drplasticpicker finds a lost wallet and had an adventure!
October 10, 2019
October 10, 2019
When I was a child up until the 8th grade, I wanted to be a children’s author and thought it was possible. My parents suggested medicine as artists often struggle financially, and ever the obedient daughter I became a doctor. I never fundamentally cared about material things which is why I went with my heart and I became a pediatrician. We are the lowest paid medical specialty. I also have a fascination with the Law & Order series, and that is the only TV series other than Gidget that I have ever binge watched. This is why I am so happy that drplasticpicker has allowed me to author this blog post as a bit player is a Law & Order like episode! Here is my story.
About 3 weekends ago, I went ocean plastic picking early in the morning. It was the weekend after Labor Day, so there were still a smattering of tourist along the beach the night prior. When I pick ocean plastic, I wear a fanny pack in which holds my phone, house keys and 2 smaller plastic bags I use for “gloves” and 2 grocery bags, one for trash and one for salvageable things. That morning had already been interesting as I met again one of my acquaintances who wields the metal detector on the early weekend mornings. He looks for rings and metal coins, and if he finds any sand toys – he saves and gives them to me (he knows I’m a pediatrician). I don’t know his name, but its a nice informal relationship of like-minded humans looking for lost treasure. I found several pieces of questionable millennial recreational artifacts (think vaping and other salacious infectious activities). With those I use my “gloves” and throw away. I am mostly looking for ocean bound plastic, big and small.
I scan along the mounds of kelp, as I imagine baby turtles living in the kelp beds. There are often remnants of latex balloons with dangling plastic ribbon. I have to wrestle them from the kelp fronds. I imagine all the birthday parties, and that those celebrants didn’t mean to lose those balloons and didn’t intend to choke the baby turtles. I have found lots of boogie board latches, and my plastic gaze is so good now that I once spotted fake green plastic leaves that go with an artificial bouquet.
So I was walking along the shore near where the kelp lay in scattered small patches, and my eye spied a wallet! It was tangled in the kelp and a tannish color. I quickly looked up and my metal detector-wielding acquaintance was far down the beach. He is a nice man, but fundamentally he is finding things of monetary value and keeping them. Being a pediatrician, I live in mostly a happy world of well child visits and loving families – but I’ve seen enough bad things especially in the emergency department and after hours clinics – that I don’t trust anyone!
I quickly picked up the wallet and put it in my salvageable bag. I didn’t dare open it up there. The wallet was worn and covered with sand. I continued to saunter along the beach, picking up pieces of plastic here and there – trying to look normal. But my heart was pounding. I reached the path that passes where the surfers rinse off and back to the sidewalk overlooking the sand cliffs. I deposited the refuse bag in the trash receptacle and started jogging home going quicker than my normal clip.
When I was close to home, I took out my phone and started thinking – do I call 911? I take care of several families where the moms are police dispatchers and police officers. I was thinking how annoyed they would be about a phone call regarding a wallet when there were probably a lot of real crime going on. Do I drive to the police station myself and drop it off? That would probably be my default but probably my husband would want to go with me to be my protector but he was doing an early morning shift. What if it was evidence? What if the owner was dead? Would they think it was me? But I’m just an innocent pediatrician who picks up plastic. I think I would be okay and pass any polygraph. So I just looked up the local police department and dialed the nonemergent number. The automated recording said that the call volume is the highest at 7-10am, so I hung up.
I arrived home and deposited the rest of the salvageables in the back yard to be rinsed later. As for the found wallet, I took a new plastic ziplock bag and turned it inside out and grabbed it and sealed it up. I figure I didn’t want more of my fingerprints on it. We live with my inlaws, who actually are fascinated by my new hobby. My father-in-law is a veteran so he is very law abiding. I showed them my find, and he was impressed. Putting it in the zip lock bag really made it look like evidence.
I finally called again to the police line and got through. The dispatcher asked how they could help me. Everything came out of me like a toddler vomiting up during gastro season, “I am a pediatrician and I have this new hobby where I pick up plastic along the beach. I’m trying to help the earth. I found a wallet this morning! I think it was lucky I found it and not one of the metal detector guys – although they seem like nice people. I’m not sure what to do with it? I put it in a plastic zip lock bag but I did touch it.”
Then dear friends, one of the most exciting interchanges in my life.
The officer asked, “Where and when did you find it?”
I answered, “I found at around 703am along the beach between the pier and where the surfers are.”
He asked, “Is there a phone number in there?”
I answered, “I didn’t open it up yet.”
He said, “Please open up the wallet and see if there is any ID.”
I replied, “Okay. I am touching the wallet now.” I flipped through the contents and cards. The officer walked me through the information in the wallet. There was a name and passport card, which I read off to him. A young man of Caucasian ethnicity from Arizona. No phone number.
The officer replied, “We’ll send a patrol car over.”
“Really??!! Oh, I thought I needed to drop by the station.”
The officer answered, “No, we’ll send someone over.” I was a bit sad they didn’t want me at the station, but I was excited that a patrol car was coming.
I showered. I put on make-up. I called my husband and told him my story. I called my sister in Virginia and told her my story. I discussed it in detail with my mother over the phone, and we thought that maybe it fell out of someone’s boat since the wallet looked so worn. My mom thought perhaps it was someone who had gone on a fishing trip. Who knows where it floated from? I waited. After an hour, I had to come back to reality and did some errands and left the wallet in it’s ziplock bag for my inlaws to give any officer who stopped by.
Finally, five hours later when I was home – a real police car stopped by in front of our house. A very young, slightly chubby, boyish faced officer rang our doorbell. He asked me the same questions and I answered again, this time more calmly. He jotted down notes on a police pad, just like Law & Order. I wondered where they get those pads?
The officer ended by asking me, “Is there cash in it?”
“Yes, ” I answered, “five dollars.”
“Is it still there?”
I looked at him blankly, “Yes, of course.” I shook my head, and than proceeded to recount my theory of perhaps it was someone on a boat who dropped the wallet. And asked him if there were any missing people reported. He calmly put his pad away and said sagely, “He probably just dropped it while walking along the beach. We’ll see if we can’t locate him.” He smiled at me patiently and left. My inlaws the entire time were peaking through their window.
Officer Santos called me later that day, and told me that they had located the young man. He had just lost the wallet the night prior and was walking along the beach . He was a young student from Arizona that was staying at an Airbnb just a block away. He was grateful that someone had returned the wallet. The officer ended the phone conversation with, “I told him he was lucky that you picked it up and returned it. Oh and thanks for picking up the trash.”
I thanked the officer as well. I didn’t tell him I was drplasticpicker.com. Three weekends ago, this blog was just beginning to form in my imagination. I found another driver’s license a week later. When I excitedly brought it home, my husband plucked it from my hands and said “I’ll just drop it off in the mail for you.” He is such a spoilsport. Thus ended the most exciting find thus far.