It is Thursday, October 2nd at about 3:45 p.m.
One hour and fifteen minutes to go until the ribbon cutting, the ceremony that will kick off an event I’ve been planning since August. It’s an outdoor event and includes ponies, pumpkins, borrowed hay bales, bunnies, ‘smores, a free power tool giveaway and a llama. And that's a partial list. The petting zoo (the feature that includes most of the aforementioned animals) has not yet arrived, neither has the Cinderella carriage that will ferry festival goers around Circle Park.
But they aren’t expected yet.
I am wrestling 20 or so helium filled balloons out of my car. These will decorate and highlight the various activity stations. Nearby is Ben, my co-worker, wrestling the other 35 or so helium balloons out of his car. Balloon wrangling is actually a whole lot more complicated than it sounds when you’re talking about such a large quantity filled with helium. They don’t want to go anywhere but up.
Still, as I finally jerk the last balloon from my car and start toward the festival site, even I, negative self-talker that I am, have to silently congratulate myself.
Everything is, miraculously, right on schedule.
Ben, having finished wrestling his own huge balloon bouquet from the car, joins me.
“Hey, while we were driving here what looked like a wallet or a billfold or something flew off the top of your car”, he tells me.
I stop dead still, a horrible memory washing over me like a bucket of ice water. Me and my balloons in the parking lot back at the balloon store. I put my billfold on the top of my car just before I started Round One of the balloon wrestling.
In one sick second, I know for certain I never retrieved the billfold before driving away.
“So…now where did you see it fly off?” I ask, beginning to feel a little nauseous.
“Right in front of Hooper’s,” he answers.
Hooper’s is a sporting goods store on a busy four-lane highway very near where I live. On a Friday afternoon near quitting time? It is, let’s just say, VERY busy.
“Did it land…on the median?” I ask hopefully.
“Nope. Right in the middle of the highway,” he answers.
“In the middle? Of the highway?” I repeat.
My heart sinks to the ground.
And then the panic sets in. I can’t leave. I’m expecting a petting zoo and a horse drawn carriage any minute for God’s sake! I have an event starting in a little more than an hour. I CAN’T LEAVE.
But, I have to go. I can’t just leave my billfold with…well, god knows what personal financial crap in it, floating around Highway 60. I give hasty instructions about the balloon placement plan, hand off my balloons, and jump back in my car.
As soon as I start the car, a realization hits me:
I’m going to get my billfold back.
The knowledge is so ridiculous, so improbable, that it makes me feel a little dizzy with both relief and incredulity. Is this how it feels to crack up, I wonder?
I continue to worry about how quickly I can get back to the festival site, but from then on? If I tell the truth? It’s that I know I’m getting it back.
I drive quickly to the site of the disaster, park in the nearest parking lot, and check with the old man selling mums there. Had he seen a wallet in the road or anyone stop and pick something up in the last fifteen minutes?
Reluctantly, I head toward the highway filled with constantly speeding vehicles in both directions. Staying in the shoulder, I walk the length of the Hooper’s strip mall parking lot and beyond, carefully scanning the road for any sign of what I’m looking for. When I see nothing, I turn and walk back the same way. Should I now get back in my car and drive to the other side and do the same?
No. I’ll check inside Hooper’s on the outside chance that someone picked it up and left it there for me.
I walk over and grab the Hooper’s door handle, just as a small Toyota whizzes up, parks near me, and honks his horn. A man in his thirties rolls the window down and asks,
“What’s your name?”
I say it as a question.
He raises his left hand. In it is my billfold.
“I thought you looked like a woman who had lost something,” he says.
Apparently, the billfold had flown off my car nearer the gas station before Hooper’s. Both Chris, the man in the car, and another woman, Colleen he thinks her name was, spotted my stray billfold near the same time. Chris tells me they worked together to gather up my things: cash, insurance card, birth certificate. Inside Chris’s car, two small boys sit, both so young they are strapped in car seats. I imagine it was hard for him to leave them as he retrieved my things.
I offer Chris a bill from my wallet. He won’t take it.
“What’s really amazing,” Chris tells me, “is that I had the billfold part, but this other lady, Colleen I think, found all the cash. She just picked it up, handed it to me, and then drove away.”
As far as I'm concerned? It's all pretty amazing.
In the end, I made it back to the event in plenty of time to take care of all my duties, my billfold completely intact.
A Bizzyville Super Snap for Good Samaritans, Chris Rhimes and Colleen, who, Chris believes, works at the Olive Garden.
You guys are the bestest. Thanks for paying it forward on my behalf.