I’ve had a chain wallet since I lived in Seattle and used to wear it with the chain and everything. It was a good way not to lose my wallet, and my keys. I’ve since taken the chain off, but it’s a decent wallet and despite getting three (3) wallets for holidaytime this year (a message?) I still use the same old wallet.
Sometimes I lose it. I left it in a bathroom when I was in Salem NH last year and went through a little freakout until it was returned to me. I do all the stuff, photocopy everything in there etc, but it’s still a horror show replacing a wallet full of stuff. So, this time I was certain I’d really fucked up. I was on the Mass Turnpike, gassing up at a rest stop and I put my wallet on top of the car (yes, you know where this is going) while I put the gas cap back on. I’d had a long weekend. I hadn’t gotten quite enough sleep. It was 90 derees at 7 pm and I was driving in a car without air conditioning. I was, you could say, not at my best. That said, even when I’m at my best I’m absentminded and spacey. I drove off with my wallet still on the top of the car. Zoom.
To my credit, I figured this out almost instantly and by the time I checked the top of the car, all there was was a little smudge of pollen oulining my wallet’s trajectory off the top of my car and into the void. I had a few bucks in change in the car. I was checking into a hotel that evening. I was on a Turnpike. Fortunately, I had a cell phone that worked. I called my sister and did my favorite “I am calling someone with Internet access” reference trick. She found the phone number for the gas station at the rest stop and talked to the nice guy who worked there, told me to call him. I tried to figure out how to get off the Pike, back on, then back heading the other way — stupid one-side-of-road rest stops. I found change under the seats enough to pay my way off the Pike and back on. I was hoping against hope I wouldn’t have to be one of those people at the toll booth filling out a “I promise I’ll pay you but I’m a little short at the moment” forms that infuriate everyone behind them. All the toll booth operators wished me luck.
I called Chris at the Gulf station and explained my situation. He went out to look for my wallet at the pumps, no dice. I explained my exact wallet-on-top-of-car scenario. He was no stranger to it. He said what usually happenes is that the wallet stays on the top of the car until the car gets going fast and/or merges on to the highway. At this point the wallet hits the road and explodes, spewing its contents everywhere. You have to drive down the breakdown lane at 5 mph, picking up your life. “It’s usually an all-day project” he said. The sun was setting.
I managed to get turned around, only going about 20 miles out of my way. Stopped at the rest stop and began the perpish walk down the narrowing sidewalk that goes next to the on-ramp to the highway. Every step I took was one more step I didn’t see my wallet and I tried to think what the heck I’d do. Go back to MA and borrow money from my sister? Throw myself on the mercy of the Farmington Hilton? Borrow gas money from the librarians I’d be speaking to? Hock the pasta maker I’ve been carrying around in my trunk for the past month? As the sidewalk tapered to nothing, I was wondering if my usually great luck was also. At the same time, I noticed a truck that was in the breakdown lane of the highway, over the median. There was a truck driver sitting in the cab, waving at me.
Now, normally this is not cause for celebration, and I was just about ready to tell him that I was not looking for company, thank you, when I noticed he was actually waving my wallet. Seems that he had run out of gas, in that exact spot, and in walking back to the gas station, saw my wallet on the on-ramp and grabbed it. He had already called my house and left a message saying he was going to UPS it to me. The two metal snaps had held it closed. “It’s all there.” he said (meaning my money in addition to my bus tickets, my Charlie pass, my receipts, my health card, my nonsense, my life). I had been hot and sweaty and panicked for the past 45 minutes and just about fell over. Instead, I clambered up to the passenger side of his truck and reached in to get my wallet. I introduced myself, told him he’d just made my day, my week, my month, and said thank you over and over again. He declined to give me his name, said have a nice day, and then had to go answer his phone that was ringing.
It was, in fact, all there. Some of my cards were a little wrinkled [see driver's license above, my AAA car was bent clean in half, in two pieces] and I got to the hotel about an hour late. Today I drive to New Britain CT to give a little talk about libraries and computers. I’m trying to think of a way I can work this story in.