Yesterday, I just stepped onto the escalator in the downtown Seattle bus tunnel, making my way up to the street level when I noticed something fall out of a girl’s bag as she hurried off the the top step of the escalator. It looked like trash and I didn’t think anything of it until I reached the top and realized what it was. A black, well-worn leather wallet. I swooped it up and rushed out onto the street when I spotted the same puffy coat sprinting down a block ahead of me.
I took chase after her as quickly as my out-of-shape body could take me. I was stopped at the crosswalk and I quickly rifled through the contents looking for her license or anything with a name that I could yell out to get her to stop. I had tried saying, “HEY!” but in downtown Seattle, my hey’s were lost in the rush of bus rumblings and every other crazy yelling, “HEY!” When I pulled out her license and looked up, she was gone, having disappeared into Pike’s Place Market.
Oh damn, I said to myself. I looked through the wallet some more, thinking I would find a business card or any kind of phone number. Inside, there was just her license, $40 in cash, medical insurance card, a gift card from a bakery nearby, an ATM receipt and more shockingly: HER SOCIAL SECURITY CARD. The address on her license was from out of town and there wasn’t any other information that could tell me where to find her in the time I had before I had to catch my bus.
I rushed down into Pike’s Place Market, where I had seen her headed. I looked into shops, scanning the crowds of tourists for anyone wearing the same coat, black leggings and tennis shoes. I thought maybe she worked at the bakery because she was rushing at the speed of someone who was late for her shift (a pace I know well). I walked in and didn’t see her. I asked one of the baristas if this girl had worked there and I flashed her the driver’s license. She shook her head and I left.
I was feeling really desperate to and also feeling awful for this young woman, only four years younger than I am, probably losing her mind because she’s realized that she lost her wallet somewhere and inside was ALL HER FINANCIAL INFORMATION. And really! Who keeps her social security card on her?! It says on the card itself not to do that! And to have lost it so close to people begging for money and drug dealers vulturing around, spitting out sentences like, “Whutchu want!”
I pulled out my quiver of weird stuff I know how to do and googled the address on my iPhone. A listing came up for a man and woman, whom I figured were her parents. I dialed the number and a soft voice answered.
I explained to the woman who I was and that she didn’t know me, but I just found her daughter’s wallet on the street of downtown Seattle.
“OH! She’s done this before!” The woman answered. She did offer a thank-you and told me that her daughter worked in Pike’s Place Market and I could find her there. I was already at my bus stop but I had just a sliver of time before I really needed to leave and get to a parent-teacher conference at Nathan’s school. I left my number with the woman in case she got ahold of her daughter and then we could go from there, return the wallet back to its rightful owner.
I called the business where the girl worked and the boss said she wasn’t there but I could leave it. So I did. I rushed over in the few minutes I had left and walked into the small boutique. I handed the wallet to the woman and told her what had happened, how I chased after her employee but lost her and now I needed to get it back to her. She said flatly, “That’s nice,” as if I were letting someone with fewer items cut in front of me at the register not RETURNING A WALLET WITH A SOCIAL SECURITY CARD INSIDE.
I also called back the girl’s mother so she would know that everything was okay. “Oh you’re wonderful!” she exclaimed.
That night over dinner, I was telling Mike that I didn’t expect a call or a reward or anything, really. I don’t have many scruples, but when given the opportunity to do the right thing, you do the right thing. That’s what I want Nathan and TJ to do. I want them to run and sweat when it gets to the best end. Even when you’re wearing heavy tights under pants and expensive boots that are definitely NOT made for running the streets of Seattle. They are meant for lazy walking! Slow strides!
Then as I was shoveling spinach into my wide gullet, my phone rang. It was her: wallet owner. She said thank you and that everyone she has told the story to didn’t believe that someone could do that, just return a wallet (though she didn’t mention the cash and a Social Security card inside). I told her how I found her parent’s number by googling the address which sounded like *I* was the nutjob who does nutty things like googling people, not the person who was just trying to do a good thing. She said thank you again and we hung up.
I’ve been wondering how to share this story without it seeming like I’m fishing for compliments. I’m not. I do a lot of crappy things in my life. I have a lot to answer for. But this? Finding a wallet and knowing enough google-tricks to return it to the owner, I had no other choice. It was the right thing to do.