Ringing in the New Year with a fist full of cash.

I hope you all had a wonderful New Year's Eve, and an even better start to 2007. Me? I played games all night and went to bed at 2:30 in the morning. Then on Monday afternoon I faced a moral dilemma.

The day started with me waking bright-eyed and eager-to-go at 10:22. I had received a call on Friday from the Saturn finance guy saying that he finally had the last of the paperwork I needed to sign for my car, and asked if I would be able to come in that day, Saturday or Monday since they would be open. I told him I wasn't driving anywhere on Friday – another blizzard, dontchaknow – and on Saturday I had other running around to try to do on the other side of town. So that left Monday. And that's why I was up at the ungodly hour of 10:22 a.m. on New Year's Day.

The final signing went smoothly and I decided to stop and get groceries at Safeway on my way home, since we were almost down to eating the plaster. Blah-blah-dull-dull. Anyhow, after spending $140 on noshies I was wheeling my overladen cart through the wind and the slush to my car, looking down to navigate the best I could. I did a double take. There in the slush to my left were several $20 bills. I looked around, snapped them up, shook the water off of them and stuffed them in my jacket pocket. It felt like there were at least six of them. So for the rest of the trip to my car my mind is racing. What do I do? Keep it? See if anyone is looking around? What?

By the time I finished with the groceries I knew I shouldn't keep it. It was too much money. One or two twenties I could keep. Maybe three. But this was too much. This was money someone needed. I really should at least see if someone is looking for it. So I started to look around the parking lot. If I found someone looking worried and scanning the ground I would give them the money and be on my way. If not I would keep it. Instead I found a few more twenties. Apparently the stack was bigger when it first hit the ground and the wind had tossed what didn't stick in the slush along. So now I was looking for more twenties, and a worried person. Mostly for more twenties. I figured a worried person would notice me searching and come to me.

I followed the path of the wind toward the hill that sloped down from the store where several kids were sledding. I was trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, finding a twenty here and a twenty there. One woman was eyeing me as I walked around her car as she was getting in, preparing to leave. I found two twenties a few feet behind where she was parked and after I moved she backed out of her spot giving me a pissed look – I imagine because I'd been in her way – I found one more near her driver's side door and two more in the bushes right next to her. Off she drove, oblivious.

As I continued the search I noticed that one of the sledding kids was watching me. He was about 10, at a guess. After he saw me pick up a couple more bills he walked up to me and said, "Hey. Are you finding money?"

Well, crap. That's all I needed was a group of kids searching for the money and running off. Because, at this point after much flip-flopping of thought – do I keep it? nonono! But?! NO! – I'd decided that I would be turning in the money to someone. I just hadn't figured out who or how yet. There was no way someone lost this much cash, all crisp – yet damp – twenties, straight from a bank that could afford to have lost it. Not in that neighborhood at least.

So I said, "Yeah. The wind caught it and blew it away and I'm trying to find where it went." That way I implied it was mine without saying it was mine, and hopefully he wouldn't just get his friends together and mug me. So he watched me search for a few more minutes, during which time I found a couple more twenties. Then someone from the store came walking up to me and asked, "Did you lose some money?"

Well, crap again. The kid was still there watching. What do I say now? If I say yes, and he gives me the money he found, how the hell will I turn it in later? Or worse, if I say yes and then while I'm searching the real owner shows up, then what? Crapcrapcrap. So I said something along the lines of, "No, I found some over there and a bit more over here, so I'm looking for any more before I turn it in," which was true, but not optimal in the presence of the kid.

My attention was entirely on the man at that point, so I have no idea what the kid did when he heard the news. The man's shirt tag labeled him as an assistant manager. He said, "Oh. I found $80 a bit ago, but while I was looking I lost my Safeway card. Have you seen it?" I told him I hadn't, but I would keep an eye out. While I was talking I was still looking at the ground. I glanced over toward where the kids had been sledding and they, along with a couple of adults who were with them, were looking our way and talking to each other.

Not good.

Then I found another twenty and I barely had the water shaken from it before the assistant manager took it from my fingers. So that's how it is, eh?

A minute or so later an old woman came up to the guy and said that she'd found his card. He thanked her, looked at me again and then went back toward the store. I spent about ten more minutes searching my way back to the store, found one more bill, stuffed it in my jacket and then went in. I asked the guy at the counter to page the assistant manager. After he did I heard one of the cashiers laughingly say, "He's still outside, looking for money." But he wasn't. I saw him walking toward me from the side offices.

Now here's where my details get fuzzy for a couple of reasons. Partly it was because I was getting bad vibes from this guy. It started with the snatched bill outside. I asked him what would happen to the money if nobody claimed it, and he said that store policy is they can't keep any money they find. So, that wasn't really an answer. Would they burn it if it wasn't claimed? I doubt that. Then when I took the wad of cash out my pocket I could swear I heard him say "cha-ching!" Okay, probably not, but that's the feeling I got from him. I started counting. When I passed $300 my hands were shaking a bit, so he took the money from me and counted it out himself. It came to $400. With the twenty he took from me earlier, that made $420.

The other reason was, if nobody claimed the cash I wanted it back. I'm not a total idiot. So the thoughts chasing themselves through my head as I counted were, "store policy be damned; if nobody claims this he's going to keep it. I just know it. Look at him." He didn't even ask for my name and I wouldn't have been surprised if he put it in his pocket when he was done counting. You know, to keep it safe. I know I should have gotten the cops involved by this point, but I just wasn't thinking clearly. Instead I said, "If nobody claims this, when can I get it?" I wish I could show you the look that passed over his face. He could tell I wasn't just going to walk away, so he said he would write down my name and number and call me if nobody claimed it, but "unless it was drug money I can't imagine that happening. Ha ha!"

Yeah. Right. So I gave him my name and number and said, "So, how long will you wait to see if someone's going to claim it?" Again a look.

"You can call us in 24 hours."

"What number should I call?"

I'm certain he could tell by this point that I didn't trust him, and it seemed to piss him off. I was also thinking to myself, "It's not my money. I know it's a lot of money, but it's NOT MY MONEY. I'm not out anything besides the time it took to find it. Why should it bother me so much if he decides to keep it? It's on him then."

For some reason he suddenly became efficient in what he was doing. He gave me the store phone number, he had the guy who was working the help counter sign the paper with my name, number and the amount of the money that I found, and even made a point of including the twenty he took from me in the parking lot in the final amount. Then he photocopied the note, gave me the copy and sealed the original in an envelope with the money. He told the guy, "This is too much money to leave out. We need to put it in the safe." Then they both went into the back room to "put it in the safe".

I knew someone would be looking for it. Hell, if it was me I would be frantic. I really wanted that person, whoever it was, to find it because I knew they would need it. But if they couldn't, I did NOT want this guy to keep it.

Minimally satisfied and certain that I would never see the money again (which on the one hand is fine since it wasn't really mine, and on the other hand it was $420.) I left the store thinking that I really should have had him call the cops. I almost went back in to have him do it. But I didn't. I looked around the parking lot one more time, just in case I missed anything. I figured that unless I found a whole lot more I would keep anything I found until I either heard back from the store or the owner of the money. But I didn't find any more. I noticed that all of the sledders were gone by this time as well. Hmmm.

I drove all the way home with the thoughts rattling around my head, "you should have kept it; no, you did the right thing; that guy is totally going to keep the money; so what? it's not yours; maybe I missed some; maybe it blew down the hill" and loop.

Pulling into my parking spot I nearly slid into Heather's car due to all of the ice that was forming from the melt off coming from the pile of snow the plow had left by my car. I unloaded the groceries, thoughts still buzzing around my mind. To try to distract myself I got Justin and we went out with a couple of shovels to try to bust up the ice behind my car. That was exhausting and did the trick. At least for distracting me. There was still a lot of ice behind my car. Still, I managed to put the money out of my mind until the phone rang at about 4:30.

A woman asked if I was Collin. I said I was. She thanked me profusely for turning in the money. It turns out it was her rent money, which was one of the possibilities I'd considered since it was the first of the month. She asked me for my address and I gave it to her. I asked her if she got it all back, thinking it wasn't too likely, but hoping. She said she was still missing $120, but luckily her landlord was understanding. I told her about how the wind had blown it all over and about the kids that were sledding on the hill. She said she looked around the hill as well but didn't find anything. She thanked me again and said she was grateful there are still honest people out there. I didn't tell her how close I had come to keeping it or how much I'd wanted to. We said goodbye and hung up.

Then I started thinking again. This is what it's like to be me: I was thinking, "Does she think I kept some of the money? If I had found some on the second sweep, I know I would have told her and given it to her, but she doesn't know that. She doesn't know me. I hope she doesn't think I kept it. Etc." It's just how I am. I guess it's guilt from the days long passed when I was someone who would have kept the money. I have a guilty conscious because there was a time when I was guilty and nothing I can do will change that. Oh well.

I managed to put it out of my mind until I tried to go to sleep last night, but then it all resurfaced. I have no idea what time I finally fell asleep.

So, that was most of my first day of the new year. It was certainly an interesting day.

How about you guys? How was your day?


annulla said…
Sometimes it is so hard to be ethical. I'm glad you overcame your qualms and did the right thing and that you intimidated the supermarket guy into following your example. Colin, you're a mensch.
Anonymous said…
You've got a lot of good karma coming to you for this! What a good guy you are! :)
Derek Knight said…

I'm so lame. I could've been out finding MONIES!
Anonymous said…
The lady that called was the assitant managers girlfriend. He got the money .
That was a good thing you did.
Anonymous said…
You did the right thing. Even if the store managers had end up splitting the money, the bad karma would have been on them. I bet something extra special cool or good comes your way in the next few weeks.

Or perhaps you already had "instant karma." If you'd kept the money, you would have slid into Heather's car causing just enough damage to eat up the $400. Instead, nothing happened.
Pat Angello said…
That is great Karma right there...
Debra said…
Wow. Good Karma is going to LOVE you some day! That lady is so lucky you asked a lot of questions and probably changed the guy at the store's mind about what he really intended to do with it.

Let us know if she sends you a thank you card or what!
foxymama said…
I'm proud of you. You're the man I thought you were... I just ran across this little thought in a book I'm reading, "karma is a boomerang..."
Nobodies said…
A tough dilemna to say the least. And you know it's a good story when it inspires as much thought and conversation as it does. Kelli called me over and told me I had to read it, then we both had to talk about it.
Good story with good writing.


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