Honesty and a Big City Cabby

Posted: May 9, 2007 in Personal Relationships

Much has been made about a cabbie who returned a wallet with a lot of money in it. Welll… Let me weigh in on this. Two incidents relevant to the letter in today’s Kitsap Sun, and the article the letter writer refers to, come to mind. One involved a cab driver in New York, the other somebody in the locker room of a military officers’ club swimming pool.

About 45 years ago I was a young screaming seaman on liberty in New York City. If anyone out there knows about a sailor’s 13-button blues they know that there is no pocket for a wallet. The only pocket was one on the front-side about big enough to put your keys and some change… oh, and, maybe some folding green. I had the good fortune to be a passenger in an honest cabby’s taxi when my wallet (folded over my waist-band) slipped off as I got out. I discovered my misfortune a few moments later and somebody, probably one of New York’s finest, told me to go to the precinct police station because that’s where people turn in lost items. I did so and the cab driver was there with my wallet. I noticed there were a few dollars missing and the cab driver asked about a reward. I took out probably 10% of my cash and gave it to him. It took me a lot of years’ reflection to realize that the person who took the few dollars that was missing was probably the passenger who discovered the wallet and kept his reward for turning it over to the cab driver. After seeing the Dustin Hoffman movie Hero, I realize that people in large cities are just trying to survive and what we might call ethically challenged behavior is nothing more than good people trying to survive. If you ever get a chance to see the movie, it is an absolute riot! There are so many twists and turns that I found recounting it is a monumental challenge to keep the chronology of events strait. Actually, it doesn’t make any difference; the story is good even if you get some of the events in the wrong order.

As for the second incident, the outcome wasn’t quite as good. I was a guest of the girl I was dating at the time in the Officers’ club swimming pool. I didn’t think anything of leaving my wallet in my pants in an unlocked locker. After all this was an officer and a gentleman’s locker room, right? When my wallet came up missing my girl friend, who thought she knew better than to trust people who might be in an officers’ club locker, room, told me I should have known better. Her father, the retired officer in the family, disagreed. He felt that my wallet should have been secure; at least that’s what he told me. I’ve learned to question everything that I’ve taken for granted over the years. It’s a sin to be cynical; but skepticism is a virtue. Fast-forward many years when I was selling electronic appliances (a.k.a. Kirby vacuum cleaners) door to door. I was sent into a low income housing project to do a follow up on a sales lead. The woman I was trying to sell the vacuum cleaner to confide with me that she was a cleaner in one of the Navy barracks. She had several items that she had found and gave them to a fence to sell for her. So, my wallet could have been lifted by a cleaning person as easily as an officer’s son. It probably wasn’t taken by an officer.So, honesty is a concept that has its application within its unique circumstance and environment.

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