There it lay abandoned in the street, a small leather case. I went by it and tapped it with my foot, just to make sure that it didn't encase something. But it did. Inside was a cellphone/palm pilot.
No one was around so I picked it up. I thereby assumed responsibility over it, albeit temporarily.
I confirmed to myself how little I knew about modern gadgetry. I think the keypad was locked, because I couldn't make the menu work. I couldn't call anyone listed on a speed dial on the device, and ask them if they knew anyone who might have lost a cellphone. Then I started worrying that the phone would lose power and become forever silent. I would never find out who it belonged to. I showed it to a friend, who noted that the phone used Sprint service.
"How do you know that?" I asked.
"Because it's a Sprint phone," she said.
"Oh." I decided I could take it to a Sprint Store, if I could find one, and they could locate the owner.
A little bit later this friend said, "I think the trunk of my car has been ringing. There it is again."
She pulled over and I hurriedly dug the cellphone out of my bag in the rear of her car. After pushing a green button on it, I said, "Hello?"
Talk about an awkward beginning to a conversation! It was worse than any fumbling pickup line I have ever tried. But soon we established our identities and respective interests in the dialogue.
He was Paul from McLean, the cellphone's owner, and he had been calling his phone over and over. I told him who I was, and said that he could pick it up the next day at my work.
He seemed relieved. He rang off saying, "That phone has all of my phone numbers and schedules on it. You have the frontal and rear lobes of my brain in your hand."
Then I started worrying about a potential reward. I certainly didn't want nor expect one. I had merely picked up something off the street, is all. But I knew the anxious owner would be very grateful, and I hoped that in his relief at getting his phone back, he wouldn't try to compensate me for my troubles, which were none.
What if he offered me money? Should I tell him to donate it to charity? Should I take a nominal amount and thank him? What was the etiquette here?
Paul turned out to be a pleasant man about my age with a full white beard, bearing gifts. Or a gift, to be more accurate. Paul was indeed very grateful to get his cellphone back, and he pressed upon me a bag containing a small, heavy parcel. Not money, I was relieved to note. It struck me that he might have been in a quandary himself about what to do for a "reward" for me.
In my embarrassment, after giving him the phone I took the bag, exchanged a casual pleasantry and hurried back to my office. I hope my actions didn't seem brusque, and that he didn't take offense at my abruptness.
Back in my office I unwrapped the parcel. Paul had given me the perfect gift to express his thanks. Inside was an 8-ounce bottle of liquefied amber gel with a label proclaiming it, "Paul's Honey--2008 Harvest, McLean, Virginia." The label even contained a Shakespeare quote from Henry V about the ordered work of honey-bees. This especially delighted me, an English major.
Thanks, Paul! I can't wait to try your honey.