Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
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What Would You Do if You Found a Bank Money Bag?
The television happened to air a trailer for an upcoming movie called “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard” starring Jeremy Piven of “Entourage” fame. The trailer features a car salesman bragging that he made a sell while holding up a canvas bank bag. He opens up the bag and a blue dye pack explodes in his face. At that moment I became compelled to relay this little story of how my husband’s simple errand turned into a misadventure with, you guessed it, a canvas bank bag that he found in the parking lot of a local shopping center.
To set the scene, here’s a little background info. I walk the streets of our Clairemont neighborhood to the tune of 25 to 30 miles per week on a regular basis. In my perusing, I have scooped up paper money that has found its way to the streets, sidewalks and curbs on many occasions. I have actually found every denomination up to and including $100 bills. My husband gets a kick out of it when I come home with one of my scores.
I was at work one morning in early May ’08, when a call comes into my cell phone. Bruce, my husband, is on the line and in an excited tone exclaims “You’re not going to believe what I just found.” I immediately braced myself for a one-upmanship finders keepers story he was most likely getting ready to prank me with because he loves to tease. I asked him what was going on and he said, “I just found a canvas bank bag in the parking lot behind Baskin Robbins on Balboa Ave.” Instantly, my antennae went up for what I call BS and told him so. He replied, “No really. The bag is smoking and burning my eyes and I looked inside and there’s all kinds of money in it, maybe up to ten grand. I’m crying and coughing from the smoke.” At that moment, the conversation had the tenor of truth that elicited the immediate reaction of, “Hang up and call 911 NOW! Then call back as soon as you have a chance.”
Of course, he hung up and indeed called 911. I could barely contain myself. A call to my Mom immediately took place where I suggested she watch the news because Bruce had just discovered a bank bag full of money and was waiting for the police to arrive at the scene. Figuring the news would cover it proved wrong however. Antsy doesn’t do justice to the way I felt while waiting to hear the outcome of this turn of events.
After several return calls and discussions, the following narrative describes to the best of our recollection how the series of events played out:
Bruce called 911 and the dispatcher grilled him over the phone with several questions including, exact location, description of the bag, description of himself and what he was wearing. Bruce told the dispatcher that he wasn’t going any where, after all he had some of the red dye on his hands (curiosity got the best of him and he dug around inside of the bag after he found it). About 20 to 30 minutes later, a patrol car pulled into the parking lot.
My husband can be described as looking like an aging (or aged) hippy with a scraggly beard and is not known to dress like a preppy/country club style that’s for sure. He wears t-shirts and shorts with a ball cap most of the time. This particular day, he was on his way to the See’s Candy store to redeem a gift certificate that my mother had given him.
The Police Officer sized Bruce up and immediately began an intense interrogation of the situation. Being that my husband is somewhat short term memory challenged, a sequence of events line of questioning might be on the shaky side for him but this is what emerged all things considered:
Exactly where did you find the bag? In the parking lot.
Where in the parking lot? Don’t remember, the stalls aren’t numbered.
What did you do when you found it? I kicked it, then looked in it.
Was it smoking before or after you kicked it? Before I kicked it.
What else did you do with it? I pulled out a smoking/smoldering jacket and could see smoking/smoldering bills and then I threw it on the grassy knoll and stomped on it more to put out any fire there might have been.
Why were you in the parking lot? I was on my way to redeem a gift certificate for a box of See’s Candy.
When did the dye pack go off and did you touch the money in the bag? The dye pack had already gone off, how else did I get dye on my hands? Dude, I called you! I’m not the bad guy here remember?
At that point, the police told him to wait for the FBI and then took control of the evidence. My husband pleaded with him to let him go to See’s and then he’d come right back. The officer conceded and Bruce completed his errand and quickly returned to the scene. He noticed that a Federal car with the FBI had finally arrived in the lot. The Federal agent started aiming similar questions at him and Bruce referred him back to the police since they already had all of the information. The agent then backed off. Bruce noted that dealing with the FBI was actually a pleasant experience, considering the circumstances.
Before the police etc. were finished with their investigation, my husband couldn’t help but inquire if there would be a reward for turning in “the goods”. The reply was that his reward would be “good Karma”. A clean conscience would have to do. Bruce learned at some point during the investigation that the nearby Washington Mutual Bank had been robbed.
After all was said and done, Bruce (and I) then had time to assess the entire escapade. Apparently, we surmised, the robber had opened the bag and the dye pack went off in his face. The robber then used the jacket to wipe off, stuffed it in the bag which he then dropped and ran like the dickens. Being only human, Bruce confessed that for a fleeting moment, when he realized what he had discovered, he had visions of a new set of Callaway Golf Clubs dancing in his head. The clubs would have been a nice retirement present to himself since he had recently become a retiree. His conscience prevailed and he opted to call 911. He felt the police were a little rough but then realized that they were just doing their jobs according to proper protocol. Since my husband loves to tell stories, this incident has supplied some choice subject matter for his tall tales. The comments he has received after telling this juicy tale have been quite comical. One fellow told him that Woolite would have done a nice job of “laundering” the money. Another friend commented that turning in the money was confirmation of Bruce’s brain damage and that he should have taken it to a local casino to launder it. (Actually, Bruce did have brain surgery in ‘70 after a serious motorcycle accident in the desert).
In any event, finding a bank bag full of money is a conundrum most of you have pondered at one time or another. Haven’t you? What would you do if you came upon a smoldering canvas bank bag full of $100 bills? Think about it!