Another of life’s miracles in downtown Manhattan

A few years ago I hired a summer student to work with me in editorial production of a magazine I was involved with. Pascal Brunet, a native of Laval, QC, this young woman was working towards a Masters degree in Economics and her goal was to study a year each in Montreal, London (England), Hong Kong, China, and New York. And she did.

But in between one of those years she came to Barrie for three months and lived in what had to be a cultural wasteland for a Francophone with international lifestyle experiences. But Pascale is one of those people who creates cultural richness wherever she goes. And, she’s one of those young people who is permanently anchored in my life.

So, it made sense that I visit New York City recently to spend a weekend with her and find out how she’s living life in a bachelor apartment in downtown Manhattan, working as an economist with KPMG and hoping for a transfer to Asia.

We did all the tourist things… lunch at Tavern on the Green in Central Park on the first warm day in the city. A Broadway Show in the evening. Walking in the market, visiting the dog-play compound, testing maple syrup at a market booth. Shopping. I was easily centred out as a non-new Yorker simply by my relaxed gait. We put miles on our shoe leather. And we used cabs alot.

I had no idea a cab was so cheap in New York. $2 for this trip. $2.50 for that. We had Dubonnet at Windows on the World at the World Trade Centre. And after that we lept into another cab and rushed for our “telephone reserved” admission tickets for a newly released movie. Pascale does all these reservations, payment things in a high tech fashion, using her cell phone, her Palm Pilot, and some magic card she’s got. And, as you know, I’m from the line-up-and-pay-with-cash-era.

As we settled into our movie theatre seats with our cappucinos and popcorn, we were still chatting happily about the day. All of a sudden, she jumped up in a panic. “My wallet’s gone!”

We rifled through knapsacks and coat pockets. No wallet. “I left it in the cab,” she wailed.

The movie had started. People behind us gave us a sign or two that we should “hush!”

She crept out to cancel two major cards that were in her wallet, both belonging to her company… a Diner’s Club card with a $50,000 limit (for business travel, hotels etc.), and an American Express card. Now, call me naive or just plain dumb, but when she sat back into her seat, I thought she should invest an hour and a half on the movie and then deal with the wallet. Some things take time. And while Pascale was trying to concentrate on Minnie Driver and the unfolding drama on the screen, what was really racing through her mind was what was happening to her Hong Kong citizenship card, her Hong Kong health card, her American identification material, the loose diamond that had fallen from its setting, some cash, her birth certificate, her phone card, her bank card, her Gold Visa, her i.d. for admission to her office building, her Canadian i.d., and on and on.

This is a high tech young woman. If my wallet went missing, I’d be out a Zehrs card, my movie rental card, my daughter’s school picture, and my driver’s licence.

We live in different worlds.

I digress.

As she’s stewing in her seat, I’m sipping capuccino and reasoning that good things take time. She’s a good, kind soul with a generous spirit and bad things shouldn’t happen to her. (this is really a Barrie philosophy, but I felt it might be applicable in New York) The cab driver would find it and turn it in. Or, the next rider would find it and turn it in. I told her about my son dropping his wallet in the parking garage at the SkyDome and it turned up intact in a pet food store in downtown Toronto, complete with a $1700 cheque!

So, after the movie we retraced our steps to where we exited the cab, checked under cars and along curbs, left a message at a corner restaurant in case it was turned in there.

And then we walked home to her fourth floor bachelor walkup.

Now this is New York City whose land houses a population which is half of Canada’s entire numbers.

There on the answering machine was beeping a red button. And a message from Staff Sargeant Traffino… “we have property belonging to you at the third precinct police office. Please call.” Another cab ride down to the third precinct and a smiling officer handed over Pascale’s wallet.

It was completely intact.

Money, credit cards, identification, citizenship, health–all items with a high black market value. The diamond. The Diner’s Club. The American Express. Drivers Licence. Gold Card. It was all there.

Who turned it in? Logical question, we thought. The next rider in our cab had picked it off the floor and taken it directly to the police. His name? Hung Trieu. A new American, in New York because life in native Viet Nam was no longer possible.

What more can I say? Thanks, Hung!