If I believed in curses, I would believe that I am cursed with losing things. I have always had this problem. When I was a child I couldn't hold on to anything. Library books, house keys, pens, homework (I often redid it at the last minute after losing it) and precious toys all went missing and no amount of tears or begging mom for another one could bring them back.
And still I lost things. I never learned.
As an adult the curse continues. I've lost my wallet or purse probably two dozen times. I was on a first name basis with the people on my college campus who would bring a slim jim and pop open your car if you locked your keys inside because I did this bi-monthly. I've left cell phones god knows where never to be seen again. Hell, I even lost my cat for 36 hours.
It always happens. And I never learn.
It happened again on Sunday. I met my friend Caitlin for lunch in the adorable Hayes Valley neighborhood at Bar Jules, a tiny place with a reputation for eggs and always a line. We chatted and caught up, then parted ways. She walked with me to catch a bus, and when we rounded the corner to see one with the potential to pull away, she ran it down. I caught up, gave her a quick hug, grabbed my wallet, paid the fare, then sat down for the bus ride home.
I don't remember putting my wallet back in my purse. I don't know why I wouldn't have, but I don't know if I did.
At Bryant and Division I realized I was on the 47-Van Ness, not the 49-Van Ness, so I deboarded. I walked a few blocks to 16th and Bryant and fished around in my purse for the bus transfer. I couldn't find it or my wallet.
I franticly began flipping through the items in my bag with panic. My heart raced and I dumped everything onto the sidewalk. No wallet. I wanted to throw up.
Because I am paid in tips I had, what is for me, a serious chunk of cash in that wallet. And, of course, my New York I.D. and debit card.
I called the bank and had my debit card canceled. Then I called my mom.
"Isn't this, like, the tenth time this has happened to you, Brittney?," she said. She said it matter of factly, not in a tone of judgement.
"I know. I can barely get mad anymore. I just want to know why this happens to me."
I hung up with her then decided to report the wallet missing. I knew it was a long shot; that someone would see the wallet, open it and see the inside fat with cash. (There were a lot of fives and ones in there.) Then they'd pocket the money and trash the wallet. That is how it is done, I thought, but I'd give it a go. I dialed 311, and almost immediately spoke with someone who was incredibly empathetic and thorough.
She asked me the size of the wallet, the color, the material, how many flaps it had, whether it had a name brand. She made careful notes when I said that Banana Republic was embossed in teeny tiny letters into the leather and said she was so sorry that I was going through this, that it must feel awful.
She gave me a tracking number and told me that she'd put a call out, which means she would alert the driver that a wallet went missing on his or her bus. If someone turned it in right away, I'd hear something back within the hour, she said. I thanked her and almost immediately gave up hope on hearing anything. I opened up the California DMV website to figure out it how much more this latest incident was going to cost me. I was sad and resigned.
Unexpectedly, a (415) number appeared on my phone's screen, and I immediately became excited. It had been about half an hour since I spoke with Muni about my missing wallet and so I answered the call with tentative elation.
"Someone turned in your wallet, miss. It's on the outbound 47 bus. The driver is in possession. I suggest you track down this bus and get your wallet today or it will be turned over to lost and found and it will be weeks before you can get it back."
I listened with my mouth wide. My wallet was found! And returned! I had to track down that bus.
"How can I find this bus?!," I asked her after thanking her profusely.
"I've got it right here on GPS. It's a Fisherman's Wharf and will be leaving there soon. Where are you?"
I told her and she determined my closest stop was the one I leapt off at leaving my wallet aboard for a city cruise ride: Bryant and Division.
"It will be there at 2:22. This bus goes out of service at 3:14, so I suggest you be there for that arrival."
Conveniently the 27 met me as I sprinted out the door, so I took it to the Bryant and Division bus stop and waited. I memorized the bus number and squinted at approaching buses and even when it wasn't the right one (or anywhere near 2:22 p.m.), I asked the driver aboard if they had my wallet. There was no way I was taking a chance of letting this wallet get back to the lost and found depository.
Finally, late, bus number 8224 ground to a halt before me and I boarded with my breath held.
"I think you have my wallet," I said. The driver looked at me, rolled his eyes and asked my name. I told him, and he said, "Look, this is the first time I'm opening this, and I'm only doing it now to confirm this is you." And suddenly he produced my wallet from under his seat.
He looked at my I.D., looked at me and handed it over. I wanted to hug him. I grabbed some bills from the wallet and thrust them at him.
He sighed. "You know I can't take that." Then he looked at the door like, "Get the hell off my bus, woman, my shift is almost over."
I didn't want to keep him or the passengers a second longer so I stumbled off the bus. I tentatively peeked into the wallet to see all the cash still folded in half inside.
I walked home glowing. I was awash in a sense of goodness and kindness and good fortune. I silently celebrated people, the good ones, the ones who take a wallet to the driver and say, "Someone needs this."
I floated through the gate and up the stairs where I opened the zipper where I keep my keys to find they were not inside.