By SHARISSE TRACEY SMITH
Last week, when I was on my way to teach “The Four Seasons of Marriage,” by Gary Chapman, I stopped by Target—a favorite of mine–to do some last minute Valentine’s Day shopping. Had to stop, you say? Yes, had to. My husband avoided the store at all costs. I, however, loved the excuse to loose myself in the aisles while I chowed down on popcorn and Pepsi. The retreat lasted three days, and my children’s Valentines party at school was the morning after I arrived home. The quick trip was necessary.
On the way back to my car, I grabbed the remaining paper bags out of the red cart and a black purse from the front of the cart. My mother, who I liked to bring along with me, already walked to the sedan. Once home, I noticed a strange black handle bag with our things.
“Where did that ugly purse come from?” I said.
“I don’t know,” my mother said, It’s not mine you know that. My purse is purple. You should know. You bought it.”
I started to panic thinking I’d left my shoulder bag back at the store. But where did this handbag come from? We retraced our steps. My mother said she took my purse with hers when she sat in the car. I returned the cart and somehow ended up with a strange purse. My best guess is when I pushed the cart in I must have grabbed what I thought was my black purse out of a cart right next to it. Again, this was my best guess. The only thing that made sense. Clearly, I wasn’t paying attention and neither was the person who forgot their handbag.
I immediately looked for identification but first stopped to get disposable gloves. I’ve watched too many episodes of Law and Order with my mother. I didn’t know what I’d pull from the bag and wasn’t leaving it to hand sanitizer. Mostly what I found were plastic credit cards, a lot of them, which led me think the purse was stolen, but all the cards had the same name. There was an old flip phone and a wallet with no driver’s license. Five bucks and an emergency contact number. This person, Mary, based on her silver sneakers card was a mature woman. She belonged to the credit union and was a member of Costco. I loved Costco but hadn’t joined since we’d been stationed in the Seattle area. Mary carried way too many credit cards at one time against the advice of most experts and we both used the local library.
When I called the emergency contact and reached her son he sounded suspicious. I informed him that I had his mother’s purse, and that I was late for a class.
“Can I call you back he said?”
My thought was, no, you can’t call me back. I just told you I have your mother’s purse.
I instantly regretted getting involved but I already had the purse and had to see it through. Returning the bag to the store wasn’t an option since it would delay me further. Yet, all I kept thinking about was what if it was me? A criminal would already have charged Mary’s cards and stolen her identity. I took the time to call because I wanted someone to do the same for me, so I waited.
He called back.
“Hey, can you drop off the purse at Fred Myer?”
The new location he mentioned was even further out. “That’s a little out of my way,” I said.
I was annoyed that he or Mary didn’t offer to pick up the purse at my house. The delay cost me time. I felt he was afraid to meet at my house but any ill intent on my part would have already surfaced. I grew even more impatient.
“I tell you what,” I said, “I’m leaving here in an hour I’ll drop it off with customer service at Safeway,” and gave the address.
“That’s perfect,” he said, “I know exactly where that is. Thank you so much. We really appreciate it.”
That was it.
I turned the purse in and hoped for the best.
I never heard another word from Mary O. or her son. I don’t expect that I will.
What bothered me was that although I didn’t expect anything from this woman or her son, a follow up was appropriate. A phone call to confirm receipt. That’s what I would do. With credit card and identity theft being what it is, I saved, Mary O, a world of hurt. To not be acknowledged any further in some way I did expect an extra thank you. And for that I don’t think I am wrong.
Sharisse Tracey is a mother of four, wife, writer and educator who still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up. Follow her @SharisseTracey or catch up with her on www.SharisseTracey.com