This story took place today around noon, within the geographic radius of W25th and W21st streets, Broadway and 5th Avenue, around the Flatiron building in Manhattan.
It happened like this.
I decide to leave the office, the Flatiron Building. It’s around lunchtime. I have to go to Citibank three blocks away and to pick up something to eat.
Before I leave the office, I do the obligatory winter dance.
I change into my snow boots, layer on my pink fleece vest, wrap my green scarf around my neck to partially cover my mouth, and then finish with my bright neon green windproof, hooded pullover. I grab my cellphone and put it in my jacket pocket, which I zip close. I grab my wallet, which is more like a clutch purse. It’s made of wool, striped cream and white, and about five inches long, three inches high. It’s too large to fit in my jacket pocket, too thin to hold my phone, which is a Samsung Note 3.
After pulling the hood over my head and putting my gray mittens on, the kind that turns into fingerless gloves, I tuck the clutch under my armpit, which has become routine when I don’t want to carry my backpack or handbag.
I’m properly dressed when I’m outside, feeling perfectly warm and comfortable despite the wind and frigid cold.
I walk on Fifth Ave to my bank. There are two tellers occupied, and one man ahead of me in line. There is enough of a wait that when it’s my turn at the teller, he thanks me for my patience and apologizes for the delay.
I’m at the teller to get a certified check for my rent. After a few minutes, I have my check, fold it in half, tuck it into the purse and head out. Before leaving the bank I stop at the ATM and withdraw $60.
I walk back, pass the Flatiron. I’m on Broadway on my way to the corner deli where I often pick out a mix of things from their hot buffet when I can’t decide what I want to eat.
It’s busy as usual, lots of people in line waiting for whatever they ordered and others at the cashier ready to pay.
I fill my container with different styles of chicken and some vegetables, grab a bottle of Poland Spring Dark Cherry Sparkling Water and an orange, and walk to the cashier. She places everything into a white plastic bag. The total is a little over $9. I pull out $20 from my purse, pay, get change, and as I often do, walk back to the buffet and grab a few packets of hot sauce and throw them in the bag before I leave.
I walk back to my office building, swipe my ID card, which hangs from one of my belt loops, and then wait for the elevator.
I don’t have to wait long before one of the elevators arrives. I walk into the elevator with about three or four others–no one I know personally.
My office is on the 16th floor. Around the 4th floor, I free my fingers from the mittens, unzip my jacket, then unzip the fleece vest, put my hand in the jacket pocket, feel my phone, and decide not to pull it out. I look down at the plastic bag and then it slowly dawns on me that I’m missing my purse.
I recheck the plastic bag, pat myself down, check the pockets of my pants.
I hit one of the floors to leave, mumbling to everyone that I left my purse at the deli. I hope, I say. One woman consoles me and says, Oh yes, I’m sure it’s there.
I don’t bother to zip up my jacket, take a quick survey of the ground around the foyer, ask security if he picked up a stripes purse, No, he answers and I walk briskly to the deli, looking down at the dirty snow covering the sidewalk along the way.
Just in case.
When I get to the deli and ask if they have my striped purse, they say, No. There’s nothing here.
I believe them. I’ve been going to this deli for years. And if I’d left it, they’d have noticed and held onto it until I realized and returned for it.
I retrace my steps and head back to my building. I recheck the plastic bag. Check trash cans along the way.
I walk back to my office, tell everyone that I’ve lost my wallet. I get on the phone, cancel my bank card and realize that I need to get a new cashiers check. When I ask the customer service person on the line to also cancel the cashiers check, she puts me on hold for a few minutes before returning and telling me that I have to go back to the bank and only a manager can help me.
I haven’t taken my layers off yet, tell the marketing assistant I’m going back to the bank and hopefully I won’t be long.
When I get to the bank, I explain that I lost my wallet and the cashiers check that I had just gotten 20 minutes earlier. The teller remembers me, has a mixed expression of sympathy, surprise, and amusement on his face.
I’ll be back, he says. I’ll help you.
After a few minutes, he returns.
We can’t cancel the check, he says. And because it’s an official bank check, you’ll need to file a claim. Once you file a claim, the process of evaluation takes 90 days.
That’s unacceptable, I say. There must be something or someone who can and will override this process.
He asks me to take a seat and leaves again for a few minutes. While I wait, I google DMV and replacement drivers license. Before I find out the process involved, the teller returns.
Follow me, he says, and leads me into the branch manager’s office. She explains that she’s able to cancel the check, but that I’ll have to wait 24 hours in case the check has already been cashed.
I fill out the paperwork, the branch manager brings in a woman to notarize the forms. Before I leave she hands me a temporary ATM card.
I walk back to my office, turn my computer on, my coworkers want to know what happened and they repeat how genuinely sorry they are.
Then one of the marketing associates walks over to me and then mid sentence says, Hey. You have a message. Your phone’s blinking.
She and I look at each other and say in unison, No. No way. No.
Put it on speaker phone, she says. I want to hear.
I say out loud, to myself more than to anyone listening, No it’s probably just some random work related request. Michelle probably asking me about some schedule.
When I punch my phone’s password in, a woman with a heavy Queens accent fills my office.
Miss Estrada, I’m calling from Bellmar Realty. A gentleman left your purse with us. It’s at the security desk. We’re at 936 Broadway.
I kid you not, the associate starts tearing up and can’t stop saying, Oh my God. Oh my God. Karma, Marie. You have good karma.
As I’m googling 936 Broadway, I say to her, Wow, humanity. I can’t believe it.
As soon as I have the location, I bolt. While waiting for the elevator I run into one of the marketing managers and tell her what just happened.
Her voice gets high-pitched and she says how wonderful that is and how happy she is for me. Awww, she keeps repeating, the way one would while looking at an adorable fluffy kitten playing.
I find Bellmar. It’s literally one minute away, a building I’ve never noticed but walk past every time I walk to the deli.
I tell the woman at the security desk that I received a call and ask her if she has my gray and white striped purse. She smiles, opens a drawer, and hands it to me.
I don’t bother checking its contents. For whatever reason, I know nothing is missing.
When I walk into my office, the associate is all grins.
I still can’t believe it, she says.
I put the purse down on my desk, peel all the layers off, change into my office appropriate shoes, sit down and finally open the purse.
And I was right. The bank check, my drivers license, cash, pink polka dot pen, receipts… everything. I got back everything I thought I lost forever.
I pick up the phone, call the bank and tell them my purse was found. Fortunately they aren’t efficient and haven’t completed the claim process.
We’ll shred the paperwork, the branch manager says. You’re lucky. Your purse was found by one of the honest ones out there. That’s rare.
Yes. Yes. Thank you rare stranger, whoever you are. You’ve renewed my belief in humanity with your actions today. With the choice you made.
Thank you. Thank you. I’m forever grateful to you.