Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Wallet is a Wallet is a Wallet...

Last week, while traveling for work, I lost my wallet. It must have happened while getting out of a taxi cab - something I've done many dozens of time for work and/or pleasure - because the next morning I noticed that my wallet was nowhere to be found. If there's a silver lining, it's that I literally took the last remaining bills out of my wallet to pay the taximan, so I didn't lose any cash in the affair. But, as you can imagine, the hassle and anxiety are ongoing.

How could I have failed so epically at such a simple every day task as keeping track of perhaps my most important possession? Some might argue there are cosmic reasons. Last week, on this website, I talked bad about a good thing. That Wikipedia Guy is a total genius and a national treasure, so what business do I have voicing my opinion on the way he chooses to fund his enterprise? Sure he looks like a goof in those banners, but everybody needs bandwidth, do you know what I am saying?

So let this post act as an humble supplication to the Great Awesome Power of the Internet and an apology for publishing harsh words against one of its favorite sons. As will be evident, my contrition is genuine, although the punishment was just and fair in thine eyes. And who knows: if some of my fortune was somehow mystically reversed, I might find it in my heart to make a donation.

The first course of action when losing one's wallet is self-protection. Immediately cancel/put a hold on all credit cards. File a police report (which I never got around to doing - if it's gone, it's gone, no reason to get the law involved). Make arrangements for acquiring a new ID. And only once that's all done can you begin to take steps towards its retrieval.

Since its last known location was in a cab, the first step is to call the cab company and see if anything was reported found. Now, because of a series of accidents to which I fell victim, I didn't note the company/number/driver of the cab I was in. My mistake. So I called every cab company in town, to no avail. Also, since the cab was in front of a hotel at the time of the incident, I also checked repeatedly with the front desk, also to no avail.

So with no hope to reacquire the wallet through traditional means, I then took a step back to take stock of the situation. What was in there of quantifiable monetary value, and how much? What can be replaced? What is purely sentimental? How much of it will I really MISS?

Well, I can tell you that there's quite a bit, but no need to go into detail here on the interwebs. Thanks to my mishap, some of my information is already too public. Or too accessible, rather. Which brings me to the next chapter in the saga of the lost wallet: wondering just what happened to it.

There's a chance - I'd say, realistically, about 5% or less - that some benevolent passer-by picked up the wallet, looked at the driver license inside, and decided to mail it back to the address contained thereupon. This would be done with no hope of any reward (since the wallet was cashless at the time) or even of compensation of the shipping costs. Hey, it could happen, right? My wallet could very possibly be making its way through the air to my address as I type. But seeing as the bad Samaritans greatly outnumber the good ones (despite the exception that proved the rule made famous in the parable), we can safely lay this aside as a "longshot."

More likely - probably in the 25-30% range - if a passively non-malevolent citizen picked it up, s/he would cursorily look at it and turn it in to whatever lost-and-found facility was in the immediate area. Since I don't believe there was any phone number to speak of contained in the wallet, there it would sit, languishing, forgotten by all save its former owner. Not ideal, but not the worst possibility either.

Taking a more pessimistic view of human nature (as shaped by society), I would say that there's about a 60-70% chance that whoever picked up the wallet would try to make use of its contents. Finding no cash and after discovering that the credit cards are inactive (and after swiping the $10 Barnes & Noble gift card), the lucky finder/keeper would likely throw it out in the nearest dumpster or chuck it in the river. No harm, no foul, and my stuff is just as lost as before.

But what about that small, ever-so-unlikely possibility that someone picked up my wallet and began to take immense interest in its contents. What if they became obsessed with my height, weight, and eye color as described on my driver license? What if they memorized the number on my dental insurance card and repeated it to themselves as a sort of mantra to help them fall asleep at night? What if they set up a little shrine in my honor using all the previous methods by which I identified myself and furnished myself with all the necessary goods and services of society? What if someone is pretending to be me at this very moment, and is getting away with it too?

As flattering as that may sound for some, it could also be quite dangerous. Whoever's got my wallet now knows where I live, what kind of car I drive, where I went to school, and what airline I fly. What they choose to do with that information is up to them... and also possibly up to you, Great Awesome Power of the Internet.

So I beseech thee in all thine greatness, GAPotI, to shine thy bandwidth favorably upon me, your ever-humble servant, and protect mine information from those who wish to do your servant harm. I know it is possible - for I have read thine confidentiality agreements and seen thine graven images of a little padlock in the lower right-hand corner of thine screens. Oh, if only thine security questions could extend beyond the bounds of a computer screen and into the real world of Life the Lived!

Oh sweet GAPotI, hear my prayer. And God Bless.