Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lost and Found on Lawrence Avenue

The afternoon was cold as I waited for the Lawrence Ave. bus. A thin man with stringy, graying hair kept watch nearby, both of us trying to keep warm as the sun set on a Chicago winter’s day.

Nothing out of the ordinary on this unremarkable stretch of sidewalk— except for a rectangular patch of black and white sitting on a mailbox nearby.

I picked it up. It was a laminated card, with black text in a typewriter font. The text read, “2301 W. Lawrence,” followed by a phone number and then a name: “Ramirez, Evangelina.”

I flipped the card over. There, a familiar sight: the torn, blue-and-yellow ticket of Blockbuster.

“Is that a Blockbuster card?” asked the man with the stringy hair.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“You know you could drop that in the mailbox, and they should deliver it.”

I looked at the card. “Are you sure that that’s the case for this?” I asked after a pause.

“Well, they do it for military ID’s,” he responded, taking the card in his hand and examining it.

“I can call the guy,” I said. (I had it in my head that “Ramirez, Angelina” was a man, whereas Angelina Ramirez almost certainly wasn’t.)

I looked at the address: 2301 W. Lawrence.

“Where are we?” I asked, looking up. A street sign read Ravenswood Ave., 1800 W. 2301 West would be west of here— the direction in which I was going. I had planned to stop in a grocery store, but I wasn’t in a hurry.

“As long as you’re going that way,” the man chimed in.

The bus arrived, and we both boarded. As the man put his fare card in the machine, he turned to me. “You know that’s Blockbuster,” he quipped.

I didn’t. I thought it was Evangelina Ramirez’s home.

Disappointment came over me.

As the man with the stringy hair sat nearby reading a newspaper, he repeated, “As long as you’re going that way.”

I got off the bus at Western Ave. and walked back to Oakley. Indeed, 2301 West turned out to be a store with large windows revealing shelves of video cases.

I walked inside and approached the counter. There, a guy with long, curly hair pulled back into a ponytail was partly turned around, tending to something behind him.

“Hi,” I began when he turned around. “I’ve got a question for you. I found this randomly on a mailbox. Is it possible to get it back to him?” (As I had said, I didn’t quite grasp that “Ramirez, Angelina” was a woman.)

The guy looked at the card.

“On a mailbox?” he asked.


“Let me see.” He turned to his computer and scanned the card. A big block of yellow text blinked on the screen.

“He was last in here a few weeks ago,” the guy announced. (He shared my plight about Angelina Ramirez’s gender.)

“Usually what we do is we cut it up so no one else can use it,” he explained. “Thanks for turning it in. But yeah, we just cut it up, and then we’ll issue a new one when they come in.”

And with that, I felt a mix of satisfaction and disappointment. Satisfaction, because I had helped keep Evangelina Ramirez’s personal information private, even if just in a small way. Disappointment, because I didn’t get to meet her. Didn’t get to surprise her with the card.

But... that was that.

Still, questions remain: How did the card get on the mailbox? And why?

Did Evangelina place it there while emptying the contents of her wallet and then unknowingly leave it behind? Did someone find it on the sidewalk and place it on the mailbox, hoping that the owner would come across it? Or that the postal carrier would find it and deliver it?

As with so many things in life, I’ll probably never know.

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