Commentary: Stolen wallet restores faith in Woodhaven community
by Ed Wendell
Sep 20, 2012 | 2174 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It all started because I have no idea how to handle a tent.

We were at the Richmond Hill Park Fair and since rain had been in the forecast, we borrowed a canopy tent from a friend. I was actually quite proud of myself for thinking ahead.

Unfortunately, that thinking didn’t extend itself to actually putting up of the tent, which is sort of the important part. And that’s how I found myself standing in a steady rain, reading a sheet of instructions and looking at diagrams that bore only a pale resemblance to the object in my hand.

Long story short, I got drenched. Shirt, pants, socks – even my underwear – all sopping wet. We came home early, dried off and went out later that day to go shopping. My wallet was soaked and I didn’t want to put it in my pocket so I tossed it into the glove compartment.

And promptly forgot about it.

Three nights later our car alarm went off at 2:30 in the morning. It took about two minutes to awaken from a dream and realize that it was our car that was bleating. From our window I looked into our driveway: the dome light was on and there was stuff strewn across my front seat.

Downstairs, my suspicions were confirmed as the glove compartment was open. My suspicions turned to fear when I remembered my wallet. Sure enough, it was gone. The next half-hour was a blur as we scrambled to remember every credit card that was in my wallet and reported them stolen.

Once the police left, we were left alone with our thoughts and our fears. We were sad and angry and sick to our stomachs. And we were kicking ourselves for our stupidity. Over the past few years, with the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, we’ve spoken to residents who have been victims of robbery, but it’s entirely different when it happens to you.

We eventually got some sleep, but not much. When we awoke it was as if we had a hangover. One of our neighbors has security cameras and he downloaded the video from around the time of the robbery. It was a sickening feeling, watching this young man walking down the street, casually crossing over into our driveway, and walking away – not running – after the alarm went off.

I even watched as he looked through my wallet as he walked away. He must have been thinking to himself: “Why the heck is this guy's wallet soaking wet?” We passed the video along to the 102nd Precinct and hoped for the best.

Later that afternoon, the phone rang and I didn’t recognize the number. That’s not unusual in and of itself. Since I’ve been president of the WRBA I’ve gotten many calls from people I didn’t know, telling me about their problems and it has never bothered me. I enjoy helping people resolve issues, but at that moment – I have to be honest – I resented it.

I didn’t feel like hearing about someone’s next door neighbor’s barking dog or how someone keeps blocking their driveway. I was angry and I had my own problems to contend with. But I picked up the phone anyway.

It was a woman calling to tell me that she’d found my wallet in the street about a block from my home. Everything was there: my credit cards, my driver’s license…everything. The thief was just looking to score some cash and, luckily, my wife never lets me have any.

This good woman found my wallet and tracked me down. And in the blink of an eye, all of my faith was restored. I went to her house and retrieved my wallet. She ventured a guess that he must have dumped it in a puddle. I said, “yeah, I guess so.” She didn’t need to hear about the tent debacle.

There is still a thief out there, but there are good people out there as well, and the number of good people far outweigh the bad. It just took something like this to remind me.

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