Be a good person, be a mensch

When you’re sitting on a concrete bench in a city park on a summer day while munching on a nice juicy turkey sub from Jerry’s Sandwiches, you don’t really expect to see a sleek-looking, uncased iPhone 5 just lying on the ground next to you.

That’s what happened to me this summer while interning at The Legislative Gazette in Albany. It was rare enough I decided to find lunch outside and escape the underground, air-conditioned office underneath the Capitol Building.

But I did. And that iPhone 5 was sitting there all alone. As I ate, I kept an eye on it to see if anyone came by to retrieve it. When I finished eating and it was still there, I reached over and picked it up, figuring someone lost it some time ago. I pushed the home button, afraid that it would be locked or the battery would be dead.

It turned on, thankfully and I figured out I had 9 percent of a battery left to find out whose phone it was. There were 11 unread text messages. I opened the latest message, received less than 15 minutes before, figuring this person had the best chances of replying back to me quickly. I called “Emily” and there was no answer. I waited a few minutes and called again. No answer still. After a third attempt, I got a text message from Emily.

“Hey, I’m back in the lab. Can’t talk right now.”

I texted her back, explaining the situation. She replied to me, saying the phone belonged to her father, a Mr. Lloyd, and gave me the name of the company where he worked a few blocks away.

The phone’s owner turned out to be a lawyer. I eventually found the office and handed the phone to the secretary, but Mr. Lloyd came out of his office at that moment.

He expressed his extreme gratitude, “I would’ve thought it would’ve been on the black market by now,” he said laughing.

I refused any kind of award but he insisted. I gave him my name and my address and after a few more hand shakes, I made my way back to my office.

It felt good. It really made me wonder how someone could steal anything. Hell, I could’ve taken it and sold it myself. I’m a broke college student who was doing an unpaid internship and had no income coming in anytime soon. To many people in my position, it would be more than tempting.

Thankfully, morals won that day and Mr. Lloyd actually sent me a check for a surprising $100. I couldn’t believe he had been so generous, but it showed his appreciation I guess.

I’d much rather have $100 and a good feeling, and also an hour-and-a-half lunch break, than $300 and a guilty conscience.

But mostly, I just hope that someone would do the same for me if it was my cell phone they found on a bench while eating his or her lunch on a summer day.