A few years ago, when I came to America for the first time, I went on a driving holiday with my then girlfriend. We went for a couple of days – New York City to Connecticut. It was short trip to look at the autumn leaves.
On the way back we pulled in to a petrol station and filled up the car. I paid, put my wallet on the roof and drove off. I didn’t realise the wallet was missing until the next day when we were back in the city and I was getting ready to go to work. I was devastated. As well as a hundred dollars it also had my temporary green card. There was nothing in there with my address or phone number. The wallet was lost.
A few days later I went to pick up some washing that I had left at a laundrette. The Chinese lady who did the laundry was very excited to see me. Attached to my bag was a phone number. I had to ring it.
On the other end of the line was a guy called Joe. He worked in road construction and drove a steam roller. A couple of days earlier he’d been working on an interstate and had seen something sticking to the big heavy roller at the front of the machine. He stopped and took a look. Attached was my wallet, slightly flattened but otherwise in tact. He looked through it and the only clue he could find to my whereabouts was a laundry ticket. He called the number on the ticket and voila, he’d found me.
I was beyond grateful. I thanked him profusely and told him to take the hundred bucks. I remember what he said “Now David, why would I want to do that?”
“For your time and trouble,” I said. He refused, politely, but my offer seemed to lessen the experience. I’ve felt bad about it ever since.
Last week I left my wallet at Bunkers, a bar in downtown Minneapolis. I woke up at about midday after a big night out and when I finally mustered enough energy to go and do my laundry, I realised I’d lost my wallet . Again.
Eventually I got on the phone and John the barman answered. He had my wallet, it had been put in the office the night before and was safe and sound. I drove downtown, went to the bar, found John and got my wallet back.
Then I was struck by a dilemma. Should I tip John? I mean in America you tip, right? But how much, exactly, do you tip a barman for returning your wallet? Is it a five dollar act of honesty? Is it a fifty dollar act of honesty? I didn’t know.
So I made a decision. I thanked John, told him he was a gentleman and a scholar, thanked him again and left.
I hope he understands how grateful I am for his kindness and honesty and that it’s worth more than money can buy.