On my home Tuesday evening, I stopped by Wal-Mart to pick up my prescription and a few important groceries. You know, things like bananas, Oreos, “Bunny Tracks” ice cream. Those things so vital to surviving a few days of freezing drizzle and temperatures that would send penguins in search of footies and wool blankets. As my debit card was processing in the self-checkout machine, I realized that I also needed a little folding money to help face the prolonged adversity.
So I picked up a couple of Snickers bars, just to be sure I didn’t suffer from protein deficiency, ran those across the scanner and tossed them into the bag with the other things. Upon cue from the monitor, I added a hundred bucks cash back. I provided the necessary reassurance that yes indeed, I did want that extra cash and entered my PIN. A few minutes later, I walked out into the darkening gray of this particular day’s fading.
It was soon after lunch on the next gray day that a faint tugging turned into full realization: I’d walked off and left my hundred bucks in the dispensing tray at the self-check machine in Wal-Mart. Like Connie in Sylvester Stallone’s movie version of the play Oscar, I felt like an ox and a moron.
Now, being adequately familiar with another human’s afflicted condition, I might be swayed to donate a tither’s portion of that hundred bucks to assist in alleviating his or her plight. The thought of unintentionally giving up the whole hundred to the first sneaky soul that passed by failed to bring me any sort of pious satisfaction.
In a somewhat desperate move, I called Randa and had her send me a picture of my receipt. It clearly showed the two Snickers bars and the $100 cash withdrawal. I printed it out and hauled that over to Wal-Mart. I waited—with extraordinary patience—for the one person on the entire staff of Wal-Mart who could assist me. After those three minutes had passed, I waited another eight minutes with my usual level of patience, randomly kicking passing shopping carts and screaming at the floor tile. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. I merely went over to the self-checkout area and stood eighteen inches from the woman’s elbow until she felt obliged to acknowledge my existence and come to my assistance.
She checked my receipt to determine which machine I had used. After directing me not to follow her, she unlocked the Door of Highly Secret Activities and disappeared for a moment. She came back out with five twenty-dollar bills clipped together with a note stuck on top. After one more look at my receipt to check the exact time of the transaction, she handed me the little bundle, “Here you are.”
I have to admit, I was elated and stunned. Right here in the local Wal-Mart store, where nearly the entire spectrum of humanity passes on a daily basis, right here where the more refined among us find all the proof we need that our society is permeated with infiltrators who have no sense of culture, decency or how to dress before going out in public, some stranger had noticed my cash lying there abandoned and unclaimed, and had turned it in to the nearest available employee.
Whether it was because of calmest honesty or sheer fear of being caught on video surveillance didn’t matter to me. Sometimes it’s best not to worry too much about motive as long as the right thing is done.