Saturday, November 27, 2010

An American Girlfriend in London Pt 2: Maybe I Am Lucky After All

Americans continue to celebrate… Thanksgiving has thrived. I have a theory…. I think I know why. Other than pumpkin pie (which F'n rules!), I think a lot of people eventually decided that Thanksgiving wasn't so much a day of remembrance/observance for a (fictional) moment in the country's past, but instead decide to just take advantage of a day where expressing gratitude, or even just allowing one's self to reflect and acknowledge that they are indeed thankful for many things, is the way to go.
I, however, am a total cynic. I pretty much quit trying to find things to be thankful for when it felt like everything else was falling to shit. I basically just wanted my day off to be MY DAY OFF. I was totally selfish (which IS okay to be sometimes, you know) and didn't want to have to go sit around eating food I wasn't the biggest fan of (ok, the desserts are always pretty slammin', but if that's all I ate I'd be like 300lbs by the time Black Friday was over.) I still intend to spend my future Thanksgivings the way I have these past few years, and I will still charge a pie tax to anyone that shows up at the door, but I might let it slide if someone shows up in their PJs, or stays over the night before. Though…should it ever come up, if I am ever asked in earnest and deem a reply in order to "what are you thankful for?"….I'll tell you, what occurred on Thanksgiving this year (ironically in a country that doesn't celebrate it…) will eternally go down as one of my most thankful moments ever. EVER. Like in the whole history of ever.
…and because I am writing this post specifically so I can tell you all about it….The following is the 100% true, 110% totally unbelievable, 150% smile inducing story:

 On Thanksgiving Day I wandered down the road to the cafe I love (Venetia's) to use their internet, and this time I was prepared for the frigid temperature (-1˚c/ 30˚f) while out back (so I can smoke if I want to, and I wanted to.) I had on a hooded sweatshirt, a fleece jacket, and the BF's puffy parka, as well as jeans, leggings, 2 pairs of socks (one pr. thigh high), a thick scarf, and a hat. I eventually had to take the hat off because I was so warm I feared flames would shoot out my ears if it stayed on a moment longer.

While at the cafe I got the chance to see/speak to one of my very best friends (Wendy Mae) via Skype, without interruption or feeling like people were annoyed by the noise, since I was the only person bananas enough to sit outside in weather like that and had the entire back garden of the cafe to myself. I had mentioned to Wendy Mae that the BF wanted to go see a comedy show that evening and that I was actually kind of excited to go. I liked the idea of traveling to a part of London I might normally never see, as well as hopeful that the people performing would be funny. At about 4:30pm, not knowing when we would be leaving to go out I thought it would be prudent to close up the lap top & stop at one of the markets on the way home to grab some things to make dinner with. (red, green, & yellow peppers, and some popcorn for popping if you really want to know….)

Upon returning home I asked the BF what time the show started. He said "7:45pm," which I found more than a little odd, but as you all may have noticed, I have been finding multiple things here in London more than a little odd. I hadn't known anyone to head out for the evening any earlier than 9pm in years…. but at 6:15 we left the house and started walking up to the bus stop where the bus we wanted would take us pretty much to the front door of the bar where the comedy show was happening.

I reached for my Oyster Card and said that I thought we should stop somewhere and let me top up. I didn't think I even had £1 left on it (turned out there was only .40 pence left). We walked into one of those random shops that seems to sell everything… and lets you top up your Oyster Card. You know the place, right? They sell electrical goods, kids toys, cigarettes, random tchotchke, and jewelry… among other things.
I reached inside the fleece jacket for my wallet. I had been keeping it in this really deep inner pocket on the inside 'cause I didn't want to take a purse since I hate carrying one (love them, just hate carrying them), and it just bops around & gets in the way when we are out because the BF walks so fast you'd think his ass was on fire. Seriously, my legs are much longer than his but I have spent so many year slowing my gait, so that my shorter friends wouldn't get left in the dust, that his "Turbo BF" style of walking can necessitate a nap in preparation.

Anyway, we enter the shop, tell them we need to top up our Oyster Cards and I pull out my wallet, open it, and prepare to pull some money out. The BF just shoots me a look and tells me to put it away as he hands the man behind the counter £5 and tells the guy to top up my card as well. I thank the BF and go to slip the wallet back into the deep inner pocket. Mind you, my wallet is quite large. It's not my only wallet, but it's a huge Coach one I love for its durability and the fact that it zips shut (not to mention that I got it for a MAJOR discount years ago in Florida at a Coach outlet) and since coin is given more often than bills in the UK I thought it would be best to keep it all contained.

My pockets were stuffed full of things that night. Lip goop (like 3 different kinds… 'cause I'm mildly obsessed with it), some tobacco & papers, a pack of cigarettes, house keys, pen, paper, tissues (which are totally necessary in this weather… 'cause I don't know about you, but when the weather is chilly my nose runs like a faucet), and … my wallet. I still had my Oyster Card in my hand when we left the shop 'cause the bus stop was at the end of the next block and I really didn't want to have to undo both jackets again to get it back into my wallet. When the bus arrived we hopped on, sat down, and laughed about how perfectly on time we were going to be… even though I was seriously doubting a comedy show at a bar would begin at 7:45pm.

I asked the BF which stop we were getting off at, he told me "Limehouse" then informed me it was a not for a while. I decided that it was warm enough in the bus to open up my coat and put my Oyster Card away… I unsnapped the puffy jacket…. unzipped the fleece jacket…. reached my hand in to pull out my wallet… and then felt my heart drop, bounce off my uterus, fly up my throat, then turn ice cold.

My wallet was gone.



I turned to the BF and tried to say in the calmest, but most serious voice possible "my wallet is missing." His eyes got really wide as I just kept pointlessly checking every pocket over and over again… hoping that I was somehow accidentally bypassing a 6" x 3" solid black leather wallet with a zipper that surrounded ¾ of it. The BF dropped to his knees in the aisle and looked under the seat and in the surrounding area… then he grabbed my hand and pulled me off at the next stop. We stood there for about 30 seconds looking at the bus schedule to see which bus was headed there next, and how we could get back to where we started as quickly as possible. In all honesty I was just standing there unable to focus. Not like I would have understood the maps/schedules anyway. On that night the most I could have done is tell someone the sign post was made of metal. How I was not in absolute tears yet is beyond me… but the panic was setting in.

I carry too much stuff in that wallet and I am stupid enough to have totally irreplaceable things in there. Business cards & papers with important phone numbers; a small charm for a bracelet that my Grandmother had gotten for me back in the 70's; my drivers license; my credit card; receipts for important things; a faux diamond ring (that looks REALLY real- till you see the tape wrapped around the inner band to make it fit 'cause it's too big) that I keep with me when I travel alone on planes (which is pretty much always); a cherished photograph of Wendy Mae's sons, Leif & Olin whom I adore… basically a bunch of stuff, only some of it (like the money- which was all of £15 in bills and probably £7 in coin) useful to a person that might find it.

The BF grabbed my hand and pulled me across the street to a cab for hire stand and we took a cab back to where the store we topped up our Oyster Cards was. I think I was babbling & murmuring the whole way. Upset, and totally freaking out on the inside, trying not to cry… mentally making a list of all the things that would have to be cancelled, replaced, people that might need to be called should someone get hold of any of their info that was in there. I didn't give a fuck about the money, or the faux diamond ring… the thing that freaked me out the most was the charm from my Grandmother. I traveled with it at all times, it was a cherished talisman… and my Grandmother died in 1987 when I was a freshman in high school, it's not like I could count on her sneaking me a wee gift this year over Christmas.

The more I thought about it, the more I felt my body shaking. I pretty much wanted to puke… and I was scared. All sorts of things were racing through my mind…..I'm in another country… I have no cell phone (yet), no access to any money till the bank I opened an account at here sends me my new bank card (which, btw is really taking FOREVER), no way to sign anything to get cards or ID replaced. I can't even apply for a new drivers license on line because I don't have a credit card now. I had to resign myself to the fact that the irreplaceable business cards and slips of paper with important contact info were gone for good which meant those people attached to them were as well. It all felt so final. I think I moved into an autopilot state of mind and just functioned on the most basic level. Motor skills and nothing else for a bit.

When the cab arrived back where we started our evening I leapt out of the car and just started walking, no idea where I was heading. I even said to the BF "I have no idea where I am." He took my hand, gave it a good squeeze, and we started walking. I think I might even have been walking faster than him at one point. He was so calm, so reassuring… and that helped. It helped A LOT. I kept apologizing to him. I'm not sure what I was sorry for… but I felt bad. We had been heading out to meet up with a friend of his to go out for the evening, have some drinks, laugh… and there I was totally helpless, miserable, on the verge of tears (which, in retrospect, might have attempted to escape my eyes… but it was so fucking cold out that as one tear drop popped it's head out and felt the temperature I'm sure it pretty much said "oh hell no!" and probably joined the never ending nasal drip.)

We made it back to the shop we topped up at as they were closing, they listened to the BF explain what we were looking for, took one look at my face and invited me to walk into the shop under the half closed security door. I peeked around on the floor by the door, walked all the way back to the spot where I last remembered having it in my hand and actually felt pangs of loss. It was like revisiting the scene of a horrible tragedy. We left there as they very kind shop keepers said they would keep an eye out for it and if it was turned into them they'd hold onto it and we should check back in a day or two. I knew that wouldn't happen, but I thanked them nonetheless.

As we walked back to the bus stop I noticed a crew of sanitation workers cleaning up the streets. I wandered over to them and politely interrupted them asking, with the most hopeful voice I could muster, if there was any chance any of them came across a large black leather wallet. They said no. They asked me if there was money in it… I told them "not much, not enough to care about really" and then they stood there consoling me and asking questions, attempting to make me feel better. Once they found out my license and credit card were in there, audible "Oofs!" were heard all around and they gave me some of the kindest, most heartfelt smiles of understanding. I asked one of them "what are the chances that someone found it and turned it into the police station around the corner?… it could happen, right?" The man looked me dead in the eye and said "Love, I will hope with all my heart that is true, but this is not a good part of the city, I wouldn't count on it, I'm sorry." I then felt a few tears slide down my cheeks at that moment. I thanked all of them for taking the time to talk to me, and told them they were all very kind.

As the BF and and I started to walk back towards the police station to file a report on the off chance someone ever found it and turned it in, one of the sanitation workers called out to me and said "do you have any money? do you NEED money?" and reached for his wallet to offer me something. The BF and I both thanked him profusely and declined the offer with huge smiles. It was one of the most random, kindest things that has happened to me in ages. I felt like the Grinch when he finds his Christmas spirit and his heart grows. Seriously, I was enveloped in warmth in that moment. Random human kindness is so underrated.

The man that owned the shop across the street from where the sanitation workers were doing their job had come out, heard the story, and told me to come back and check in with him as well in a day or so and he'd keep his eyes and ears open among the surrounding shops should anyone find it. He got a hearty handshake and a smile from me as well.

We made our way to the police station and the BF stopped me in my tracks just once to prevent the tears with a warm hug, it helped. As much as the situation totally sucked ass, it was nice to know that in a time of serious crisis (which is what this fully felt like to me) he was calm, level headed, and so sweet. I thanked him and then asked him why he was so wonderful. Know what his reply was? (You'll love this.) "I made a promise, I intend to keep it."
"A promise? To who?" I asked
"Your Mother asked me to take care of you, I promised her I would, I intend to keep my promise."
"You're a good man" I told him as we entered the police station.

There was no one in there save one cop on a computer in the back. After a few moments he came to the window and the BF & I told him we wanted to file a report on the off chance that someone turns in a missing wallet. The officer asked how long it had been missing. We told him "within the hour." He asked what it looked like, and the BF and I both held up our hands and formed the now routine rectangular shape with our fingers and said "black leather, with a zipper." The officer then says "black, eh? hang on a moment." Every hair on my body stood on end, even my eyebrows were at full attention. I think my eyelashes would have spontaneously ejected had they not been spot welded into place with the industrial strength mascara I was wearing (which was, thankfully that evening, waterproof). The officer left his post for a moment, and after about 20 seconds came back with a large black wallet in his hands…. MY WALLET. My eyes rolled into the back of my head in that moment (not even kidding) and I turned around and my entire body slid down to the floor where everything went fuzzy for a few seconds, then it all became ridiculously clear and I began to cry. Tears of joy are far superior to any other.

(I held onto this thing with white knuckles the rest of the night, for real)


I pulled myself back up with the help of the BF, had no problem telling the officer what he would find, and in which order, once he opened the wallet to verify it was mine. 30 seconds later he handed it over to me and I grabbed his hands to thank him with all my heart as he informed us that apparently a woman at the bus stop we were first heading towards had found it on the ground, saw the police station next door and ran inside to drop it off… she didn't leave any contact info, which is too bad, because I have never wanted to thank another human being so badly in my life.

Once we left the police station and I told the BF that we should still go to the comedy show, that it wasn't too late (it was like 8:45pm at this point), I realized we were walking back down the road that the sanitation workers we met were working on…. they were still there… they all turned when they saw me coming and I held up the wallet in my hands with the biggest grin I could muster. It stopped them dead in their tracks, and they all showed their disbelief by dropping their tools, clapping, and emitting cries of astonishment. I told them the story of what happened, and the man that had offered me the money came running up to me to give me the biggest hug (he was totally cute btw :) ). It was like I made their night too somehow. My experiences with human kindness that evening was catching and spreading. We parted ways and the BF & I headed to the bus stop to get to the comedy show.

As we waited, and the BF took a last minute business call on his mobile, and I found myself with a few minutes to just sit down on this small stone wall and think about everything that just happened all over the course of about an hour, a homeless man from the West Indies (I know because he told me that's where he was from) came up to me and asked me if I had any spare change to help him get a bite to eat. I looked him right in the eye and said "You know what? I do." I reached into my wallet to pull out £1 and as I did .20 pence popped out and started to roll away. "Oh! I'm so sorry! I can do much better than that…"  I laughed, not caring about the .20 pence. He just smiled and said "don't worry, I'll get it" and took off after it across the sidewalk. I suddenly felt bad, it was like I was making him work for it… and that was not my intention, AT ALL. He came back to me a moment later and I gave him the £1 coin… and you know what he did? He said "thank you miss, you dropped this" and gave me the .20 pence back. I reached in my wallet and gave him another £1 coin and said "I'll trade you for it." His smile met mine and we parted ways with a handshake. The bus arrived, the BF ended his phone call, and we boarded the bus, my wallet tightly in my grip, and an agreement that massive amounts of drinks were in order upon arrival at the bar.


3 comments:

  1. GG, I totally remember reading this, and telling the hubs about it, as in, "she got her wallet back!!" Why didn't I comment?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bea- how did I not see this comment till now? Weird!
    Well, thank you for reading it, and leaving a comment, this story has been repeated so many times over the past year that I have lost count. It really is amazing isn't it?! ... and now here I am, less than 48hrs away from Thanksgiving this year... and it has made my heart warm just thinking about it.

    ReplyDelete
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