My guardian angel in the Music City

by Alex Ashe

The world needs more people like this.

A month ago, a few friends and I voyaged to Nashville for a weekend visit to a friend from college and to catch the nearest stop of the Americanarama Tour, a glorious triple-bill of My Morning Jacket, Wilco and Bob Dylan. The trip was a perfect storm. I missed my friend, Harden, and had never been to the Music City, nor had I ever seen Dylan live.

But in retrospect, I’m just lucky I made it to the show.

Our first full day in town, we returned from downtown to Harden’s apartment, where we relaxed for a bit in preparation for that night’s plan to explore Nashville’s bar scene. When it was time to leave, I hit a snag.

My wallet was nowhere to be found. I rummaged through the apartment in a frenzy, but to no avail. We paused the departure to start a thorough search party, as we made a mess of the apartment and painstakingly inspected the direct vicinity outside the building. We never found it.

The night’s plans were ruined, as I was without a photo ID. Gone were my gift cards, my insurance cards and the $100 I had withdrawn directly prior to losing it. It remains a blessing that our concert tickets hadn’t been divvied yet. I notified the complex’s office, but it didn’t turn up. I felt the ultimate resignation as I left Nashville without my wallet, grasping onto hope that it could turn up in the mail.

I’ll admit right now that I have a history of losing things and have dealt with a spectrum of consequences and reactions.

The summer that I graduated high school, I was at a buddy’s house party when, at some point, my iPod, cracked yet still functioning, fell out of my pocket. While I failed to immediately notice, I did so in time to narrow the scene of the fumble down to a 15-minute span in one room. It wasn’t a huge party, just about 20 people, all of whom I was acquainted with. Considering these factors, I was confident I’d find it. But each flip of a sofa cushion went begging, and when I informed the party of the situation, no one piped up. I never found that iPod, and have always looked back on that night with indignation. I’ll never forgive myself for wearing basketball shorts that night, but I’m more incensed that someone I likely knew would pounce on an iPod with a cracked screen. It was a disheartening experience that, looking back, made me a less trusting person.

At Bonnaroo this year, as I was shuffling through my wallet to pay for a foot-long corndog, a young woman in the line beside me grabbed my attention. “Hey, you dropped this,” she said, as she handed me a $20 bill. I thanked her repeatedly, perhaps excessively, simultaneously overwhelmed by her virtuousness and how I could be so sloppy. Not only was I oblivious that I’d dropped the bill, she was the only other one at the food stand, and could’ve taken it without consequence.

Perhaps it was the fresh memory of this noble act that gave me a disproportionate sense of faith that I’d see my wallet again. But a week passed, and I began to lose hope. On the eighth day, I received a letter from the Nashville Police Department. It stated that my wallet and all of its contents had been turned in anonymously. Overjoyed, I sent Harden a notarized letter, allowing him to claim it and hand-deliver it to me when he came to Greensboro this past weekend.

As relieved as I am, I’m still searching for closure. I’m curious to know where and how I lost the wallet, but moreover, I need to thank the Good Samaritan who turned it in. It’s likely, however, that I’ll never get the chance to do so. For now, the best I can do is to pay it forward and react the same way when I find myself in the same position. It’s a reminder that acts like this are what keep the karma train moving.

I’ve also asked Harden to inquire among the residents of his complex, because whether it was another tenant or a maintenance man doing his job, the person who turned in my wallet should know what those actions meant to me. That person has restored my assets and, more importantly, my faith in humanity. They’ve given me an encouraging parable that’s worth much more than $100.