Sunday, March 8, 2009

In Which I Lose My Wallet...

There are, of course, many and much greater pains in the butt than losing a wallet, but losing a wallet ranks pretty damn high on the list when it happens to be yours.

It happened to me. Yesterday. In Laguna Beach.

It was Patriots' Day here, the day of the big annual parade. Ellie and I had errands to run in town, and decided that we'd get into town ahead of the festivities. In the past, we have joined the event with a group of "Patriots for Peace"--an admittedly somewhat straggly bunch, placed strategically at the ragged end of the parade. George the dog has accompanied us in the past, tail held high and waving proudly like a flag. This time around we were tired after (for me) that weekend's training in the mountains and a busy-ish week in town, and decided that we'd skip our patriotic duty.

We walked downtown with George and stopped at the Cafe Zinc, our usual haunt for a cup of coffee, and shared a dish of scrambled eggs with leeks and a well-toasted bagel. We made another stop at the organic food market to buy some odds and ends of groceries, then on to the hardware store where Ellie had a previous purchase to return. (George very disappointed here, because they usually have a little doggie treat at the check-out counter. Yesterday he was out of luck. No cookies.) We went on down the main drag and stopped at the drug store and a t-shirt shop. Then on down to the beach, where we'd promised George a good run with his ball. George is a big fan of the beach. Before hitting the sand, we paused at a bench on the boardwalk to put on his long-line leash, since he's not allowed to run free and the animal control cops are much too fond of handing out tickets to miscreants. Then walked back along the beach for a half-mile stretch and back up the hill to the cottage.

It was here that I discovered that my wallet had slipped out of my jacket pocket somewhere along our route.

Oh, misery! It had a hundred dollars in cash, along with my credit card, my debit card, my driver's license, my Kaiser health coverage card, my press ID card, and all those other items that belong in a person's wallet.

I called the police. I called the lifeguard station. I called each of the shops where we had stopped along the way. No luck. I called the credit card company to put a hold on the Visa card. I went online to find out about driver's license replacement. A little later, the two of us drove down--sans George--to retrace our steps. Thinking the most likely place to have lost the wallet was the boardwalk, where I had taken off my jacket and stuffed it into one of the shopping bags, we returned to our bench. The area teems with the homeless and the hungry, and I worried that if one had found the wallet, he could easily have slipped the bills out and tossed the rest into one of the many, many trash bins along the way. He would have been welcome to the money...

There were a bunch of these guys near the bench where we had sat, so I went to ask if anyone might by any chance have seen my wallet. They were very sweet, a little tipsy, wanted to be helpful. But no result. We walked on to the life guard station. No luck. Back to the hardware store. Nope. In desperation, we decided that gelato was the only possible consolation and stopped at the ice cream parlor. Ellie had healthy yogurt. I had one scoop of mint chocolate and one scoop of pistachio. And we drove back home.

Now, next week, I have a lot of dreary chores ahead of me. Some sympathy, please... Though I don't deserve it, for my stupidity and inattention!

NEWS UPDATE: Blogger's Wallet Recovered!

After a day of imagining the horrors involved in replacing the contents of my wallet, I checked in with the voice mail at my Los Angeles office in the later afternoon. A message from American Express security. They had received a call from a man to tell the credit card company he had the missing item intact. He left a name and a telephone number. A fellow Peter. I called. I left a message on his voice mail. He called back at eight. He told me this was his second wallet recovery in as many months. I told him he must have good wallet karma. We arranged for a meet in ten minutes' time outside the Laguna Beach hardware store. He would be wearing a white sweat shirt...

I drove down. From his voice and his German-origin last name, I had imagined someone different. Peter turned out to be a very dark-skinned Latino, beaming with pleasure at having located the owner of his find. I gave him a big, spontaneous, genuinely-felt hug. I offered to buy him a nice dinner with some of the cash he had saved me, and he accepted graciously, at my insistence. We parted ways, and I drove back home with a song in my heart and a wallet in my pocket. Along with a little less than a hundred dollars in cash, my credit card, my debit card, my driver's license, my Kaiser health coverage card, my press ID card, and all those other items that belong in a person's wallet... Thanks to Peter.

The lesson from all this? Pay attention. Breathe. Be patient with loss; don't grieve your losses before you know they're real. Be grateful for blessings, great and small. Believe that there are good-hearted people everywhere. Pay attention. And breathe.


deanna said...

Something similar happened to my husband last year, and in the midst of his calls to credit cards and despairing about what to do about the IDs that would need to be replaced, a woman pulled up in front of our house with his wallet in hand. He had dropped it in the parking lot of a strip mall. Good people are every where, and it's stories like this that reassure me of this fact. Thanks for the reminder.

Paul said...

I was on my way to help my contractor-cousin with a project he had going. It was about a 45-minute drive. Midway was a GI Joe's store I stopped at to get some things I'd wanted, some shirts and a jacket.

After making my selections, I carried to bundle of things to the checkout counter. Just before I got there I decided to first stop at the restroom. I made a u-turn.

In the restroom, I placed my bundle on the trash receptacle, the only handy surface besides the floor. I peed then scooped up my things and headed once again to the checkout. Before getting to the counter, I reached for my wallet. It wasn't in my pocket.

Only slightly concerned, I stashed my stuff in an inconspicuous place among the racks and went to my car in hopes to find my wallet lying on the seat. I searched my car front to back and could not find it. I traced my steps through the parking lot. No luck.

I went to the customer service desk and left my phone number should it turn up.

Gloomily, I continued my journey. Arriving at my cousin's house, I called the bank and canceled my cards. Because it was Friday, I would have to wait until Monday to take care of the other things, like my driver's license.

After finishing the job, my cousin paid me in cash. On the way home, because now I had the money needed to buy what I'd set out to, I stopped again at GI Joe's. I first checked at the customer service desk. Nothing.

I wondered if the items I'd stashed were still where I'd left them. If so, it would at least save me having to make new selections.

What luck, I thought as I reached in behind the racks and pulled out the bundle. And..., right on top of the pile was my wallet... right where I'd left it the first time I headed to the checkout counter before stopping at the restroom.

robin andrea said...

Good ending to your story, Peter. I've been thinking about your meme ever since you proposed it, because on that day my twin brother's house was broken into while he was at work. The thief took his (and his wife's) computers. The thief also took all of Kim's (my SIL) jewelry. She's been collecting beautiful handcrafted jewelry by two artists for nearly twenty years. It was a huge loss for her.

On their computers was all of their personal data, not password protected. My brother spent two days changing his accounts and passwords at every merchant and bank he works with. You asked about the kinds of things that keep us up a night. This one had all of losing quite a bit of sleep.

I'm glad your story had a much better ending.

Doctor Noe said...

So happy for your happy ending. Though I must say your equanimity throughout the ordeal is a testament to your Buddha-centeredness.

All best, Peter.

Gary said...

The four of us lived in Macau China during 06-07 and I insisted that we all ware ID money belts under our waistbands. It is quite humid in Macau so our money belts were waterproof to prevent the sweat from damaging our passports which ex pats are required to carry at all times. The boys at 9 and 10 also had their first cell phones which were tethered to their belts and stored in special pockets that all the kid and adult pants are fitted with since China is mostly not hard wired and everyone above 8 that can afford it own and text on at blazing speeds.

Many of my 19 crew members lost their workers passes, passports etc. I spent over 4K and 11 days in immigration regaining their lost items which doubled those work days to 18 hrs. Our family never lost our personal items. The boys got lost in Macau three times but the Chinese people revere children and took the boys to their business or public park until JoAnn or I could get to them.

The money belt made me very conscious of my waist and I lost 20 lbs that was stored there as well.

Breathing slowly and deeply was what I did to stay cool and calm while working with the cantonese language and bus system retrieving the boys.

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks for the stories! Happy for those who had, like me, a happy ending... Robin, yours sounds particularly dreadful. So sorry for you all. Thanks for the good words, Dr. Noe--it was great to see you last week. And Gary, always good to hear from you. I do believe that the experience of other languages and cultures is essential to understanding and appreciating our own. It will stand your two boys in good stead as they grow older.

BarryF said...

Aho, Peter... Happy ending and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Truthful Rhino

Handsome B. Wonderful said...

Weird. I just lost my wallet too.