Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Scary Story with a Happy Ending

I have honed and fine-tuned an efficient routine at the gas pump, developed over the course of doing more than a dozen Iron Butt Association certified rides including two highly demanding Bun Burner Golds. Such an efficient routine ensures that there are no wasted motions and that nothing is forgotten in the quest for good IBA documentation.

In my case, this means my wallet lives in my tankbag when I'm on the bike. At the pump, the magnetic tankbag is removed from the tank and placed on the seat, where I can comfortably and safely unzip it and remove my credit card from my wallet, while the wallet stays safely in the tankbag. After I swipe the credit card, it's immediately returned to the wallet in the tankbag. My gas receipt is recorded and then placed safely in the wallet, the tankbag returned to the top of the gas tank, and - if I don't need to go inside the store - I'm ready to reset the odometer and get rolling again. If I do need to go inside, I take the wallet with me, do my business, return to the bike, place the wallet back in the tankbag, and ride away.

So, at the gas station in Brookshire, coming home from a lunch ride to New Braunfels, I followed this routine to get gas and then go inside to use the bathroom. When I exited the store I headed to my bike and, mid-routine, was interrupted when friend Keith, who was riding with me, started walking in my direction to say a few parting words before we went our different ways towards home. He was too far away for me to hear him (we both had earplugs in and helmets on at this point) so I took a few steps his way in order to respond to him. This is apparently all it took to disrupt my concentration and routine.

I got on the bike, started her up, reset the odometer and then headed out of the gas station toward home, 50 miles away.

No more than 1/2 mile down the road I realized that I didn't remember returning my wallet to the tankbag. A quick unzip and peek under the lid and my worst fears were confirmed. I whipped a quick U-turn and raced back to the gas station, thinking maybe - beyond all probability, given how ingrained my routine has gotten - I'd left my wallet in the stall of the ladies room. I pulled up front, jumped off the bike, and ran inside to check. No wallet!! I asked the clerks at the counter if anyone had turned one in. No, they said. I stepped next door to the adjacent Burger King to ask them. Same answer. I ran back into the ladies room and checked again. I went back outside to the pump I'd used and checked the ground, checked the trash can, asked a group of motorcyclists who were parked off to one side if they'd seen a wallet. No dice.

Now I was beginning to panic a little and to doubt myself. I couldn't believe that I'd leave the wallet in the ladies room. It was a routine I'd followed for much of my adult life, preferring to carry a wallet rather than a full purse most of the time. What could I have done with it??

I frantically tried to reconstruct my steps, but the whole routine was so ingrained, such a deep-seated habit, that I was totally unable to retrace my actions. Every aspect of my gas stops is done fully rote, like brushing my teeth. I can no more remember the details of that activity early that morning than I could reconstruct my steps at this gas stop.

Then, worrying that I had perhaps left my wallet on the seat of my bike when I'd become distracted in my conversation with Keith, I walked down the road for at least a quarter of a mile, scanning every inch of the shoulder then returned, walking down the other side of the road on the shoulder. No luck. I was truly becoming despondent at this point and really starting to worry that this episode was the beginning of a slippery slope into senility. What will my son think if I tell him his old lady mom had lost her wallet in a seemingly foggy episode of dementia?

I went back inside the gas station and asked the clerks one more time. Their answer was still no. I was reluctant to leave, feeling that it was here somewhere, it just had to be! This couldn't be happening to me!

With a sick feeling in my heart I headed for home. It will be dark soon and clearly there wasn't going to be a miracle happen here any more today. As I rode out of the gas station, I stayed on the shoulder riding very slowly and scanning the roadway. When I reached my U-turn spot, I stopped and got off the bike, thinking that if the wallet were left on my motorcycle seat and if it had managed to stay on thus far, the whipping action and lean of the U-turn would have dislodged it. I walked along the shoulder on both sides of the road for about 20-30 yards before giving up.

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I had to give up on it. There was just no other choice. As I rode the rest of the way home I ran through my mind all of the things I needed to do as soon as I got home. Fortunately, as far as the really important contents go, I carry only a credit card and a debit card, my driver's license, and insurance card in my wallet. Also in my wallet were my AARP card, my new Senior National Park Pass, and about $50 in cash. Other items include a book of stamps, my BMW MOA card, BMW RA card, and AMA member card. Copies of my proof of insurance cards for auto and bikes are also in my wallet.

The minute I was home and in the door I got on the phone to USAA to block my debit card and AMEX card through them. I logged onto BCBS and requested a replacement insurance card. I logged into my auto insurance and bike insurance carriers' websites and printed out replacement proof of insurance cards. The motorcycle club membership cards were unimportant. The national park pass was fortunately only $10, being the senior pass, so not a big deal.

The biggest headache was going to be getting a replacement driver's license. I logged onto the TX DOT website to see what that would entail. $11 replacement fee and bring proof of SS # and another form of permanent ID (passport). I gathered these items together and put them in a safe place, ready to take with me Monday morning to the DMV office.

And then there was the issue of having no cash, so I was thinking that, after I got my long run in the next morning, I would drive over to the grocery store, make a purchase with one of my backup credit cards and get cash back. I had recently requested a copy of my driving record and so pulled that out of my file cabinet with the intent of having it on my person, just in case. It shows my license status (active), any actions on the card (none), the license number, issue date and expiration date (in 2016).

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I slept fitfully last night, fretting and worrying about the lost wallet, about possible identity theft, and all sorts of unreasonable-in-the-light-of-day worries. Worst thing is, this morning I needed to get a long run in: 11 miles. Not a good thing with a poor night's sleep, no appetite to eat anything the night before, and a churning stomach this morning.

But it was a good run. I spent the first hour turning the events over in my mind, becoming more convinced than ever that the wallet had fallen onto the roadway, could be at this very moment lying in a ditch or in the grass somewhere along that short stretch of roadway between the gas station and my U-turn. I even thought about driving back there after my run, spending more time carefully searching that area. I convinced myself that I'd done all that I could do, had done all the right things, and that everything will work itself out in the next couple of days, as replacement credit cards arrive, the drivers license is replaced.

I spent the second hour of my long run thinking larger thoughts....about things that have happened to me this past year and in recent years. The good things, the bad things, the sad things, the heartbreaking losses. And being thankful for what I do have, for what I've not lost. I have the gift of fitness and ability to do these long runs. I have my health. I have a beautiful son and daughter-in-law and two very precious grandchildren. What is a lost wallet compared to all of this? It's only a tiny speck on the giant Kodak Moments photograph of my life.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I returned from my long run, I walked into the kitchen, ready to prepare my breakfast and get on with the day. It was then that I noticed the message light blinking on my answer machine. It was the security officer at our entrance gate. Someone had brought my wallet back. He has it at the guard house. That message took my breath away! I quickly called the guard house, got the guard on duty - Kevin - who confirmed that, yes, he has my wallet.

I ran out to the garage, jumped on my bicycle, and rode as fast as I could - ignoring all stop signs - to the guard entrance where Kevin handed me my wallet. MY WALLET! I'm holding it my hands! There's a note taped to it. It's from the fellow who returned it. His name is Ray. And he left me his phone number. I was elated!

I jumped on the bicycle and pumped furiously back to the house. When I turned onto my street, it suddenly hit me with a strength and power that totally overwhelmed me. It was a wash of relief. And the tears came. I could hardly see, just steered the bike through my tears and into my driveway. They were tears of relief. And tears of gratitude. When I took the wallet from the security guard I said to him, "There are still good people out there."

I dialed the number on that slip of paper and waited while the connection was made, while the rings piled up, knowing I was going to get his voicemail. My voice nearly failed me as I left a teary message of gratitude, thanking him, asking him to please call me back.

Waves of relief kept washing over me, one after the other, all day long, as I thought about the kind actions of this man who found the wallet, took the time to drive perhaps dozens of miles out of his way to make sure that wallet was back in my hands.

When he did return my call late this afternoon, I was once again overcome with emotion. He told me that he had once lost his wallet and a kind person returned it to him. He was simply passing the kindness along. I asked him where he'd found it. He described the scenario and it was exactly as I'd imagined it had happened. He said he and his wife were returning up the road to I-10 after being in Fulshear when they saw it lying right in the middle of the road.

He apologized profusely for having gone through the wallet, no doubt looking for an address, hoping for a phone number. He said they looked up my address on Mapquest, that they lived near the Montrose area of Houston, just a 20 minute drive to get it to my house. He said that he left it with the guard reluctantly, not sure if he could be trusted, and even turned around and returned to the guard to get his name, and to leave his own name and phone number in hopes that I'd call him to confirm that I'd gotten that wallet so that he wouldn't worry. It seemed very important to him that I get that wallet back to ease my mind. He told me that he just knew what I'd been going through, getting cards canceled and worrying.

This man and his wife are truly angels! My faith in humankind has been restored, after a long holiday season of bad in the news: bank robberies, home invasions, parking lot robberies. I will never forget this genuine act of kindness and good will. Thank you, Ray! You will not be forgotten.

2 comments:

  1. That is fantastic. Good things happen to good people!

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  2. You didn't say but I assume everything was in the wallet including the cash.

    I'm going to be sure to add a note in my wallet - If found please call ... with my name and telephone #

    Glad it all worked out for you.

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