Herb Benham column

Herb Benham

I lost my wallet recently. What’s worse? Losing your phone or your wallet? Both are reasons to throw in the towel.

I’d filled up at the Ramco Express on F and 23rd. I had my wallet there because I paid for the gas with a credit card. They don’t give you gas for nothing.

I drove home and before taking off again, I realized I didn’t have my wallet.

I pushed the panic button. The “I lost my wallet” panic button.” The “I lost my credit cards, my money — if I had had any — and my driver’s license” panic button. Without a license, I could get deported.

I drove to Ramco and looked around the pump. No luck.

Then I went inside the store. I tried managing my panic but when a man loses his wallet his eyes are filled with anguish. I looked at the man behind the counter. He recognized my anguish, unique to the wallet-losing experience. It’s on par with having your whole family swept away in a flash flood.

“I lost my wallet,” I said. “Has anyone turned it in?”

“No, but if you wait a second, I’ll check the outside video aimed at the gas pumps.”

“Check the outside video.” This was getting good, like solving a murder mystery. If my anguish hadn’t been so acute, I would have enjoyed it.

The clerk waited for the store to empty and when it did, we went back to his office and he ran the tape backwards. There I was filling up the white Jeep, happy because I still had my wallet. Like Adam, I still had a full set of ribs.

“It looks like you put your wallet back in your pocket and and then got into the car,” he said.

I thanked him. We shook hands. We looked each other in the eyes. Whatever happened, we’d had a moment.

Why were wallets so slippery? If your wallet isn’t slippery to begin with, after you polish it with your backside every time you sit down in the car or walk into a store, it’s like glass.

If slippery isn’t enough, a wallet is competing for space with everything else in a man’s pockets. Keys, handkerchiefs, Circus Peanuts, valentine candy hearts, receipts, cell phones. Sometimes the rest of the pocket inventory bands together against Mr. Wallet and pushes the slippery little guy out the door.

Maybe that’s why people buy Velcro wallets. If I had a Velcro wallet, I’d stick it to the middle of my forehead. That way, if I crossed my eyes and looked up, I’d always know where it was.

I checked between the seats, under the seats and behind the seats. A slippery wallet is like a hockey puck on party ice. There is nothing to stop it from going places no wallet has gone before.

The wallet wasn’t under, between or in back of the seats, although I did find a quarter, a dime and two pennies. I didn’t have a wallet but I had 37 cents.

I drove home. When I pulled up in front of the house, I spotted the wallet in the street. It had slid out when I had either gotten in or out of the car. I gripped the wallet tightly in a feverish embrace. Me and Mr. Wallet — together again.

I made a lot of promises. I will always keep you in the same place, I will never make you compete for space with drugstore candy. I made promises that I couldn’t keep and didn’t.

Wallets are slippery. They range. Like the men who carry them, they are born to run.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.

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