Sorry about last night’s cryptic and depressing post. Had to process a little before I could express it at all.
Quick Version: Someone “found” Arwen’s wallet and cel phone last night, and figured they were going to get rich quick by returning it. I’m not rich. If I’m feeling played, the game is over.
Long Version: Arwen was out at a board thing, and I was expecting her to head home around 9. 9:05, phone rang, her cel. Not-Arwen on the phone said she’d found Arwen’s wallet and phone, and that she was going to head downtown and we could come pick it up (we used to live downtown, and the address on the photo ID would show us being there still.) Told her we were nearby, and that I could get into a car and come down there, and that I’d pay for a cab downtown for her or something, and then there was a pause.
A long pause.
“This phone’s worth a lot, y’know. And all this ID would cost hundreds of dollars to replace. Most people wouldn’t do this. I could have just kept this.”
My alarm bells went off, and I wondered where Arwen really was – was she okay, had she been mugged and left in an alley somewhere by one of this person’s “friends.”
I ended up waking the kids and hauling them in the car to the Marine Skytrain station literally five minutes later, and getting into a shouting match with an addict who was convinced that she was owed $100 or more for not stealing the phone and wallet she “found on a side street.” I gave her the $20 I had in my wallet, and after some more guilt-laden back and forth about how most people wouldn’t have called, I finally just said
“Actually lots of people would call. Lots of people do, and when they do, they don’t ask for MORE money right away – they know they did a good thing today, and they’re happy with whatever they might get. Look, here’s what’s going to happen, I’m going to take my wife’s phone and wallet back, and you’re going to take this $20 and we’re done. That’s it, there’s no more money.”
“But I could sell that phone for-”
I took the wallet and phone out of her hands.
“I make a phone call, and this goes from ‘returning a wallet’ to theft and possession of stolen goods. You want more money, and I don’t have it. Sorry, but we’re done here.”
“Phone your wife, and see if she has any-”
I held up Arwen’s phone. “And how am I going to do THAT?”
“Well, she’s probably home by now.”
Again, alarm bells went off in my head “Why would you think that? If you know where she is, you’d better say so right now. If not, I’m taking my kids home. This is over.”
She followed me back to the car, yelling at me that she had “nothing” and that the $20 I had given her was “useless.” Her friends had left her at the station, and what was she supposed to do now with only $20?
As I closed the door to the car, and the kids in the back seat were panicking, she yelled “I know where you live. I know where you fuckin’ LIVE.”
I pulled out my Blackberry, and snapped a picture of her, and turned it around to show her, and said “and if anything happens to my house or my family, I’ve got your photo here, and the police and I will come looking for you. Now get away from the car.”
A bus honked at her as she ran back toward the station, and I did a U-turn towards home.
We arrived at the house to see Arwen opening the front door and then being baffled as to why I was pulling the kids in PJs and jackets out of the back seat.
After explaining to our 8yo that “it was the drugs wanting more drugs” and settling them back to bed, I checked front and back yards, and stood quietly in the shadows near the house, watching.
I know that she probably did NOT have the address of our place (unlikely she would have written it down if she’d found it in the wallet, and as I said before, the address on Arwen’s BCID is two houses ago), but was still freaked out that she and some friends would come do something, and that feeling hasn’t gone away yet. It’s ugly to think about how that went down, and I keep thinking about how it would have gone if there hadn’t been that pause. If there hadn’t been the “y’know…” moment in that initial phone conversation.
I would have given more money, maybe even that magical $100, and would have felt really good giving it to someone with so little, even if they were going to spend it in some alarming way. I would have been happy to give it, but it felt like a shakedown, and it felt wrong.
On the phone tonight, my mom (who’s taught in prisons) suggested that it’s common for “found” items to fence their way up to people who don’t set off the alarms quite so easily, usually women, but then those people have to pay first and then “upsell” whoever they’re giving the stuff back to. So maybe she’d already given someone money for the stuff. Maybe she was now out of pocket because she’s paid someone else who’d convinced her the cel and wallet were worth “a lot of money.”
I’m not feeling great about it, and I’m feeling bad I subjected my kids to that.
Not sure I had another option that I would have felt any better about.