Buy Photo

Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Herb Benham

I'm rich. Soon I will be receiving a check for $4 and another one for $12.97. That's $16.97 I hadn't counted on.

A friend called. Go on this website, he said. It's the one for unclaimed property in California.

"You have some money coming," Harry said.

Everybody wants to get rich quick. Even if they tell you they don't, they do. We've all worked for money, and it isn't that fun. When the check comes, it's less than we expected and we've spent it anyway.

Free money is exhilarating because it's not loaded with baggage. It's lottery money, inheritance money, find-it-in-the-street money or get-on-the-state -unclaimed-property website money.

"Benham is listed four times," Harry said. "You're listed twice, Katie once and there's another Benham I don't recognize."

I put work aside. Stopped answering the phone. When there is an opportunity for free money, the world goes on timeout.

I had $4 coming from the Government Insurance Co. I didn't know what that was. However, $4 is a cafe mocha with a 50 cent tip. I also had a $12.97 check coming from PayPal. PayPal sounds so friendly. It's like having a pal but a pal with money.

I filled out the appropriate forms. I was so excited that I forgot to add the 19 from the 1954 on my date of birth and I had to do it again.

The fine print said it may take up to 180 days for California to issue the check. Take your time. I'd rather forget about it and pretend like this never happened. That way, the check in the mailbox will be a surprise.

There is nothing better than an unexpected check in the mail. Even a small check. A small check is walking around money. A small check is almost more pleasing because the cents count.

I typed in Katie's name. Unbeknownst to her, Katie had $128.68 coming from Cell Co Property DBA Verizon. That's real money. That's just not walking around money; you could leave town with that money.

I typed in Jennifer's name, the woman for whom I work. No matches there. Jennifer wasn't getting anything. Not a dime. Maybe Jennifer should send me chocolates next time.

I tried Anthony, the man who works one pod over. I'm fond of Anthony and I was rooting for him, but no dice. Anthony was a good man, but was not destined to be a richer one.

I typed in Lois Henry's name. Lois was the kind of person who might have unclaimed money sitting around although I doubt it would be from PG&E, a water district or the animal people who might not have an aggressive spaying or neutering program.

Oh my God. Lois had $3,222.64 in death benefits coming from Prudential, another one for $1,397.56 from Prudential and then $1,210.23, also from Prudential.

Lois was rich except for one problem. Unless she has moved recently, the address listed was not hers nor was the middle name, "E," because the beneficiary here was Lois E. Henry.

Our Lois is Lois Marie Henry, a middle name that Lois assured me many good Catholic girls have, but not Catholic girls due refunds.

I emailed Katie to tell her of her good fortune. Call it traveling money. Maybe she'll use it to travel and visit her parents.


To look for your traveling money, Google unclaimed property.