As I made my way out of my town’s budget-go-bust pet store (where kibble costs an arm and a paw), I saw a wallet near my front tire.
Nice wallet, I thought as the angel and devil that perpetually sit on my shoulders began to waken from slumber. Could it be the windfall I longed for after losing last night’s Powerball? Could it possess all the treasures of the world… or at least a Black American Express? Could I finally afford this overpriced, gluten-free, antibiotic-free, anything-but-free dog food?
As I came to my senses (and the angel knocked the devil out once again), I began to look for the owner. Opening the wallet, and quickly moving past the cash, I found a debit card, driver’s license and Saks Fifth Avenue card.
Putting aside thoughts of Ferragamo loafers and a Gucci belt, I began to Google the person’s name and address in hopes of identifying the mysterious woman (of excellent taste) behind the lost wallet.
Bingo… two phones number. Argh… two disconnected numbers. Hmm… this would be harder than I imagined.
I put my search skills to the test. 20 minutes later led to a new address in a neighboring town. But no phone number.
So I entered the address into my GPS and took off in pursuit of the rightful owner. Forget my business conference call. Ignore the sushi lunch special on the way… I was bound for parts unknown (but known to my GPS). I was on a mission made possible by Google.
Pulling into the driveway, I walked up to the door and rang the bell. Dogs began to bark furiously. A good sign… she was a dog lover just like me. I waited. And I waited.
Finally, the sound of feet followed by two false eyelashed peepers peering through the upper glass of the front door. I held up the wallet in triumph. The door flew open in joyous acceptance
“I found your wallet!”
“Thank you. I must have dropped it by the pet store.”
“I’m glad to return it. It took me a while to locate you. I couldn’t find your phone number as you must have moved.”
“Do you want my phone number?”
The question caught me by surprise. I was here… why did I need the number?
“Well, I’m happy I could return it to you.”
“And my rouge?”
“Where’s my rouge? Didn’t you find my rouge?”
I stepped backward, my cheeks ruddy as if I was slapped in my face. What was this lady’s make up?
Shaking my head “no” in disbelief and disgust, I quickly walked back to my car trying to understand her thinking. I had found her bank card, license, credit cards and cash. Why the focus on face powder and a brush?
My mind exploded with questions. Where was the cul-de-sac courtesy of days gone by? The gratitude and offer of fresh-squeezed lemonade… a handshake, a hug, a heartfelt hosanna? Why the focus on transient things when kindness came knocking?
Her focus on colored talc colored my judgment of this woman and my suburban world. Did we live in a town and times marred by material minutiae? I had no intent or interest to take the money and run but I did want to run as fast as I could from her quizzical, inward gaze.
It feels like every day is a test of one’s patience and collegiality with a suburban community at a civility war with itself. Blocking of strip mall exits to respond to texts… Suburbans plowing through four-way stops on freshly plowed roads… cacophonous cellphone chattering at checkout lines. As if no one else existed. As if no one should care.
I’ve witnessed parents furtively pushing their toddlers ahead on country fair rides. Trader Joe’s tantrums by suburban moms over discontinued frozen dinners. Dads in debate over little league batting line-ups. Bad behavior in the land of birds and honeybees.
Why so rude? And not just about missing “rouge” but everything and anything? Had we lost our ability to look beyond the carefully coiffured images we had constructed for public viewing? I was taught to give my shirt to a stranger in need, not tie myself up in a straitjacket of me, myself and I.
But before I stop believing in the kindness of strangers, I will take moment and look down. Who knows what’s waiting for you the next time you discover something lost. Maybe a cold drink, a slice of warm homemade pie and a friendly face among the green, green grasses of my suburban home.
Now wouldn’t that be refreshing?