By Lenore Skenazy
Remember that old expression “Finders keepers, losers weepers?” Does it even exist anymore?
Last week I lost my phone on the Q58 bus, but before I even realized it was missing, I sat down at my computer and found e-mails from my family: “Call a lady named Grace. She has your phone.”
She did indeed.
She’d found it on the seat next to her, taken it with her to work, and reached the “favorites” on my contact list. Soon I was in a Mexicana Car Service car heading to her at her workplace in Maspeth: United Basket. This turned out to be a cool 100-year-old factory filled with every possible basket (big surprise) and an even cooler young woman, Grace Chen, who cheerfully handed over the Android, adamantly refused a reward and hurried back to her job.
A couple of months ago someone stole my wallet on the subway and another wonderful young woman—a waitress in a Colombian restaurant—found it on the street, bereft of cash but otherwise intact, She contacted me and also refused a reward.
Could it be that this is the way of the world — or at least New York? Finders aren’t keepers? I started asking around.
“I got a message that said, ‘I found your phone. Please call me,’ ” recalls Natalie Yates, co-founder of the digital agency Blue Iceberg Interactive. “I did. It was a taxi driver—in Westchester. He’d just gotten off his shift, found the phone, and he said that once his wife got home, she could take care of the kids and he could drive back into Manhattan with his truck to bring me my phone.”
Drive it in? After his shift?
“I can survive without my phone for a night!” Natalie told him. To which he replied with a laugh, “A lot of people can’t.”
Instead, they arranged for him to drop it off the next day, whereupon he told Natalie that he always returns things, including, one time $10,000 that had been left in his cab. For that good deed, he got a $20 tip.
Natalie gave him $30.
For her return efforts, performer Laurie Gamache got some lovely wine.
“I used to live in a little basement studio on West 96th Street,” said Laurie, who now teaches theater arts at the School of the Blessed Sacrament, as well as running the Theatre West 97th program at the Franciscan Community Center on the Upper West Side. “I was getting ready to go on the road with ‘A Chorus Line’ and so I was cleaning out the place.” In a crack in the plaster of her fireplace, she found a class ring.
The year on the ring was 1980-something, and this was still in the ’80s. There was a name engraved, too. Laurie put it in a box in her desk drawer, intending to try to find the owner. But then it slipped her mind. For decades.
“By the time I got back—years later—I forgot all about it,” she explained. But when she was preparing for a move, she cleaned out her desk and opened a little box she found. Oh yes! The ring! How to find its owner?
Well, in the intervening years a device had been invented to do just that: the Internet. So instead of thumbing through phone books, Laurie instantly found the owner on line—an upstate judge—and sent it back to her. The judge’s husband runs a winery, so the exchange concluded with a drinkable reward, nicely aged.
Just like the ring.
Dana Rubin, the chief executive officer at Rubin&Co, an executive communications and content creation company, came home one day to a ransacked apartment.
What pained her most was the loss of a bag of jewelry, including sentimental pieces given to her by her parents.
“I was devastated,” she recalls.
About a year later, she called an organization to come pick up some furniture she was donating. As the workers lifted up her mattress, there was the jewelry bag. She had put it there for safekeeping — which, apparently, worked.
“I’d been sleeping on it all year,” she said.
In a world of good people and eureka moments, there seems to be only one sure-fire way to find a lost and precious item, at least according to my sister-in-law: Go online and shop for a replacement. Press “Purchase.” Look up.
There it is.
Lenore Skenazy is a keynote speaker and the author and founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids.