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  • It was a fine ride along the riverside, as I went further along on the Mount Vernon Bike Trail than I’d ever ventured before. I hadn’t realized that it actually took you through the city of Alexandria. As I journeyed along, realizing it was close to noon, I remembered that my son J.B. was working today, in Alexandria. It had been awhile since we’d had any quality father-son time together, and the thought occurred to me that this might be an opportunity. So, I called him up, and he was free, so we went to lunch. I had a few moments of true gratitude for being a Dad, and for having a son like J.B.

    It took longer than I thought it would, so I started heading back from whence I came, afterwards. I had traveled about 12 miles at that point, and figured a 24 mile ride my first day out there was probably a good distance. I didn’t want to overdo it, even though I was feeling fine.

    As I pumped the pedals on the way back, I remembered that there was more uphill in this direction. It took more of an effort. About halfway back, just as I was directly across the Potomac from the Washington Monument, my lower back was starting to scream at me, so after pushing as far as I could, I took a break. There was a bench beside the trail, so I pulled up, took my backpack off, hung it on the side of the bench, did a little stretching, got some water, and walked down by the waterside to get a good picture of the monument from there.
  • Then, I started back on the trail. Ten minutes along, I noted how much less my back was bothering me now, figuring the stretch break really helped. Then it hit me. My backpack! It was not on my back! That explained it! I had my wallet and my car keys in it. Damn it! I turned around and headed back towards it, hoping against hope that it would still be there where I left it. I got back to the bench, and it was gone. No backpack. No keys. No wallet. No wallet full of credit cards and my drivers license. Crap!

    I was having such a good day, such a good ride, I decided I was not going to let this ruin it for me. I’m always saying the universe is a friendly place. Well, here’s its chance to prove it to me. The logical part of my brain was telling me that if someone picked it up that quickly, they couldn’t have had good intentions. I chose to ignore that thought. Worst comes to worse, when I get home, I’ll have to make a bunch of phone calls to cancel all those credit and debit cards, I’ll have to get a new driver’s license, and I’ll be out 40 bucks or so. Not exactly how I’d planned to spend my evening, but it still didn’t change the fact that it had been a great day, and wonderful ride.

    My Iphone was losing juice fast, so I called Kathy. I’d need a backup set of keys to drive my car back. I had parked on a side street just up from the Key Bridge Marriott. When she got there with my keys, she asked if I’d reported it to the police or notified the W & OD Trail patrol. “No – I called you. I’ll do all that when I get home.” Driving home, I kept hoping the person who picked it up would be honest and call me. But then, I didn’t think I had my phone number in anything in there. Oh, well – even if the person was honest, and I was really hoping they were, I’d still have to make a bunch of calls. Damnit – I’d jinxed it for myself, with that line from “Uncle John’s Band” in my earlier posting, “Cause When Life Looks Like Easy Street, there is Danger at Your Door!” Hello, danger. Does a missing wallet and car keys qualify?
  • No! I wouldn’t feed into that line of thought. It’ll all work out. I just need to keep it in perspective.

    When Kathy called J.B. to let him know about my backpack, before he checked the place where we’d had lunch and the Starbucks we’d stopped at on the way back, he had one question for Kathy – “Did he check his back?” Yeah, it’s like that. We get along great, but I’m still the goofy old man who might think his backpack was missing while it was on his back. Not that that would happen – but, that’s how he sees me, sometimes. I get it. Hell, my Dad was a complete idiot (in my mind), when I was J.B.’s age and Dad was mine. We have the same difference in years between us that Dad and I had).

    The first thing I did was go on-line, to see if the Mt. Vernon Trail website had a lost and found. They didn’t. I got all the credit card bills together, and was just picking up the phone to start making calls, when Kathy called down and said, “They found it!” She’d checked the voice mail, and someone had found my backpack and figured out how to call me. We called him. “I have your backpack – I was really worried when I saw all those credit cards and your card keys, so I looked you up on-line as soon as I could.” We arranged to meet at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in a half hour.

    Valentino and his wife had just moved to the States from Italy. He’d been a ship’s engineer over there, and had risen to as high a position as he could rise in that occupation. The Italian economy tanked, and they decided to come to the States to find work and settle down here. He’d just gotten his Green Card 3 months ago. He refused to take any money from me for returning my stuff. I gave him Kathy’s card with all of her contact information, and all of mine written on the back. “If you ever need anything – anything at all – let us know. Kathy knows a lot of things, about a lot of things – she’s an amazing resource. We’d be happy to help you find your way around here.”

    “Please don’t feel any obligation to me. I just did what I knew was the right thing.” I told him how much it meant to me, and it was no obligation – it’s just what we do. We help each other through. He’d helped me, and I would be more than happy to help him.

    I do hope he takes me up on the offer. His actions saved me a hell of a lot of phone calls, and more than that, reinforced my belief – that the universe is, indeed, a friendly place. And, that there still are people who do the right thing.

    Kindness rocks! Play on, Uncle John. Play on.

    Photos: Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument sticking up behind the Lincoln Memorial, Me looking just a bit concerned about my backpack.
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