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You Get What You Give (and Personal Finance Links)

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Last week my wife and I made the biggest purchase of our lives. Regular readers may be able to guess what that is... others will have to wait for the details. As we were executing on that very complex purchase, I heard a loud thunk outside.

I looked outside to see a minivan trying to parallel park. I said to my wife, "I think that guy just hit that car." I noted the minivan was a commercial one - with an easy-to-remember name. My wife was fairly preoccupied by the details of the purchase - as I should have been. She said, "I don't see any damage." Her eyes, with her glasses, are better than mine, but I could tell that something wasn't right on the car... the far side fender had minimal gap in it. I excused myself from the purchase for a minute... this was not an easy task as such large purchases typically demand full attention from all parties. The other party didn't seem to understand what was going on and we couldn't explain it as we weren't sure it was what we thought it was. By the time I was able to extract myself from the purchase and wrap my head around the situation, the minivan was gone.

Once outside, I saw what I feared... a hit and run. I went back inside and told my wife that it was indeed an accident. She went to work writing up a note for the windshield. I went outside to see if I could flag down the victim. Instead of finding the victim I found the perpetrator... the same commercial minivan. It had left from parking, but I presume it still had business in the area and needed to park somewhere. This time I was prepared with my Palm Pre. I got four pictures from the camera phone. My goal was to get the name of the company on the van. Turns out that I got a bit more than I expected: the name of the company, the phone number of the company that was prominently displayed on the side of the van.... and the white scrapes (from the white car) on the black right front fender of the van! Evidence of the crime!

I updated my wife's note and added my phone number with the headline of "I have pictures!"

For the next hour while we commenced on this big purchase our attention was draw to the victim's car. "What if she didn't see the Post-it sized note (the only paper available to us at the time)? I don't know if I was good at the task at hand. It was noticed that my wife signed in the wrong places a couple of times... it is hard to focus when you are looking over your shoulder every three seconds.

We completed our meeting successfully and went to lunch about three doors down. The place isn't your typical luncheon. It is on the grounds of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. My wife gets the "brilliant" (focus on the quotes) of telling the hostess what we witnessed. This isn't the kind of place where you can announce a license plate and ask if anyone has it. I cringe because the likelihood that this person is dinning at this place is rare. We've been looking at this car for more than an hour and they couldn't be having that long a lunch, right? (There are a pile of businesses around as well.)

From the time I met my wife, she has shown that she can always surprise me. So I shouldn't have been surprised when the owner of the car walked down to meet us at our table with our note in hand. She thought we were the ones who hit her car. I quickly explained that we witnessed it and had pictures. If there ever was a more grateful face I haven't seen it. She gave me a business card and asked if I could send the pictures to that email address. My heart skipped a beat as it realized that justice was much more likely to be served.

It will be awhile before I know if this victim gets her justice. The smile on her face alone made it worthwhile.

This woman called a friend over. I was proud to show off my exemplary camera phone skills... especially the white scraps on the black fender. If you had an x-ray machine on my feet would have seen those toe bones tapping.

I had thought this friend was just a person in her party for lunch. It wasn't. It was the owner of the restaurant. It turns out that the victim was a good friend of the owner. A few minutes later the waitress said, "The owner would like to buy you this lunch." I couldn't argue with that.

We took the free lunch... who says there is no such thing? The big difficulty was my wallet. I only had $20 bills in it. My wife finished her meal first so I suggested that she try to get change. She succeeded in get change, but it took about 20 minutes. Over that time my wife made friends with the owner and told her about our purchase. When my wife came back with the change, we had accomplished my objective... a tip for the waitress. From my point of view, a free lunch from the owner does not mean that the waitstaff works for free.

A few hours later, the victim of the car accident contacted me and expressed how great a help I had been. We have been traveling back to Silicon Valley, but I think I will respond in a few hours.

I'm not posting this because I want a "pat on the back", so please don't leave comments (just email me ;-). I was just trying to be a good person (and I am shocked that the other few dozen people in the area didn't act on it). Perhaps I am making up for witnessing this crime.

For now here are the "weekend" links (we can pretend it is Sunday, right?):

Money Writers:

Top PF Posts:

Posted on June 13, 2011.

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5 Responses to “You Get What You Give (and Personal Finance Links)”

  1. This is a great great story! I love it, and I hope the hit-and-run person gets his. That’s so lame. Kudos to you for taking the extra effort in helping a fellow human being.

  2. MD says:

    Thanks for the mention. I enjoyed the story almost as much as I enjoyed the link :) Take care.

  3. Evan says:

    What a fantastic deed! The Wife and I ate there too when we visited RI (right after I made her walk and walk on the mansion tour…can’t wait to hear the details about the purchase)

  4. I think you not should worry to much. It seems like you meant good, and really are a great guy.

    Laughed at the part when you said your wife always can suprise you, remind me much about my own wife.


  5. You did two good things – the second was going out of your way to leave a tip! Having worked in the service industry, you get extra gold stars!

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