The other day at the grocery store I had a minor panic attack because I thought I’d left my wallet home, but there it was, buried deep in the abyss of that “thing” I carry that is only slightly less in size than a piece of carry-on luggage. It carries all my “important stuff” and also houses at least one homeless person and all of his possessions. The checker at Trader Joe’s heard me mumbling as I looked for it and she then commented that she’d recently had her wallet stolen.
From out of nowhere I remembered one of my very favorite “It-could-only-happen-to-me” stories, and began to tell her. It somehow not only entranced her, but also the two people standing on line behind me.
I was 9.5 months pregnant (really!) with my first child. I was living just over the NYC border in Yonkers and my Ob/Gyn was in Manhattan, on 9th Avenue and 28th Street. Since this was my first, every little twinge I had in my lower abdomen, despite all the reading I’d done about childbirth, was always the start of labor…or so I thought.
Well, this day I woke up really twinge-ing. It probably didn’t occur to me that this could be from the fact that my little frame was carrying around 200 pounds that included a good-sized baby that thought playtime was all night and therefore practiced gymnastics inside my tummy from midnight til dawn. So, I called the doctor, who told me to “C’mon down!”
The Ex and I set off, suitcase in hand, thinking that this would finally be the day we’d meet our first child.
I loved my Ob/Gyn and he made no secret about the fact that for whatever reason, I was one of his very favorite patients. He’d even given me the phone number for his weekend place so I could call him directly if labor started and he was out of town. He took a look at me and said that he couldn’t really sense if any kind of activity was going on and since it was almost mid-day at this point, suggested that we go to a movie, preferably a double feature (which you could still actually see in those days) and come back later in the day and he’d recheck me…and of course, sooner, if the twinges became stronger or my water broke. (The thought of my water possibly breaking in a movie house was enough to make the twinges stronger right there.)
We went to Times Square, where The Godfather had just opened. We plopped ourselves down in a row, with me in the end seat. Since there wasn’t much room on my lap, I put what even then was a sizable purse, under the armrest at the end of the row. It sort of was hollowed out and I didn’t realize that it opened to the row behind me; I thought it was like a book case and had a “back.”
Nearing the end of the movie, during the scene where Michael Corleone is denying to his wife, Kate, that he is a murderer while his capos are annihilating his rivals, I reached down to get something out of my bag and it felt very light. I looked in and my wallet was gone.
As the machine guns were slaughtering a number of Dons, I stood up and yelled at the top of my lungs “Someone stole my wallet! Don’t let anyone out of the theater!”
Even The Ex looked stunned when I did this. Apparently, someone had come in, sat behind us, reached under the arm rest, removed my wallet, put back the purse and left.
Well, they were not about to lock the doors. After a tearful meeting with the manager and a very sympathetic NYPD officer, I filed a report and we went to a phone booth to call the department stores and the bank to cancel the few credit cards I had in it. To add insult to injury, my return visit to my doctor just had me go home. I had no baby and now I had no wallet.
Fast forward about three weeks.
I’ve finally had my son and one morning went down to get my mail out of the box in the apartment building lobby. On the table was a bulky package with my name and Found in the Mail stamped all over it. When I opened the package, there was my wallet, with everything in it (credit cards, my birth certificate, which I’d needed for the hospital, etc.) except the cash…and a note from the person who stole it. In beautiful penmanship, every “t” crossed neatly, every “i” dotted, perfect punctuation, neatly written in blue ink on a sheet of looseleaf, folded to fit where my dollars had been. It read:
To whom it may concern:
I am sorry for having inconvenienced you and yours.
I will repay you at my earliest opportunity.
A Thief But Not Always
I stood there for a minute and part of me wanted to laugh, but part of me wanted to cry. I could only think of how desperate this person must have been to take a risk like that and then to feel so awful as to not only make sure I got my things back, but also took the time and trouble to write a note of apology.
We moved shortly after that, to our first house in New Jersey. I never did get my money back, but I never really cared. I had a wonderful little boy and was happier than I’d ever been in my life.
I have to say though, that over the years I have often thought of that Thief But Not Always and wondered what became of him or her. I still have the note, stashed somewhere with the glittery Mother’s Day Cards and drawings my kids made me over the years. I hope things turned out as well for Thief as they did for me.