You can file this story either under "Dumb Moves" or "Hope for Humanity." Maybe both. Your call.
It concerns a wallet. My wallet. A couple Saturday's ago I went to the movie with friend Harry. Afternoon movie at Chesterfield Mall, aka The Land of Empty Stores. After the movie, as we walked to the parking lot, we decided to meet at Barnes and Noble, about a half mile down the road, for coffee and some stimulating conversation. We're good at that. Harry went to his car, I went to mine. I had put my iPhone in the same pocket as my keys and my wallet, which makes for a very crowded pocket. Don't ask why everything was stuffed in one side. That's just how I did it. When I got to my car I couldn't get my keys out, so I put my wallet on top of my car, got the keys, jumped into the car and pulled out.
Yep, you guessed it. Wallet on top of the car. I got to B&N, met Harry inside, and realized I didn't have my wallet. "I left it in the car," I told him and went out to my car. Totally wrong. That's when I realized I had left it on top of the car. So I sped back the 1/2 mile to the Mall, found the parking spot where I had been, looked around. No wallet. "I'll just check at the Cheesecake Factory," I thought. Someone found it and turned it in there (it being one of the few open businesses). As I drove down the row to the Factory, my cell phone rang. A woman. A stranger. "Are you Gerry Mandel?" I told her I indeed was. "I have your wallet," she said. "I found it on the road." She was across from B&N, at Trader Joe's, actually at Smashburger, which I had no idea where that was..or even what it was. "Stay there," I told her. "I'll be there in 3 minutes."
And I was. We found each other - she in a blue car, me in a red car. She handed me my "stuff" - the wallet and a handful of cards, id's, photos, etc etc. She explained she had picked up what she could from the road, a dangerous proposition since the cars move quickly along that stretch of highway. "I couldn't find your driver's license, or any other credit cards," she said. Turns out she was from Michigan, just visiting, and had seen my wallet in the road. And endangered her own life by picking up the contents. She even handed me the $20 bill I had. I tried to give it to her. I would've made it a ten, but didn't have anything smaller. She refused it. "Pay it forward," she said. She walked into Smashburger and I got in my car and headed back up the road.
Hang in there. It gets better.
I parked along side the road near the area where she said she had found the wallet. I put on my blinkers and started scouring the median and roadside. Which had to be a pretty pathetic sight. This old guy walking up and down the road, looking for who knows what as drivers flew by, probably thinking that poor old coot oughta be in a home. Back and forth I walked...until I saw a plastic card in the middle of the road. I retrieved it, in between the cars and pickups. My driver's license! Now all I needed was my MasterCard, the one I use to charge everything so I can get a free airplane ticket to somewhere I may want to go someday.
That's when a Chesterfield cop pulled up behind my car. "Great," I thought. "They'll tell me I can't be wandering around on the median, or can't be parked on the side." A young woman officer walked over to me. I gave her my most sincere and helpless smile and a slight wave. "Hi. Do I have to move my car?" I said, assuming a negative outcome.
"We got a call at the station," she said. "Someone reported they'd seen a wallet in the road. I'm here to help you." I could have hugged her. But I'm sure it would've been taken the wrong way. She spent about ten minutes walking around with me. Then she said, "If you can't find it soon, I suggest you call the credit card company and cancel it." She said it nicely and she was right. But canceling a card creates its own problems. "I'll just look a couple more minutes," I said. She said "okay" and "be careful." And left.
By then, Harry had joined me in the hunt. Nice to have company on the median. I told him thanks but I think I'll wrap it up, get a new card.
I had almost given up when two young women who had just gotten off work at the Cheesecake Factory were walking along the road, across from the median where I was. They saw me looking. One of them held up a card. "What's your name?" she shouted. I told her. I spelled it. I said "MasterCard." "This is yours," she said, crossed the road and handed it to me. I could have hugged her, but...well, you know. I thanked her profusely and offered her the twenty dollar bill. She took it. Hesitantly, but took it. For her and her friend. I had paid it forward, I guess.
So that's my story. Good people still abound in our society. There still exists a strong element of morality, of doing what is right, even though it may be inconvenient or even dangerous. You don't hear much about these people, but they are there. More than we realize. Small acts of concern and compassion that help define us as human, even when evidence occasionally leads us to different conclusions. I don't know the names of any of these people who helped me. What I do know is they have renewed my faith in the goodness of people. Maybe not everybody, certainly, but enough to help us get through the rough spots. A belated "thank you" to those beautiful strangers.