Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How to Make an American Pick up Litter

So this morning, as I was walking Buddy through the winter wonderland that Minnesota has become since yesterday, I saw a plastic Ziploc bag lying in the road at 38th street. I probably would have let it stay there, except when I glanced at it I realized that there was cash inside. Turns out that it was only $42, but it was rolled up in such a way that it looked like much more, and, so, OK, I wouldn't have picked up this baggie if it didn't look like it was loaded with cash. Sorry. Call me greedy. It's not like I was going to take the money for my own.

And so I detoured slightly at the sight of the greenbacks, and I picked it up, and I discovered that it not only contained cash, but bank account numbers written in an old person's handwriting, keys, a cell phone, a wallet, credit cards, a social security card, a drivers license, and a phone bill. I looked around for hidden cameras. This was obviously a test. It was probably some sort of "Which City is more Honest?" thing for some weekly news magazine. I didn't see any cameras, but I was starting to worry about the owner of this property, so I walked Buddy back home (which he thought was a Very Bad Idea since we hadn't even gone a block yet, and he really had to crap out that entire loaf of freshly baked French bread he allegedly stole off of the counter at Christmas yesterday) and I started my investigations. Now, you don't have to be Veronica Mars (or even Nancy Drew) to figure out someone's phone number from a Qwest phone bill account number, so I dialed the number, but a fax machine answered.

As I listened to the high-pitched language of data transfers, I glanced through the rest of the bag. There was a number and the mystery guy's name written on the outside of the bag, so I figured he was probably a newly-released prisoner, and these were all of his possessions when he entered the joint. I even imagined his buddy picking him up in a cab from prison, them arguing in the back seat (about his refusal to reveal the location of the bounty from their most recent crime spree), and then the inevitable pummeling, followed by his no-longer buddy tossing all of his worldly possessions out the window, before dumping his body somewhere far away. Of course, this explanation falls apart with the existence of the $42. No way some hardened criminal is just going to throw $42 out the window. Still, this scenario kind of made me glad I was trying to communicate with a fax machine rather than a real person.

It didn't really fit with the guy's handwriting though. His account numbers, written on the back of an address book which had turned yellow on the edges with age, were written in the handwriting of a frail and shaky old man. The first names in the address book, too, were not the first names of the friends of criminals. They were names like "Bev" and "Arlene" and "Roger". Old names.

Then I pulled out a yellow slip of paper. It was an inventory of the contents of my mystery baggie right down to a list of the bills that made up the $42, and it was from the Hennepin County Medical examiner. This was a dead guy. I was looking at everything this man was carrying right until he died three days before Christmas. Poor George. Somehow him being dead made me want to protect him even more than him being a living person ripe for identity theft. And so I walked and fed Buddy, because he wasn't going to wait for any mystery. And now I'm off to the police station (another long and snowy walk for some lucky dog) where I will put poor George's belongings in the hands of professionals, so they can contact Bev or Arlene or Roger and take care of his things properly.

PS For those of you still wondering about the resolution to that other mystery "The Case of the Missing French Bread", Buddy's intestines added to the circumstantial evidence that he was the culprit. I'm his biggest fan and his most ardent supporter, but I knew he was the guilty party all along.

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