This morning I was walking downtown to my favorite local wifi work spot. As I rounded the corner from my side street to the main road downtown, I was surprised to find a folded bundle of cash lying on the sidewalk with the number “50” peeking from the corner of one of the bills. “Someone’s going to miss that,” I thought as I picked up the folded bills and counted three twenties, a fifty, and a one dollar bill.
I stood there for a moment wondering what to do. Keep it? $111 seemed like a lucky number. Maybe it was a gift from above; but I’ve seen enough of my senior neighbors working their way up and down that street to realize that it could easily have been one of them who had dropped the cash. So I kept standing, looking up and down the empty sidewalk; then after a while I tucked the cash between the letters I was carrying to the post office and headed downtown.
As I walked, I considered my options. Keeping the cash had its obvious appeal, but wouldn't have made the best dinnertime conversation at home tonight. Put a notice in the paper? Go back and put up a sign? Post news of my discovery on Twitter? In each case I could ask the claimants to give me details to verify their claims, but I kept walking as I thought and approached the edge of town. As I did, a woman came around the corner walking a dog. She was well-dressed in exercise gear with jacket pockets open at the sides. "Do you walk this way often?" I asked, and when she stopped to answer I suddenly realized that my question was usually asked for other reasons. "Yes..." "Both ways?" I asked. "Yes?"
"Oh, well I just asked because I found some cash lying in the street on my walk this morning." "Oh, that must have been mine," she replied with a sureness that startled me. "Are you missing any?" I asked, "No," she replied, not bothering to check, "I always carry a lot of stuff loose in my pockets." "Oh, well how much do you think I found?" "I don't know." "Over a hundred dollars." "Oh, wow... Well I was just at Whole Foods yesterday and asked for cash back. Just yesterday I checked my wallet and saw that I only had eighteen dollars, so I asked for cash back." "OK, what denominations would they have given you?" "Mostly twenties." "Oh," I sighed, showing her the cash, "there was a fifty." "Sh*t," she replied, and then "well, they would have given me whatever was in the till." "Yes," I answered. "Where would you have dropped it?" "Back that way," as she pointed behind me, "I stepped out into the street to get around some older ladies." "I found the cash on the sidewalk." "You'll just have to believe me," she said. I asked her name and she gave me a name and a street address that was barely a half mile from my house.
"OK." I shrugged and handed her the cash, thinking to myself "Well, at least that was easy." Giving away money usually is, especially when people insist on taking it. What do you think, was I too gullible (or lazy) to give in to the first person who appeared to claim the cash?