With running, you spend a great deal of your time running against traffic precariously close to oncoming cars. The insurance industry says runners live longer. Upon appearance, that logic is flawed. Runners spend mental time on the road in many different ways. Some let their minds wander to creative pastures, other to concentrate at the task at hand. There are some us who run, and do so to take in the scenery or a gentle respite in life. Yes some do it to lose weight. But one thing is for sure is that you find something along the way.
Yes we find the beauty in a sunset or the knowing glance of a stranger heading in the opposite direction. These are the simple joys of running. Other times we find what others left behind.
One day I found myself out running with a friend on a lunchtime run. It was a spectacularly sunny day in Beaverton, Oregon, It was a variation of a run we had done many times before. The miles and the conversation passed away easily. We usually took a direct challenging hill toward the interstate because it was one of the few real hills on our lunchtime running routes. For some reason that day we took a simple side route through suburbia. That is was one thing Beaverton had perfected is being a suburb. The hills were more gentle on this route.
We talked easily as this was casual run, Back then we ran hard most of the time. We started our ascent up the one substantial hill on the route, and I noticed a piece of paper on the ground. That is a habit of mine. I like to pick up pick up trash on my runs. I love finding random notes, shopping lists and various oddities along the way.
We suddenly stopped running for a second. When running with other people that is not always the popular option.
Runners, by nature, just wanted to keep going. I picked up the piece of paper probably because it looked similar to a paper check. I scooped it up and continued on the run. We were running pretty fast that ,and I sweated heavily and my hands followed suit. I took the note out of my hand and read it silently. I wanted to read it aloud as i tried to maintain a sub eight minute pace.
It was a check for $626.01. I remember that exact amount. Another curious thing was the check was already endorsed with a signature on the back. We got back from our run and I never referenced the check again. I thought to myself somebody was missing a paycheck. People had to buy groceries.
This was before the internet where you could google somebodies name and could find them rather easily. The tools I had at my disposal where a phone book and a telephone. I do not remember the person’s name but I remember making a few phone calls that were false trails and near misses. It could have been Sarah. I thought to myself, this person could have gone into their payroll department and asked for a replacement check. Still, I innocently stubbornly plowed forward. After a few hours of futile phone calls I found a person who knew this lady and where she worked. The lovely lady at the phone company, gave me the information and I placed a few more phone calls to find her place of work.
I called the number of a business clear on the other side of town. Beaverton was a town I did not mind running across, however driving had its own set of pitfalls. A receptionist blandly answered the phone as if she had a case of the mid afternoons blues. She told me yes that person worked there and asked my connection to her. I tried to explain that I had found an endorsed check in road and I thought it would be hers. She sounded strongly unconvinced yet forwarded my call to this person. I vaguely remember her name being Sonia so that is what I am calling her moving forward.
And yes indeed she had lost that check. She almost sounded dis-interested by the inflection in her voice. I told her I would deliver the check to her office and she thanked me with less enthusiasm than I expected. I have no idea what we expect as humans when we do things that we conceive as nice, I assume it is different for all people. I believe we should choose to do the right thing without expecting any recognition. Or maybe that is the purest definition of love. I know if somebody returned a check to me that I had lost…
Which takes me to a completely different story. If you are interested and still haven’t left the previous story, Sonia got her check.
Many years before this event, I traveled to a running race in York, Pa. It was with my Dad, my stepmom, and two little sisters ‘Peanut’ and ‘Barsy’. By little, I mean Peanut and Barsy still sat in car seats and laughed at each other. I usually travelled to races alone but we thought it would be great to do this as a family. My stepmom was new to running and planned to do the race as well, How cool is that. The rest of the car had very little interest in running. I had to explain to my Dad, the navigator, that you had to be on time for a race. If it says it is going to start at nine we have to be there before that. Needless to say we never made it to the race on time.
We were disappointed however and that’s kind of the family tradition. Plan loosely and if the plans don’t workout, we can have with fun with the lack of planning. We decided to head back to Allentown for the afternoon. And of course my Dad had a shortcut. Dad always had a shortcut and few years later we all figured out he never exactly knew where he was going. I never saw how this particular event unfolded.. Because, I had to piece together the investigation of the actual events that had taken place. When I returned to my home in Reading, Pa. I realized I did not have my wallet.
Back then it wasn’t a major life crisis. The only thing that was a minor spot of bother was the wallet contained my driver’s licence. I recently moved back to Pennsylvania and I had a brand new shiny licence. I had the race registration money in my wallet. Yes entering an 8K cost about eight dollars back then.
Two days later I received a phone call on my home telephone, This was not the era of the cell phone. The gentleman on the other end of the line quickly told me he found my wallet. Doing a lot of quick complicated math in my head, I deducted this plausible. Back then you could actually call the phone company with somebody’s name and a city they lived and get a phone number.
Which is kind of like sharing a contact on a cell phone. Sorry for the hyperbolic bad multi decade mixed metaphor.
I asked him, wildly interested, where he had found it.
He told me he was walking along the banks of the Susquehanna river and saw my wallet sitting on the river bank.
This time i had to do an enormous amount of mental calculus to get the connection. I laughed hysterically when I figured ot the connection. In retrospect he more than likely did not see this as a gesture of appreciation. The kind gentleman laughed along on the other end of the line. Or maybe my laugh was contagious. This was obviously a very kind man. He told me he didn’t need my address and he would simply mail it back to me.
We exchanged some connected peaceful small talk and I never had a doubt it would be in the mail quickly. He seemed like a kindred spirit.
Still I had to figure out how that wallet got on the bank of the Susquehanna river. Have you ever tried to do detective work through the eyes of two year old twins about an event that happened five days earlier? Neither had I. Actually it was rather easy. They confessed. Marsy and Peanut had thrown the wallet out of the window of the car.
Putting all of this together is part of the expanding past. I am not exactly sure how i got that information out of my little sisters. But that is how the story is being told today, I did get my wallet back.
I found out many years later my Dad was born in the city where this race was supposed to take place. York, Pennsylvania.