Paying it Forward

I find coins on the ground often. Over the years, I’ve found lots of coins. Somewhere I learned that when you find a “heads-up penny” it is good luck for the day. A “tails-up” penny has to passed on. When I give a “heads up” penny to anyone, I tell them, “My grandmother always told me that whenever I find a ‘tails up’ penny, I have to give it, ‘heads up,’ to someone so we both have good luck for the day.” My grandmother didn’t tell me that, but people respond well to her wisdom.

Once I found forty dollars on the sidewalk as I was walking on or off of a tram that runs between two hotels in Las Vegas. I don’t recall the details of the discovery. I don’t like Las Vegas.

Another time, as I was walking to my car, I found sixty dollars in the parking lot of the Mormon Temple in Santa Monica. When I got home, I called the Temple and talked to a woman at the reception desk. I left my name and phone number in case someone reported losing the money. No one called.

Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and Barbara Streisand all sang about finding a million dollar baby in a five and ten cent store. Fats Domino found his thrill on Blueberry Hill. The world stood still. I’ve looked for love, probably in all the wrong places. There are no more five and ten cent stores.

I lost my cell phone once. This is not just any cell phone. This is a Blackberry Curve 8300 titanium phone that receives my email and holds my address book, calendar, to do list, notes, and important information like user IDs and passwords for a slew of online accounts. Discovering the loss, I felt sick and angry at my carelessness.

My first response was to call AT&T Wireless where I learned I could disable the phone by going to their web site and clicking on the “Report a Lost/Stolen Phone” link. Next, I changed passwords for accounts I thought might be vulnerable.

Having moved through the initial stages of shock, denial, and anger, getting to acceptance seemed the most reasonable way to handle the situation. I called AT&T Wireless again and explored replacement options. Not eligible for an upgrade and without loss/replacement insurance, the cost of a new phone came to nearly $500. Acting as if I were in a state of acceptance, I placed the order.

My home phone rang about 9:30 p.m., just as I was preparing to go to bed. “I’m looking for Dennis,” said a male voice.

“He’s speaking,” I said.

“This is Phil Reiman. I think I found your cell phone in front of Staples this afternoon. I hope you won’t mind, but I went through your address book looking for a clue to who the owner might be. That’s how I found your number.”

“That’s no problem,” I said. “I’m just happy to know it’s been found.”

“You must be a pretty important guy, ’cause there’s sure a lot of stuff in there!”

We negotiated a meeting. Fifteen minutes later, I met Phil in the parking lot of Mickey’s Pub, less than a mile from my house. “Wow! Thank you,” I said, as he handed me my phone. “I’m so happy to have it back. Losing this phone represented quite a loss.”

The following morning, I thought I was probably still in shock when Phil handed me the phone and I failed to offer him any kid of reward or recognition. After thinking about it all day, I called Phil. His phone number was still on my caller ID.

“This is Dennis, they guy whose cell phone you returned last night. I just wanted to thank you again and to tell you how grateful I am to have it back.”

“You’re welcome, Dennis,” he said. “I appreciate that.”

“Phil, it occurred to me that I should have offered to do something for….”

“I really don’t want anything,” Phil said, cutting me off.

“I understand,” I said. “I would feel the same way if I had found your phone. It’s the right thing to do.”

“Right,” he said. “I’m fine with that.”

“Well,” I said, “I think one good turn deserves another. I believe in paying it forward and I’d like to do something for you. I can make a contribution to a charity….”

“I don’t want any credit.”

“I’m going to do something, though, and it may as well be something you’d like.”

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll think about it and get back to you.”

“Okay. Thanks,” I said. “I’ll look forward to hearing from you.”

A week passed without hearing from Phil. One evening, talking with my neighbor, Cathy, I told her the story. “I have the perfect thing,” she said. “I’m chair of the Safe Grad Night Committee. We always need donations.”

“What a good idea,” I said. “I love that.” I went home and wrote the check.

I canceled the order for the replacement phone.

I’m still looking for love.