chain wallet saves the day

there is a story here

I’ve had a chain wallet since I lived in Seattle and used to wear it with the chain and everything. It was a good way not to lose my wallet, and my keys. I’ve since taken the chain off, but it’s a decent wallet and despite getting three (3) wallets for holidaytime this year (a message?) I still use the same old wallet.

Sometimes I lose it. I left it in a bathroom when I was in Salem NH last year and went through a little freakout until it was returned to me. I do all the stuff, photocopy everything in there etc, but it’s still a horror show replacing a wallet full of stuff. So, this time I was certain I’d really fucked up. I was on the Mass Turnpike, gassing up at a rest stop and I put my wallet on top of the car (yes, you know where this is going) while I put the gas cap back on. I’d had a long weekend. I hadn’t gotten quite enough sleep. It was 90 derees at 7 pm and I was driving in a car without air conditioning. I was, you could say, not at my best. That said, even when I’m at my best I’m absentminded and spacey. I drove off with my wallet still on the top of the car. Zoom.

To my credit, I figured this out almost instantly and by the time I checked the top of the car, all there was was a little smudge of pollen oulining my wallet’s trajectory off the top of my car and into the void. I had a few bucks in change in the car. I was checking into a hotel that evening. I was on a Turnpike. Fortunately, I had a cell phone that worked. I called my sister and did my favorite “I am calling someone with Internet access” reference trick. She found the phone number for the gas station at the rest stop and talked to the nice guy who worked there, told me to call him. I tried to figure out how to get off the Pike, back on, then back heading the other way — stupid one-side-of-road rest stops. I found change under the seats enough to pay my way off the Pike and back on. I was hoping against hope I wouldn’t have to be one of those people at the toll booth filling out a “I promise I’ll pay you but I’m a little short at the moment” forms that infuriate everyone behind them. All the toll booth operators wished me luck.

I called Chris at the Gulf station and explained my situation. He went out to look for my wallet at the pumps, no dice. I explained my exact wallet-on-top-of-car scenario. He was no stranger to it. He said what usually happenes is that the wallet stays on the top of the car until the car gets going fast and/or merges on to the highway. At this point the wallet hits the road and explodes, spewing its contents everywhere. You have to drive down the breakdown lane at 5 mph, picking up your life. “It’s usually an all-day project” he said. The sun was setting.

I managed to get turned around, only going about 20 miles out of my way. Stopped at the rest stop and began the perpish walk down the narrowing sidewalk that goes next to the on-ramp to the highway. Every step I took was one more step I didn’t see my wallet and I tried to think what the heck I’d do. Go back to MA and borrow money from my sister? Throw myself on the mercy of the Farmington Hilton? Borrow gas money from the librarians I’d be speaking to? Hock the pasta maker I’ve been carrying around in my trunk for the past month? As the sidewalk tapered to nothing, I was wondering if my usually great luck was also. At the same time, I noticed a truck that was in the breakdown lane of the highway, over the median. There was a truck driver sitting in the cab, waving at me.

Now, normally this is not cause for celebration, and I was just about ready to tell him that I was not looking for company, thank you, when I noticed he was actually waving my wallet. Seems that he had run out of gas, in that exact spot, and in walking back to the gas station, saw my wallet on the on-ramp and grabbed it. He had already called my house and left a message saying he was going to UPS it to me. The two metal snaps had held it closed. “It’s all there.” he said (meaning my money in addition to my bus tickets, my Charlie pass, my receipts, my health card, my nonsense, my life). I had been hot and sweaty and panicked for the past 45 minutes and just about fell over. Instead, I clambered up to the passenger side of his truck and reached in to get my wallet. I introduced myself, told him he’d just made my day, my week, my month, and said thank you over and over again. He declined to give me his name, said have a nice day, and then had to go answer his phone that was ringing.

It was, in fact, all there. Some of my cards were a little wrinkled [see driver’s license above, my AAA car was bent clean in half, in two pieces] and I got to the hotel about an hour late. Today I drive to New Britain CT to give a little talk about libraries and computers. I’m trying to think of a way I can work this story in.

wallet reunion!

penny farthing
So I got my wallet back yesterday and on the way to getting it back, I had a party. Let me explain.

I left my wallet at the mall somehow on Friday, I have no idea how. Casey and Sandee — who live in New Hampshire nearish to the mall — offered to go to the mall to pick it up. I asked them what would be a good way to meet up to exchange it and they said “Why don’t we come to your place to grill stuff on the 4th?” Sounded good to me. I invited some other people.

They went to the mall where my wallet was locked in a safe that very few people knew how to open, but they persevered. I got a lot of definite maybes from people who already had some stuff to do on the 4th. After the parade (photos of all of this here) I came back to do some prep work. I made turkey/pork burgers, two salads, some angel food cake and cut up some peppers (for the grill) and strawberries (for the cake). I also had some Spirit of America Little Debbie cakes because I thought they were hilarious and they were on sale at the dented can store.

My wallet was returned to me. People came to eat food. We had a good time. It rained like the bejesus. I was a little pleasantly surprised that except for cash money (which I had to borrow from a friend for things like eating) I could safely do without everything in my wallet for almost a week. I don’t really need my library cards to check out books. I didn’t need to buy anything on credit. I wasn’t flying and didn’t get pulled over while driving. The supermarket let me use their discount card. I didn’t need emergency road service or health care.

Today one of my projects is to take all my stuff in my wallet and photocopy it so that if I ever lost my wallet for real, I can more easily straighten this all out. I’m also going to take a dremel tool to my health care card which has my social security number on the front of it. I had previously crossed it out with permanent marker, but I think it’s time to make a stronger statement.

odd little iphone day

I did not get an iPhone. I’ve been a cell phone user for about two months now, I don’t need a cell phone that costs more than I make in a month at one of my jobs. Oh, and they don’t have service in Vermont. I’m sure you can use them here, but I wouldn’t be able to get an 802 number. However, I was definitely iPhone curious so when my friend Casey said he was going down to the Rockingham Mall to wait in line, I said I’d swing by and say hello and see what was happening. It was a good time. I took a few pictures. I made a little video. I watched my Flickr photostream fill up with pictures of people with their new phones.

Once Casey got his phone registered we messed around with it a bunch. The interface is impressive. It’s not Mac-like at all, and to me it felt sort of intuitive, but I’ve been around computers a lot. It does some pretty basic things fairly well: phone calls, photos, video-watching, music playing (great speakers actually) and has some really killer mapping tools. The on-screen keyboard is a little tough for people with big hands and as near as I can tell there’s no other way to interact with it. It took forever to sync up the first time. And, of course, it’s $600 or so. The line-waiting experience was so weird, so staged, so hypey but the people were really nice and chummy. I like geeks. I even met a guy who had been linked on MetaFilter which was a fun story.

The last time I can remember waiting in a really long line for anything that wasn’t food in Eastern Europe, a roller coaster ride, or airport security, I think I was buying Violent Femmes concert tickets in high school. We camped out overnight in Boston and got fourth row seats. This was before Ticketmaster was a huge Internet business so if you waited in the big line at the box office you’d wind up with something good. There were maybe 100 people in line at the Apple Store when I stopped counting and I think the bulk of them wound up with phones. While Casey was making his purchase I noticed that the store model phones were active so I stood around making iPhone calls while he finalized his purchase.

At some point in the whole crazy mall experience — when do I ever go to malls anymore? never — I misplaced my wallet which I realized the next day right before I headed home. After a few phone calls it turns out that the mall security people had it and all my crap was still in it. I had spent a lot of the drive back making a mental list of what was in my wallet [credit cards and library cards mostly] and getting to not spend the rest of my saturday reporting all my stuff missing or stolen turned out to be the high point of what was still otherwise a very entertaining start to my weekend.

note: for those of you who were wonderng why you couldn’t comment all of the sudden (this past month) without being part of my “team” it was just a momentary blip. I suddenly got a ton of comment spam while I was on the road, turned comments off until I could deal with it and then… forgot. Feel free to comment away. Thanks to Kate for pointing this out.