All right folks. It's time again for #GrumpyMonday where we join my father, @MattStevens a grumpy yet brilliant American on his misadventures. Dad has always been a complete mystery and every Monday we inch a little closer to figuring him out.
This edition of #GrumpyMonday is the best yet. Dad really gets himself into some trouble on the way back from Atlantic City. The result is entirely laughable and completely ridiculous.
I’d prefer to see this story as a tribute to my perseverance and ingenuity, rather than another example of my forgetfulness and stupidity. I’d prefer to be a 25-year-old multi-millionaire, too.
It had been a two-day, mildly successfully trip to Atlantic City for a couple of poker tournaments.
Tess' Note: Dad is semi-retired and is kind of a professional poker player. I know. I know.
I had arrived with $700 in my Coach wallet (which was purchased on sale for $100 at an outlet store a couple of years ago), and was driving back to Ohio with $1700 after expenses. I wasn’t ecstatic. I wasn’t miserable. I just wanted to go home and sleep.
It’s a sixty-mile drive on the Atlantic City Expressway and the part of I-676 that runs past Camden, N.J. to reach the Ben Franklin Bridge. From there, it’s another 25 miles or so through the Philadelphia area to the westbound Pennsylvania Turnpike in King of Prussia.
Somewhere past the City Avenue exit, I noticed the “low fuel” light was blinking. I had decided not to fill up in New Jersey—even though gas was ten cents per gallon cheaper there—because my trusty 2006 Buick Lucerne (Tess' Note: I hate this car, it's the kind of car that you'd see a blind old man driving in a satirical sit-com) can travel 440 miles on a full tank, and the drive from the turnpike entrance to my home in Ohio is 425 miles—and I don’t like to stop twice.
After taking the next exit, I had to drive a mile, make a right turn and drive another mile to reach the gas station. Since I had plenty of cash, I didn’t use a bank card at the pump. I walked inside, opened my Coach wallet and pulled out a hundred-dollar bill. “I’ll fill it on number two,” I said, handing the C-Note to the short, roundish clerk.
“Okay, sir. Your change will be waiting,” said the man, speaking in what sounded like a Russian accent.
It was a beautiful day—sunny and 60 degrees at 9 a.m. I filled the 18-gallon tank while watching some puffy clouds drift west to east. I took a few deep breaths and thought, we only get about ten days a year when the humidity is low and the air is warm at the same time. I should be playing golf instead of driving a car.
After replacing the nozzle, I climbed into the Buick and took a minute to set up my DVD player. I hit the “play” button to start watching “Rio Bravo,” starring John Wayne, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson. Warning: Watching movies while driving is dangerous. Duh.
Tess' Note: I bought Dad the special edition DVD of one of his favorite Westerns, had I known he'd be watching it while driving, I would have taken it back to the store.
A few minutes later, I was on the turnpike. It was just about the same time that the young Ricky Nelson made his first appearance in the movie, that I started looking for my Coach wallet. I’d been thinking about stopping at Dick’s Sporting Goods on the way home to get my son a new pair of batting gloves. I thought I might have a $10 reward certificate. I looked under the DVD player; I looked in the center console; I checked the floor on the passenger side; I checked the floor by my feet. No wallet. I checked between the seats. I checked between my seat and the door. No wallet. The only other place it could be, I thought, was between the passenger seat and the other door. I pulled over and turned on the flashers.
I walked around the car and opened the door. No wallet. I started to panic.
The contents included six credit cards, two bank cards and about $1600. The wallet itself was worth $350 for goodness sake. Losing it was not an option.
Tess' Note: COME ON DAD
As trucks and cars roared past, I Googled the gas station on my daughter’s old I-Phone 4-S, which I was using because I had lost my Galaxy S-5 a week earlier while attending a funeral in Michigan (see previous Grumpy Dad card). The phone number came up. I called it.
“Hello? (Unintelligible broken English).”
“Hi. I was just there getting gas. The guy who gave you a hundred dollar bill while I filled up a blue Buick Lucerne? Remember?”
“What kind car?” he asked.
“Blue Buick Lucerne,” I said. “Anyway, I’m missing my wallet and I’m wondering if you found one there on the counter.”
“I check, but I don’t think,” he said.
“Okay. Thanks,” I said, knowing my odds were 100-1 at that point. Even if I had left it on the counter, some Russian immigrant working at a gas station would have to be even money at worst to steal the cash and sell the credit cards.
A minute later, he said, “No. No wallet. Sorry guy.”
“Okay. Thanks,” I said.
I hung up thinking this was definitely the dumbest thing I’d ever done. Then I thought about losing my phone at a church in Michigan the week before. It was difficult to rank them. Whatever! I'm an idiot! I thought.
I stood there for a moment being pelted by pebbles and other debris from passing trucks. Then, I decided I had no choice but to go back to that gas station and search for the wallet myself. If I had to turn that clerk upside down and shake him, I was going to get my wallet back. Thirty minutes later, I pulled into the gas station. I walked inside and waited my turn in line.
“I’m the one with the missing wallet,” I said. “Are you sure you didn’t find one?”
The clerk looked at me like I didn’t understand English. “I’m sure, guy,” he said. “We look everywhere.”
By “we” he meant the scruffy-looking fellow wearing a brown shirt and blue jeans who was stocking shelves with soda and filling the ice machine with five-pound bags. I decided to ask him a question or two. (Tess' Note: I'm pretty sure Dad's full blown paranoid thinking that these dudes jacked his wallet for kicks)
“Hi. No luck finding my wallet, huh?”
“Nah. We looked pretty much everywhere. Bathroom. Shelves. Floor. Parking lot,” he said.
This guy seemed like an honest, hard-working sort. He kept to his task of unloading an ice truck as he spoke, tossing the bags onto a pile near the ice machine.
“Okay. Thanks,” I said. “Thanks for trying. I lost my phone last week at my uncle’s funeral. Now this. I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it.”
As I walked back inside to give the clerk my phone number--just in case the wallet turned up later—I noticed a surveillance camera above the door.
“Do your cameras have video?” I asked the clerk.
“Yeah. Sure,” he replied.
“Could you check the tape where I was gassing up my car? Maybe I dropped the wallet and we’ll see what happened,” I said.
“Sure. Okay, guy,” he said. After asking the man in the brown shirt to mind the store, the clerk walked into a small office behind the counter. A few minutes later, he emerged.
“Come see,” he said.
I walked into the office and immediately gasped in horror. On the 13-inch black and white monitor, I saw a complete moron who looked exactly like me. He was pumping gas into a Buick Lucerne. Two feet from the moron’s right hand, sitting on the trunk, there appeared to be a wallet!
“Oh, my, God!” I exclaimed.
“Now watch,” said the clerk, fast-forwarding the video.
I gasped again as the moron drove away from the pump and out of camera range with the wallet still sitting on the trunk.
“So, it’s somewhere between here and the turnpike,” I said. “If no one picked it up.”
“That’s big if,” said the clerk, who’d obviously lived in America long enough to learn some slang. (Tess' Note: REALLY!? YOU LEFT THE WALLET ON THE CAR? Okay...we'll just keep reading)
I drove slowly away from the station, my eyes scanning both sides of the road curb to curb. After about three quarters of a mile, I saw blinking lights in my rear view mirror. The driver of the car behind me was irritated that I was going 20 miles per hour. I pulled to the right to let him go around me. I came to a stop and saw something leaning against the curb.
“Oh, my, God!” I said aloud.
It was the Coach wallet, lying wide open. I jumped out and grabbed it, checking the card slots. All filled. None missing. Then, I slipped a finger into the pocket. I felt bills and knew right away that all of the money would be there. (Who finds a wallet and takes some of the money?) I looked up.
“Thank you,” I said to a puffy cloud.
I could have pointed the Buick toward the turnpike at that point, but I’m a classier guy that that. (Tess' Note: HA!) I didn’t want those poor guys to lose sleep over my lost wallet. I drove back to the gas station.
“Look!” I said to the clerk.
“Ah. You find it!” he said, smiling. “Good for you!”
“Hey! You found it!” said the guy in the brown shirt.
I launched into the story about the lights in the mirror and pulling over and spotting the wallet by the curb.They kept customers waiting while they listened with great interest. The customers listened, too.
“Here,” I said, setting a couple of twenties on the counter. “I want to thank you guys for helping me.”
“Oh. No. Not necessary,” said the clerk, pushing the money back toward me.
“Please. I insist,” I said.
“Thank you,” said the clerk, picking up the bills and handing one to the guy in the brown shirt.
“I’m Matt,” I said to the clerk, extending a hand.
“Yuri,” he said, shaking my hand firmly.
“Dennis,” said the other man, with a shake just as firm. “That was God flashing those lights, you know.”
I smiled. “Where was he when I lost my phone last week?”
“Maybe he figured you’d been through enough,” said Dennis, smiling.