-slightly-ethically-compromised Wallet Finder, he might take the cash and throw the wallet (with everything else) in the gutter, a garbage can, or some alley. Okay. I walked up and down the street with a flashlight, peering into my neighbor’s garbage cans. Nothing. Maybe Wallet Finder pocketed it and planned to drop it at the Police later? Feeling that there was nothing else I could do, and that I had been foolish not to keep my wallet on a shorter leash, I went to bed.
It took forever to fall asleep. I imagined the events and possibilities as I thought Sherlock Holmes might, or as a forensics detective or “profiler” would. I could see someone wanting to do the right thing but not wanting to make the phone call, not wanting to be involved. Maybe a tourist Wallet Finder picked it up on the way home and forgot about it? Now he’s back in Philadelphia and remembers it – what will he do? Throw it in the trash? Mail it? Where? How would he get my address?
Earlier in the evening my partner had asked about the driver’s license. “No,” I said, “I completed the change of address with the NJ Division of Motor Vehicles, but for whatever reason, they never sent a sticker. Just a receipt. So the license has my old address—there’s nothing in the wallet with my current address.” Something about this stuck in my mind, but that’s all it did, stick. I finally let it all go and fell asleep.
Saturday morning I awoke early, resolved that the wallet and contents were gone for good and I would just accept it and move on. Despite a long line, the NJ Motor Vehicle office in Flemington was fast and efficient and provided a duplicate license. I went to breakfast, walking from Lambertville to New Hope. Paying at the restaurant, I opened my new wallet, and looked at my new license. It wasn’t precisely a duplicate, it had my current address. Hm. Should I walk by my old apartment? What if Wallet Finder had dropped it off there? I imagined someone just popping it into the door mail slot. Nah. If that had happened, my phone number was still in it. Wouldn’t someone have called by now? It seemed so unlikely, but on a whim, I called one of my old neighbors. He promised to mention it to the current resident of my old apartment. But I was not hopeful. When I got home I went for a long bike ride.
I almost fell over. The text said: “Call me. I have your wallet.” On my phone when I got back from my bike ride. Unbelievable! From my old neighbor. The incredible journey of my escaped wallet, returned like some lost pet, and as I soon learned, with ALL THE CONTENTS intact.
The first Wallet Finder, still unidentified, picked it up from the sidewalk—and for all I know, passed it along to dwarves and goblins during the night, where it sat on the table like some temporary mascot, used as an ante in a mystical card game—who knows? But at some point, by Saturday, one mystery Wallet Finder had dropped little orange in the mail slot of my old apartment. The current resident’s daughter found it on the floor, and with no hesitation, passed it to her mother. She in turn, had just posted it on a web site when she was apprised of the tale by my old neighbor—the only one in this chain who actually knew me—Wallet Finder number Four. She happily surrendered it to him, and he called me.
It’s a tale of redemption. At least for me, in these times where every day we can hear some horrible story of some heinous act, it’s a wonderful tale of not just one—but at least four—people, maybe more, each of whom could have at any point selfishly and safely kept the money and instead CHOSE to do the right thing and help a stranger. I couldn’t ask for more!
To all you Wallet Finders, known and unknown, THANK YOU. Thank you to EVERYONE who returned it!!