Credit cards, ID easily replaced; mementos not so

None of us think this will ever happen to us. But it happened to me. My wallet was stolen.
Ready to purchase a new phone at Best Buy, I pulled out my credit card and put the wallet down on the counter in front of me. I didn’t watch it as I talked to the clerk. The man behind me did. All was caught on the store’s security camera. Abandoning his intended purchase, he picked up the wallet and left the store.
Two policemen came and watched the film. “A young man, tall, slender, wearing jeans, a teal blue shirt and white sneakers,” they said. “Dark complexion, dark hair. Probably Hispanic.” (Sigh of relief — no prejudice here; one of them was Hispanic himself.) Also shown on camera: a little girl the thief had with him, about 8 years old. What a lesson he taught that child! No wonder our society is in such bad shape.
I acknowledge my stupidity; I have no one else to blame or to be angry at. The cost for me was not so much in cash — I think I had $40 in the wallet — as in the time and aggravation needed to take care of everything else in it. Beginning immediately, and over the next many hours, I was able to cancel all my (too many) credit cards before they were used.
But I was also toting my Social Security card, my Medicare card and my voter registration card, all of which carry those magic numbers that easily enable identity theft, so I remain at risk for that.
And there were other pressing matters I had to take care of. Of course my driver’s license was among the missing, as was my medical insurance card. The police gave me a “receipt” for our interview to show in case I was stopped for any moving violation or involved in any accident; thankfully, I didn’t need it — mainly because I was to leave in less than two days for Thanksgiving week with family in New York. I was able to board the plane only because I have a valid passport.
My visit was good but somewhat uneasy; claiming too much of my attention during holiday preparation and celebration was what might be happening to me elsewhere at the same time, without my knowledge. (I did, however, join in a joyous toast to my niece, a criminal attorney with long governmental experience, who has been nominated for a judgeship in New York’s Eastern Federal District.)
My efforts resumed at home after the holiday weekend: too many repetitious conversations over crackling telephone lines with “help desk” people who are not fluent in English … too many long visits with personnel at two banks … more than two hours spent waiting for my number to be called at a local Social Security office … plus seemingly endless additional phone calls and in-person drop-by stops as I kept thinking of many more loose ends that still needed to be tied up.
I seem to be OK now, as new cards arrive to replace the old ones. What I can’t replace are sentimental things like the high school graduation pictures of my son, now 60, and my daughter, now 55, which I’ve carried with me for all these many years — nothing that would mean anything to that thief, but have been very precious to me.
So now I have a new mitzvah: I’ve already warned three perfect strangers in three different venues to please pick up their wallets, and I’ll continue to do this whenever I see one lying exposed “just for a second.”
Also, I now have this new mantra, given to me by a caring friend: “Life teaches many lessons,” she said. “Some of them, we only learn the hard way. But, at least, we learn.” I’ve learned to never again overload my wallet, and that I never again want to hear the phrase “Have a nice day!”

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