By Rod Andrew
A few weeks ago I wrote a story about a time when I lost a wallet. I told of having the good fortune to have it found, and returned to me, by a person who needed the money more than I did. I wish I had learned a lesson from that incident, but, unfortunately, I have a history of wallet carelessness.
Here’s another account of what can happen while traveling far from home and losing that very important item.
My wife and I were staying in Borrego Springs, California, and were in the habit of buying oranges and/or grapefruits from a roadside kiosk. This was run on the honor system: Customers took the bag of fruit and paid $3. I hopped out at the kiosk and went to pick up the oranges, which are fresh and delicious, as they are grown right there in Borrego. When I went to pay for them, I found that I only had two $1 bills in my wallet. Hmmm. I went back to the truck and my wife and I searched for change. We came up with an additional 95 cents, which I dropped in the payment box.
$2.95. Close enough.
I hope you will believe me when I say that I fully intended to add 5 cents to my next purchase. Honest.
I soon learned that Karma didn’t want to wait.
We were almost back in town when I suddenly yelled, “I left my wallet back there!”
We raced back, but, of course, it was gone. All of my identification. My banking access. The money, too, of course: $400 in crisp new U.S. twenties. I specify U.S., because it also held $300 in Canadian cash. Yep. It was a fat wallet. George Costanza’s exploding wallet comes to mind.
The cash was the least of my worries.
Our first stop was the Sheriff’s office. A deputy offered to meet us at the fruit stand, as we were going to scout the roadsides near the fruit stand, hoping the wallet had been emptied of cash and then ditched. The deputy went above and beyond, checking with the fruit stand owners that day, and going back to the stand the next morning at 6 a.m., to check with the orchard workers who stocked the fruit. He also gave us some valuable advice about how I could best protect myself from identity theft. He never once shook his head at my carelessness. A good guy.
I should also say that I received generous support from my wife, who assured me that anyone could make the same mistake. Maybe not true, but kind and reassuring.
We then made the rounds of stores in town asking them to keep an eye out for my Visa card, even going to the Chamber of Commerce. Everybody was concerned and promised to get in touch if anything turned up. Nobody said that I was an idiot. They may have thought it, but they were just willing to help. Good people.
As we were putting up a lost notice at the fruit stand, a resident of Borrego Springs stopped by. He asked for our phone number and said he would make inquiries for us. Later that day, my wife met him again, by chance. He told her he was going back to the stand to see if anyone had responded to our notice. He also asked my wife if she was okay for money. Now, understand this: We had never met this man before. She was astounded. I think he would have lent us cash if we were in trouble. A complete stranger! He phoned us, two days later, to tell us that he had checked again and that the notice we had left was now gone. That could have been a good sign, but wasn’t.
In the meantime, I was busy arranging for replacement documents to be sent to the RV park. When you’re away from home, the processes are complicated. I also became aware that, although I opened my wallet several times a day, I wasn’t absolutely sure what was in it.
(Editor’s note: Photograph the items in your wallet and save them to a file or folder on your computer or phone. You’ll always know what’s in your wallet and will have a photocopy of everything if need be.)
Most replacements were coming by private delivery services, but my driver’s license had to come by regular mail, so I gave the address of the RV park. I didn’t understand that I should have designated “General Delivery” for it to be held at the post office. When I told the post office staff member that it was coming addressed to the RV park, I was told that they couldn’t hold it. Since I wasn’t a resident, it would be returned, immediately, to the sender. I think she could see that I was distressed and said that, if I came each day at 3:30, and asked if there was a letter for me, that the staff would look through that day’s mail.
All this because I shorted the newsstand a nickel, remember.
Each day for more than a week, I asked at the post office for my mail. Nothing yet. I knew my license would come, but not when, and was concerned that it would be returned to sender. So I was always there early and never missed the mail arrival time.
I began to lose hope, as I suspected it may have already arrived and been sent back.
One afternoon, I asked my usual question, and was explaining to a new-to-me employee that I had lost my wallet.
A woman serving another client at the counter, called out, “Don’t we have a wallet out back? We’re going to mail it back to its owner in Canada.”
“What?” I yelled. “What did she say? That’s me. I’m him. I’m the wallet guy!”
“Just a minute.” She disappeared out of a side door and returned with a bulky manilla envelope. My name and address were on the front.
“Ohhhhh. Thank you,” I said. “I can’t believe it!”
Then, she said that before she could open the envelope I had to show some ID.
“My ID is in the envelope,” I explained. “If my license is still there, you can see it’s me.”
She hesitated, then laughed. “Of course.”
I had my wallet back. All was well with the world, again. I rushed back to the RV park to tell my wife.
I later learned that a postal employee had found the wallet in the mailbox the day I had lost it and, not knowing who I was, or how to find me, had put it aside to be mailed back to me in Canada. It had been sitting on a shelf in the back room, just a few yards away, every day I had been in.
Did I learn anything from this near disaster?
I learned that people are spontaneously generous when someone needs help. Especially the citizens of Borrego Springs. The kindness of strangers is a real thing.
All of the U.S. currency was gone, but my Canadian funny money was all still in the wallet, probably left because a Canadian dollar was only worth 68 cents, at that time.
Even though my cash was gone, the finder was decent enough to make sure that I wasn’t seriously inconvenienced. I hope whoever it was needed the money.
I learned, once again, that my wife is always there to support me when I need bucking up.
Oh, and I put $3.10 in the payment box the next time we bought fruit, making up for my earlier shortfall, and overpaying by five cents.
I was not messing with Karma again.