I try not to rely on the kindness of strangers, but it’s a pleasant surprise when strangers come through


I took part in a casual bike ride last month in celebration of a friend's daughter's birthday. Our first stop was Trophy Cupcakes in Wallingford. It was there that I discovered that my wallet was missing. I checked my pockets several times, but the wallet was gone. I was pretty sure I had brought it with me, but there was an outside chance that I had simply forgotten it from the get-go.

The rest of the bike ride was pleasant enough. Well, I took a tumble on the Elliott Bay Bike Trail after coming down the overpass ramp: I was a bit too effective at keeping right and ended up catching the railroad tracks that parallel the trail. Fortunately, I had overprepared for the cold weather and wore four layers of pants, so I got off completely unscathed.

Okay, so aside from wiping out that one time, the ride was quite pleasant, but the thought that I had lost my wallet nagged at me for the rest of the day. On the way home after the ride, I retraced my path, stopping to examine more closely the areas where I had stopped to remove a jacket or adjust some clothing. But sadly, no wallet.

When I got home, I checked my e-mail hoping against hope that somebody had found the wallet and deduced how to contact me from whatever hadn't already been stolen from it. And lo and behold, there was a message waiting for me from a person who works in the area we cycled through and who found my wallet barely a half hour after I had lost it. (And probably even before I realized that I had lost my wallet at all.)

I jokingly thought to myself, "Well, when I go to pick up my wallet, how can I prove that it's mine? I don't have any identification with me; it's all in the wallet!" But of course, my picture is on my identification, so it's pretty obvious that I'm the right person.

I offered the finder a reward, but he declined it, saying, "You'd do the same for me if the roles were reversed." He was right, of course. And as far as I can tell, nothing was missing from my wallet. Even the fortune cookie fortune was still there, one that I'd been carrying around in my wallet for months for good luck.

What was the fortune?

Soon you will hear very good news.

Behold the power of the fortune cookie fortune.

Comments (24)
  1. Ian Johns says:

    This has been one of your least people-cynical posts in a while.  It combined an interesting personal story with several details (but others an active imagination could fill in, if desired) with a dose of goodwill — and no preemptive snarky comment to shatter the goodwill factor.  I like it.  Thanks for the read.

  2. Cameron says:

    If you just go by what you see on the news, the world is filled with evil people just waiting to take advantage of you.

    But in reality, most people are decent and try to do the right thing (I think). It sure is a great feeling when you get to experience that first hand…

  3. me says:

    For years now I’ve been waiting to find someone’s wallet, so that I can return it after having put more money into it.  Maybe a $20.  To, y’know, really mess with their head.

  4. 365blog says:

    One of my biggest fears is that my wallet will get lost. I dropped a cell phone once and a (I must admit beautiful on many levels) lady immediately grabbed it up and chased me down. The only chance I’ve had to reciprocate is that on occasion I correct a shop keepers math, in their favor. ;o)

  5. Grijan says:

    As someone says above, you can trust 95% of people. But the problem is that you don’t know if a stranger is in the remaining 5% :-( . Because of that, when somebody acts like he/she is from the 95% (if you follow me), you usually are (grately) surprised, as Raymond did.

    It’s good to read stories from the human side of the engineer. At least, if I my knowledges or psychic powers aren’t even remotely similar to Raymond’s, it makes him nearer :-) .

  6. Marcos says:

    Hi Reymond !

    I don’t found any way to contact you.  Sorry for post this question here.

    I want know if Windows has internals functions to parser a command-line like:

    Command part inside quotes:

    "c:program filesmy test.exe" /xyz

    All command inside quotes:

    "c:program filesmy teste.exe /xyz"

    Command without quotes:

    c:program filesmy teste.exe /xyz

    The question is:   How Windows know if my program is "c:program" or "c:program filesmy" or "c:program filesmy test.exe" ?

    Thank you

  7. kokomo says:

    As a fellow cyclist(mtber), I have just one comment:

    You crashed? How was the bike? ;-)

  8. Pappy says:

    My wallet fortune reads:

    "About time I got out of that cookie"

    Whenever I need to smile, I sneak a peak in my wallet knowing that my fortune genie now lives next to my ass.

  9. Wang-Lo says:

    Every time I learn something useful from this site I count it as an example of a total stranger coming through for me.  I mean, Raymond doesn’t know me from Adam but he’s given me several code fixes, with no direct benefit to himself.

    -Wang-Lo.

  10. Qian says:

    I was always told that the fortune won’t come true if you don’t keep it in your wallet.  And who am I to argue with the power of the cookie.

  11. poochner says:

    My wallet does not have cookies enabled.  I believe they can allow identity theft, being so close to my credit cards and other ID.

  12. Ray says:

    Marcos,

    You mean beside the "Contact Me" link on the right hand side?

    Yes yes, I know it doesn’t give you an email address, but if Raymond doesn’t provide a email address because he explicitly says he doesn’t do tech support, do you think he’s going to answer you in a comment?

    p.s. spelling his name wrong is sure not to earn browny points either.

  13. Marcos says:

    Hi Ray!

    Sorry. I type wrong "Raymond" :-)

    Raymond is the best people for answer me this question, because they work with windows shell and I don’t found this answer in anywhere.

    Thank you

  14. Hieronymous Coward says:

    "You’d do the same for me if the roles were reversed." He was right, of course.

    He was right? Typical M$ FUD! I’ve lost my wallet DOZENS of times and Windows has NEVER returned it! Why can’t Microsloth get this right? Linux is FAR ahead on this count – I’ve lost my wallet three or four times at a LUG meeting (that’s Linux User Group, you benighted heathen), and each time another member of the Linux community found it and returned it to me.

  15. IanB says:

    I’ve lost my wallet three or four times at a LUG meeting, and each time another member of the Linux community found it and returned it to me.

    Seeing as there were only the two of you there…. :-)

  16. seshun kuki says:

    Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get any better.

  17. I found Cupcake Royale disappointing.  Is Trophy Cupcakes better?

  18. CPM says:

    IanB – BRILLIANT!!!!  Can’t stop laughing…

  19. Miral says:

    "How Windows know if my program is "c:program" or "c:program filesmy" or "c:program filesmy test.exe" ?"

    I can answer that for you.  Because when I was curious I actually tried it instead of asking questions :)

    It depends on where you do it.  If you’re passing it to most API functions then Windows makes no attempts to separate it out or dequote it — it’s expecting you to provide a proper filename yourself.

    If you’re typing it at the command line, then the program name is everything left of the first unquoted space.

    If you’re using CreateProcess, then read the fine MSDN help, since it explains exactly how it works.

    If you’re typing it in the Run box, then it works much the same as CreateProcess.

  20. Matt Grove says:

    Seattle is possibly the best place in the U.S. to lose your wallet.

    http://www.gocurrency.com/international-travel/2007/02/12/69/

  21. Cheong says:

    Marcos: Hadn’t it be discussed before?

    http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2007/05/15/2636224.aspx#2651964

    Plus other comments at that post.

    You’re reminded that because Raymond already has the "wish list" to post for a few years. Because we want the "Suggestion Box" be opened faster, any attempt to intercept the queue with topics already covered would not be tolerated. :P //half joking

  22. arun.philip says:

    +1 for Ian Johns’ comment.

    I like the non-cynical Raymond Chen :)

  23. captain hibbon says:

    "and each time another member of the Linux community found it and returned it to me."

    Ah, but the question is, had they made your cash open source?

  24. Adam Rosenfield says:

    I once had an instance of someone’s trying too hard to do the right thing that it backfired – I was walking into class one day with my iPod in my pocket and my headphones around my neck.  During the shuffle as the previous class was leaving and my class was entering, someone managed to accidentally knock my iPod out of my pocket.

    I didn’t notice until halfway through class, and I’m sure I would have found it on the floor after class was over, except that someone from the previous class must have decided that it belonged to someone leaving that class and ran off to the lost-and-found with it.  I eventually got it back, but it took a lot more effort than it would have had that person not been so proactive.

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