The Lost Wallet - 2010
I passed through the Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport with Cynthia a while ago, which you might know is the hub for transcontinental American Airlines flights. Not far from our arrival gate we stopped at a Starbuck’sy place to find a man’s wallet on the silver tubes that hold sliding trays. I asked the counter folks if it belonged to any of them—surely NOT—and what they would do if I turned it in to them.
Oh, they would give it to the Lost & Found at the end of the day, they said, and, in a week or so, someone would open it to try to find who it belonged to.
That wouldn’t do for me at all, so I raised my eyebrows at Cynthia, and she gave me a nod. We had nearly an hour before our flight would leave, so there were a few minutes “to spare.”
I opened the wallet. It had all of his credit and ID cards, most importantly his Illinois driver’s license, and many greenbacks, but none of the valuables interested me, then or now. I dug my finger in and found the stub of the boarding pass that had gotten the man from wherever he had been to Dallas.
We marched to a gate counter for American, and I set out the scenario to the lady in navy blue. She didn’t think I was identity thieving. On the contrary, she took it to be exactly what it was—someone just trying to help out a fellow human being.
She brought up his records. He was bound for a western city and should be at gate so-and-so. We thanked her and marched down the hallway, only to find the gate had changed and we had to mount an escalator and travel on a tram to a distant appendage of the massive airport to find where his flight would soon be departing. After another long walk down another hallway, we found the right gate and—there he was—sitting against the wall, completely unaware of his precarious situation. He was an exact match to his bushy-haired, mustachioed driver's license photo.
Nearly every available waiting-area seat was filled with a body, and many were standing around. I moved toward him and pulled up about ten feet from him, his wallet in my hand at my side.
“Joe,” I said, and he looked up. “Where’s your wallet?”
Without hesitating or even asking who the hell I was, he said, “In my pocket.”
“Why don’t you check,” I suggested.
As his hand sneaked around to his back pocket, I slowly raised mine with his wallet in it. The shock on his face was worth the price of admission. Unbeknownst to him, it was a pretty heavy price he had almost paid.
He stared at the wallet in disbelief, so I walked over and extended it to him. Still in a daze, he took it and hardly looked up, just kept staring at it.
“You left it at the coffee shop when you got off the plane. I thought you might need it at your next stop.”
Still no response.
I handed my business card to him in case he had any questions about what had happened, because Cynthia and I had to skedaddle, now having to rush to catch our own plane.
We moved down the hallway at a fast clip, and I felt pretty good about myself. It was a mini-investigation, crucial to a person who hadn’t even known it was going on. So much hung in the balance for him. All of that he washed away without a blink of his eye. I know I would have wondered what had gotten my wallet back to me!
Now, at a near-maddening pace, I turned to Cynthia and said, “So, do I get any credit for that?”
“No!” came her immediate reply.
I was a little hurt and asked her why.
“You couldn’t help yourself. It was as though when you saw the wallet someone pushed a button, and you couldn’t stop until the ‘case’ was solved. So, no—no credit at all!”
Wayne A. Barnes
March 8, 2010