The Wayward Wallet

Czech Republic – July 2009

Apparently, I have a trustworthy face. On more than one occasion, people I have been traveling with, who had never met me before, have had me collect their money for tips for guides and drivers. Guides have even asked me to help collect passports or post their packets back to their companies for them. One even handed me his wallet before each overnight train as he was a sound sleeper and figured it was safer with me. So, this is how I ended up stealing another guide’s wallet.

I’m in the Czech Republic as part of a Central Europe tour that started in Austria. It’s advertised as an Eastern European tour, but our guide is adamant that it is a Central European tour. He’s young, Slovakian, and likes to end each day with drinks. As my roommate is Australian, he joins him every night. I decide to also join them this night, along with two others from our group. As the drinks progress, we notice that the guide leaves his wallet on the table and seems to become less and less aware of it as the night progresses.

“Someone should take it,” one of my group declares as the guide is off getting more drinks. We each look at each other before it’s decided that it should be me as he would never expect it would be me. So I do, slipping it into the side pocket of my cargo pants. And, as tends to happen when many drinks are involved, he didn’t notice when we got up to leave and I forgot till I returned to my room. Unless there’s a knock at the door, I guess I’ll be returning it in the morning.

There was no knock, so I bring the wallet with me to breakfast. Our guide has either been told it was me or has figured it out, as he comes up to me as soon as he sees me. I should mention that I have a good head for numbers. I have all my vital numbers—passport, driver’s license, credit cards—memorized and can tell you my hotel room numbers for every room of a trip. I can also tell you my father’s driver license number and my grandparent’s phone number, though both they and the house are long gone. It’s a gift and a curse.

So, when I hand our guide his wallet, I tell him it’s okay, I’ve already memorized his credit card number. I then start to recite the first few digits, just enough to see a troubled look appear on his face. I imagine him checking his next statement carefully and don’t notice him leaving his wallet on the table anymore.

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