Lost wallets and karma

Back in April I submitted this story (see below) for CBC’s Hyperlocal contest. It was about losing my wallet in a very busy section of downtown Montreal and how grateful I felt that someone not only safeguarded my wallet’s contents but made an effort to get in touch with me and return what she’d found

I feel very lucky to have met my Good Samaritan and we’re keeping in touch.

In an interesting twist, she says her wallet was stolen the day after she returned my stuff.

It had everything in it! My life! That was about two weeks ago and someone just mailed it back to my parents’ house in Hamilton.

It must be some sort of karmic, paying it forward situation. It just goes to show there are plenty of good people, even in the concrete jungle.

The wallet was with me when I swiped a pass card at a metro station in my home neighbourhood of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

Changing lines at Lionel-Groulx, I joined a crowd on the platform before taking a train two stops to Guy-Concordia, Montreal’s third-busiest metro station. Heading for street level I negotiated steps, turnstiles, and escalators, walking past hundreds of students, downtown workers and visitors, and the station’s resident homeless folks.

I was having dinner with my boyfriend at one of the trendy vegetarian restaurants that have sprouted up near Concordia’s Hall Building when my son phoned. The bank had just called our home, he said. Something about a client card and lost items. I checked my jacket pockets. No wallet. But the woman had left a number with a Winnipeg area code.

Why Winnipeg? After dinner I rushed to call the bank’s customer service number. No note on my file about lost cards. A rep asked about the phone number my son had recorded. “That’s not one of our numbers.” he said. “Ignore the call,” staff at the bank’s credit card security division told me. “We don’t call you if someone finds your wallet. If someone tells us that, we advise them to toss the cards.”

Ordering new bank card and credit cards was easy. Replacing ID and membership cards not so much. Gone too were $25, grocery gift cards, business cards with cherished contact info and my OPUS transport card. I figured if a homeless person found the wallet at least they could use the bus and metro tickets, buy groceries.

Dense city blocks surrounding the Guy-Concordia metro feature university buildings, pizza joints, cafes and restaurants. Thousands of people cycle the De Maisonneuve  bike path, take a bus on Guy, or head for the pubs and bars on Bishop and Crescent streets.

Retracing my steps, we searched for the wallet, scanning garbage and recycling bins and metro platform floors. I asked metro staff if they’d seen it. No dice.

At my mother’s urging, I left a voice mail at the strange Winnipeg phone number. Esther sounded puzzled when she called back. She works for the bank’s call centre but didn’t leave any message. She’d make enquiries. A few hours later Esther phoned. A Montrealer had found my stuff and left a contact number.

It took days to reach my Good Samaritan. I was about to give up when she called. She’d been out of town. She hadn’t found my wallet but rather a stack of cards. “I saw these young guys on De Maisonneuve kicking something inside a newspaper. Then your cards exploded all over the sidewalk,” she said. “I yelled at the guys to stop. I thought ‘that’s shitty.’ I gathered everything I could.”She wasn’t kidding. When we met she handed me a plain white envelope. Inside, wrapped neatly with an elastic band, were the entire contents of my wallet. Even the money was there. And with it, my restored faith in humanity.

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