I lost my wallet at Safeway, or maybe it was Metropolitan Market, I really don’t know for sure. I know I paid for my groceries at Safeway, tucked my wallet into my purse and then corralled my girls away from the candy machines. I then proceeded to navigate the large shopping cart -- the one with the car-like facade with the seats and steering wheels -- out into the parking lot. As far as I knew, my wallet was with me the entire time. With children buckled in their seats, I returned the gigantic kid-car shopping cart and then ran back to my car. I then drove to Metropolitan Market for items that I didn’t find at Safeway.
Inside Metropolitan Market we sampled cheeses – cheeses my children wouldn’t dare consume at home but for some reason in public they gobble it up like candy. While the girls were filling up on Mediterranean Gouda, I was searching for Gruyere. I found Cave Aged Gruyere which to my surprise costs a small fortune causing me to clutch my purse tighter. Then, at my husband’s request I was on the hunt for Arabica Coffee which apparently doesn’t exist as a coffee name, rather it’s a species of coffee. I did not know this at the time so I settled on a coffee that contained Arabica beans from Ethiopia. At checkout, I reached into my purse for my wallet and it wasn’t there. I searched again feeling my way around a toy Kazoo, empty gum wrappers, old receipts, a cell phone, hair ties, Burt's Bees lip balm... the wallet was not there. Somewhere between the Cave Aged Gruyere and Arabica coffee, I lost my wallet. Maybe I lost it at Safeway while running through the parking lot pushing the kid-car shopping cart. I was livid. My wallet, and $80 cash was gone.
Frantic, I hustled my children into the car yelling at them to buckle their seats. I then drove home recklessly as if taking my anger out on the road would make me feel better. Once home, I screamed at my husband. I screamed at everybody and only made nice with the folks at Safeway and Metropolitan Market because I wanted desperately for them to find my wallet or at least tell me that someone found my wallet or that they found remnants of my wallet, or something. I just wanted to hear good news. I drove back to Metropolitan Market.
While at Metropolitan Market the friendly, plump cashier who I’ve spoken to many times before, offered to give me the Gruyere and coffee for free until I was able to pay, which at that moment sounded almost as good as finding a wallet full of money! This man was so incredibly kind and compassionate but I simply could not take him up on his offer. I told him that my husband would come in later to pay and pick-up the items. He smiled sweetly and didn’t press me on it knowing full well that whatever he said, I wasn’t walking out of the store with items I hadn’t yet paid for. Then he said something that made me recoil. He said, “Sweetie, usually wallets are turned in right away – you’ve been looking for yours for some time now.” The truth hurt, and this person, clearly the entire opposite of sinewy, laid it out for me straight. He may not have been sinewy in appearance but he sure was in his conviction, he cut to the chase and broke it down for me without hesitation. It was this very moment that I knew my wallet was no more. This revelation settled on me like ash settles on the ground after a big volcanic eruption – softly, but with huge impact. Now it was clear that some stranger, some heartless criminal, was walking around town with my identity. (And by the way, I hadn’t thought of identity theft until just now while writing this post.) At the time, I only felt my whole self was left in that wallet and if it wasn’t in my possession that meant someone else was walking around with who I am. To say that I seethed a considerable amount is an understatement. It was time to call the bank to report my card lost/stolen.
While on the phone talking with the bank associate I kept referring to my wallet as having been ‘stolen’ and my husband would chime in from the other room, “Lost, not stolen.” Each time I uttered the word ‘stolen’ an echo came from my husband – ‘lost’ he corrected me. At this point, it really didn’t matter... lost, stolen, so what. The wallet was gone and it mattered not how it left my person, what mattered was everything was suddenly gone.
A day later, the bereavement over my precious wallet lingered until it occurred to me that I had lost sleep over articles I didn’t even know I had. My husband asked me what was in the wallet and I honestly couldn’t tell him. I knew I had stuff, but what that stuff was, I could not recall. You see, my wallet, for the most part, was a dumping ground. A place for discarded business cards, credit cards I never used, receipts from purchases made months ago, old appointment reminders that had long passed – there really wasn’t anything in that wallet of significance or anything I could honestly say I’d miss, well, minus the $80. All important items were easily replaceable and had no sentimental value. I stopped seething. The bank took care of everything, and a new driver’s license was on its way.
Then, out of the blue, I received a phone call from George, the man who found my wallet. I couldn’t believe it. I was happy. I rejoiced. But my celebration was short lived because I had already replaced everything. Getting my wallet back now seemed anticlimactic. However, I was intrigued to see what state my wallet would be in and was anxious to know if it had any adventure stories to tell me.
I met George at his apartment not far from my home. He told me that he found the wallet on the hood of his car and that everything appeared to be in order, except there wasn’t any money in it. George who looked about as old as I thought he would look, was unimpressive if I’m being perfectly honest. I thought he might turn out to be this heroic fellow, dressed in golf attire and fancy shoes. Instead he was a simple man. (And by simple, I mean, drab. I didn’t mean to imply that I had to talk slow and enunciate every syllable along with hand gestures, simple. He was merely unassuming.) He wore a faded brown leather jacket, black shirt, brown pants, brown shoes and he smelled like he smoked about five packs a day or more. And even though his face looked tired and worn, it was an honest face. George described to me how he came to find my wallet walking me through the scene as if reenacting the entire event. Together we speculated about why we thought the wallet ended up where it did with mostly saying things like, “Huh, you think so? And, “It’s a possibility, but will we ever really know?” And also, “Isn’t it the strangest thing?” Then at the end of scratching our heads and looking aimlessly toward the hood of the car where the elusive wallet was found, we started to part ways. But, before we separated, George got in a few last words, he said, “You be more careful with your things.” Complete with finger wag. That's George for you, the kind man who imparts simple words of wisdom.
Once in my car, it was clear that George’s cigarette smoke had permeated the leather and all of the contents inside. As well, everything was damp from being on the hood of George’s car all night. Now my wallet smelled awful and felt icky, so I made the decision that it was time to get rid of it and buy a new one. My next wallet will be smaller, and will have no room for junk. From now on, I’ll take George’s sage advice and be more careful with my things.
Oh, and by the way, the Cave Aged Gruyere is worth every penny.