Holiday Miracle


I went to campus today for the first time in months; it already feels like a nostalgic memory. Sitting in the subway on my way home, iPod humming away in my ears as my mind wandered, I was thinking about today's entry. I had a few vague ideas, but was a little sad that I'd managed to go on what qualifies as an excursion for me these days, and yet I didn't have anything interesting to write about.

Little did I know. I would say that this story falls under the category of "be careful what you wish for," except by the time I was wishing it had already happened. I just didn't know it yet, you see.

I got out at my usual stop, 2nd & Market. (Well, "usual" when I was in the habit of taking the subway on a regular basis.) I tightened my scarf around my neck and started the walk southward towards home. Meanwhile I was busy compiling my mental checklist of stops to make along the way: ATM, Wawa for Diet Coke--the one near me has closed (I'm still mourning), and only sells Pepsi products, which I hate, meaning I have to lug it home from Headhouse Square--Chef's Market for coffee. Then I would be home, after a grueling week of dissertating that culminated in today's outing, the primary purpose of which was to deliver approximately 215 freshly revised pages to my advisor. (Well, okay, only 180 pages plus references.) I was looking forward to an evening that to the casual onlooker would appear just like every other evening in recent memory and foreseeable future, me on the sofa in front of the laptop, but would have an entirely different feel from the inside. It's like all those different Inuit terms for snow, or something.

So there I was, happily headed homeward. As planned, I reached the ATM on the northwest corner of Headhouse Square, and started digging in my messenger bag for my wallet.

Which, it turned out, wasn't there.

Well, that couldn't be right. I'd used it twice already, to buy coffee on my way to school and to pull out my student ID card when I entered the building where my advisor has her office. I knew it was there. Sure, I've been a little flighty and forgetful lately--I actually started to leave the coffee shop without retrieving the aforementioned coffee, until the barista called me back--but a wallet is serious business. It's substantial. It has important stuff inside, along with things like receipts that may or may not be important. In this case, the wallet was a gift from Dario last Christmas, so I really didn't want to lose it. I let the next person waiting go ahead and use the machine, while I opened all the pockets of my bag and rummaged inside. Since the printout took up most of the bag's real estate when I left, without it the bag was fairly empty, so it didn't take long for me to realize that my wallet was indeed missing. But where had I left it?

I thought back. I had flashed my ID card at the woman working the security desk. Had I kept my wallet in my hand? Maybe. I had run into a few people in the hall, so I may have been distracted from putting it away. Perhaps I'd still been holding it when I went into my advisor's office, and absently set it on her desk while we did what we had to do. I thought I'd double-checked that I hadn't left anything, but again, I have been a tad distracted these days. Surely that was it.

I didn't have my advisor's office phone number programmed into my cell phone, but I did have her home number. I figured I could leave a message, at least. I ended up speaking with her husband (who shares my cat's name, a fact she and I find very amusing, but he does not). He said she was still on campus at the last faculty meeting of the semester, but I should send her an email. She'd be sure to check it.

My other errands were obviously made redundant at this point, so I hustled homeward. My mind raced with thoughts of how to handle situations over the next few days when I'd need cash or even a credit card, since I was sure that I wouldn't be able to retrieve my wallet until after the weekend at the earliest. Meanwhile, a voice in the back of my head was still buzzing over the matter of where I'd left my missing wallet. Something didn't sit right, but I was too afraid to really consider the alternative. If it wasn't in my advisor's office, where could I possibly have left it? How much of a pain in the ass would it be to replace everything? How much cash did I have in there? Buzz buzz buzz.

Oh, wait. That was actually my cell phone buzzing. I didn't recognize the number. I answered anyway.

A pleasant voice asked, "Is this Plin?" (Although not really, because that would've been freaky.)


"You've lost your wallet?"

"Yes, oh my God, do you have it? Where did you find it?" I babbled.

He told me. I said I could be there in half an hour. I was almost home, and my feet were hurting, but I knew I needed to turn back and pick it up right away. I did an about-face and retraced my steps...

...all the way back to the subway station on campus, where I had apparently left it on the token vending machine. I didn't even remember taking it out, since I paid for my tokens with change from my pocket and clinking loosely in the bottom of my bag. But, as I said, dissertation brain. As soon as he spotted me walking toward the booth, the man behind the bulletproof glass started smiling. He obviously recognized me from my student ID.

He waved me through the turnstile, even though I was out of tokens. (Parenthetically, that's the second time that's happened in the last month or so.) The wallet was handed over with a smiling flourish, and the security guards standing there were grinning cheerfully as well. "I can't believe I left this here, of all places!" I said, embarrassed. I thanked everyone profusely.

So to sum up: I left my entire wallet, full of about $40 in cash, several credit cards, and ID, in a subway station in North Philadelphia, less than two weeks before Christmas. I was contacted immediately, less than an hour after I left it there, and the wallet and its contents were returned to me completely intact.

If that doesn't qualify as a holiday miracle, I don't know what does.