Sunday, April 29: I”m riding home on my bicycle from church. Lying in the street is a checkbook. It’s face down, but I can still tell what it is. It’s located at what I call the “change line”. Quite often, I find loose change lying on the street about a car width from the curb, which I suspect has fallen out of drivers’ pockets.
If the address on the checkbook were in my neighborhood, I would have dropped it off at the address, but it’s not, so I ride home. Call the number on the checkbook, which is a person in Watervliet, the next town over.
R: May I speak to [X]?
X: This is [X].
R: I found your checkbook.
R: I found your checkbook.
X: I don’t know.
R: It’s an HSBC checkbook.
X: Oh, that’s mine. I’ll call you back in 15 minutes.
R: O.K. [I figure he needs to get a ride.]
[15 minutes later]
X: Hi, this is [X]. O.K., I’m coming over. What is your address?
[I give it to him.]
[10 minutes later, while we’re eating lunch before I get picked up to go to my conference in Utica an hour later, the doorbell rings, and I go to the door.]
R [to person at the door]: Here you are.
[In my peripheral vision, I see two Albany policemen.]
P1 [in his best “talking to a perp” voice]: What’s going on here?
R [stepping onto the porch, trying to stifle a sigh]: I found his checkbook on the ground.
P1: When was that?
R: Right before I called him. It took me five minutes to ride home, oh about 30, 35 minutes ago.
[At this point, the second policeman takes X, who seems to be jumping up and down as though he’s helped in the bust of the century, onto the sidewalk.]
P1: Where did you find it?
R: On the street, on Western Avenue, about two car lengths beyond Ontario Street.
[By this point, my wife and daughter have come to the door. P1’s tone lightens.]
P1: Usually, in 90% of these cases, there’s some kind of shakedown.
Then they leave.
As it turns out, X had been robbed of his wallet and checkbook, I inferred; this was never stated to me outright.
O.K., what could/should I have done?
1) Leave the checkbook there on the ground – unacceptable. If I had lost mine, I would have wanted someone to do something.
2) Mail it back anonymously – not optimal. I thought he was missing it, and would want it back right away.
3) Drop it off at the police station; there’s one on the way home – what I probably should have done, an idea I had dismissed at the time because I was trying to save time to get ready for the trip, and didn’t want to have to go through the bureaucracy of filing a police report.
Being a Good Samaritan has become such a hassle.
BTW, and I didn’t know this until I was retelling this story to some friends, my wife and daughter coming to the doorway was not a happenstance. The wife heard the policeman’s first utterance and decided to make herself and our child known to him. “See, he’s a family man,” the message would be. Smart wife.