The Mast-Head: Things Fly Away

    Rules for Cars 101: You should never, not even for a second, leave anything on top of your car unless it’s tied down. This includes pocket books, Java Nation coffee cups, important papers, and, especially, small children.
    Some members of my immediate family have not always heeded this sensible dictate. Recently, my wife arrived at work without her laptop computer and panicked. She had once left things atop her Rav 4 and saw them blow off as she accelerated.
    “Don’t worry,” I told her when she called, flustered. “I was planning on going home for lunch today anyway. I’ll go look for it.”
    As it turned out, this particular story had a happy ending. Lisa had left her computer safely in the house while struggling to get out the door with the baby and who knows what else.
    A couple of weeks later, on a Saturday night, I was driving east on Montauk Highway, heading home with our 6-year-old and some takeout Mexican food. It was just about dark. As we passed V and V Auto on Montauk Highway, we saw something flutter off the top of the vehicle in front of us. Papers drifted everywhere — napkins, I thought. It was only when I distinctly saw an unmistakable piece of United States currency being blown toward the shoulder of the road that I realized this was not someone’s garbage bag, but a wallet.
    I pulled over and backed up the truck. Money, credit cards, checks, and dozens of receipts were strewn across the median, and a northwest wind was pushing things here and there. Evvy stood watch for other vehicles as I gathered what I could.
    After a while, it got too dark to continue messing around in the road, so Evvy and I got back in the truck and went home.
    Though I could find no phone numbers on the papers we had picked up, I recognized the name of the wallet’s owner and knew at least one person who worked with her. With a little e-mail and Facebook work, I was able to get the word to her, and we arranged a hand-off the following morning.
    When we met, the woman said the last place she had used the wallet was at a gas station and that she probably had placed it on top of her car while fueling up. She had not even noticed it was missing.