A noise came from the phone booth near the counter where I was getting change after my purchase. An old gentleman stood perplexed as coins tumbled out of the pay phone onto the phone booth floor. “Wow, you really hit the jackpot,” I said, watching coins scatter across the floor.
“What did I do? I put in a quarter and pushed this little lever. Did I break the phone?” “I think when you pushed the lever the coin return gadget released all the coins it had,” I replied.
“What do I do now?” he asked the counter clerk. “This money doesn’t belong to me.” “I don’t know. This has never happened before.” The clerk got out a broom and started sweeping the coins back toward the booth.
“Perhaps you can take one coin and call the company that services this phone booth. Somebody there must know,” I suggested. “That’s an idea,” the old man said. He took a coin from the floor, placed it in the slot, and called the number listed.
Curious, I stuck around to see what happened. The clerk swept the coins onto a dustpan and emptied it into a bucket. Must be at least $20 worth of coins there, don’t you think? I asked.
“A whole lot more than that. Wouldn’t surprise me if there was over $50,” the clerk ventured. Wow! Who knew that type of phone could hold that much money!
The old man was talking to the phone company. “But the money is not mine. Don’t you understand?” He turned to us, “She wants me to keep the money.” “That’s mighty generous of her. Why does she think you should keep it?” I asked.
“But the money doesn’t belong to me. It is not mine!” He was getting a bit agitated, gesturing at the phone, then at the floor. “No, I will not keep the money! Tell me what you want me to do with it.” He listened to her instructions. He indicated understanding and hung up.
“What did she say?” the clerk asked. “Put the money back into the phone with the coin slot,” the old man replied. “Give me the money bucket, please.”
The clerk handed him the bucket and went to put away his broom and dustpan. The old man sat down on the phone booth stool and started feeding the coins into the phone.
“I sure admire your integrity,” I told him. “Most people would have just taken the money and walked out without a moment’s hesitation. I’ll tell the students in my high school classes there are still honest people in the world, because today I met one.”
The old man waved his hand to me and continued to stick the coins into the phone slot as I left the store. What a jackpot, I thought. I saw an honest man at work. That doesn’t happen every day!