A Surprising Find
By Allen Brougham
On a warm afternoon one Saturday in July 2007, I was driving along Potomac Street in Brunswick, Maryland, when I spotted an envelope in the middle of the street. As I got closer, I noticed some small sheets of paper laying about, fluttering along the road in the breeze. The paper appeared uniform in size, as if the sheets had emerged from the envelope in some sort of tidy fashion. Just as I got almost on top of it, I noticed that this was not ordinary paper. It was . . . MONEY!
Brunswick, in Frederick County, is a small, close-knit community whose neighbors are friendly and look out for each other. It also has its roots in railroading. In fact, it was for the railroad and its busy freight yard that I was in Brunswick on that particular day.
I work in Brunswick two days a week. Shortly after I retired from my position with CSX seven years ago, I took a part-time job as a PTI van driver, transporting railroad employees in and around the freight yard, or to or from their motel where they await their call to take a train back to their home terminal. It's a fun sort of job; many of those I work with I knew before I retired from CSX. In fact, I was returning the van to the yard office after having taken an inbound train crew to the motel when I made my discovery.
Using Potomac Street to drive from the motel to the yard office is not the usual route I would take. But on this occasion I decided, on a whim, to take that route to break the monotony of driving back the usual way.
Seeing a bunch of money in the middle of the street is not something one would normally expect. Indeed, a person may have to live three lifetimes before making a similar discovery. Instinctively, I stopped.
Stopping suddenly in the middle of a street is not always a good idea, but I knew I had to gather the money before it blew away. A lady who had been driving behind me also stopped, and she helped me pick up the loot. There were bills of various denominations - ones, fives, tens, twenties - but we did not take the time to count it. I stuffed everything back into the envelope - which still had some money that had not spilled from it - and just as I was about to leave, a fellow in a car who had stopped in the opposite lane pointed down toward a five that we had somehow missed.
The envelope and its contents left me with no clue as to its owner. Only the word "Bills" was printed on the front of the envelope.
Quickly, I took the envelope with its money to the Brunswick Police station, about three blocks away. I rang the bell, but nobody answered. (It was a Saturday; the office was closed.) So I called the number posted on the door. It connected me with the Frederick County Sheriff's Department. I was told a Brunswick officer would meet me within five minutes, and he did.
I suppose I could have taken the time to count the bills while I waited for the officer to arrive, but instead I used the time to call the CSX yardmaster - from whom I take instructions when I'm on the job - to explain why I would not be returning to the office for a little while. "I'm at the police station," said I, although I did add that I was there on a mission and was not in any kind of trouble!
"It's not something you'd find everyday," I told the officer when he drove up. I demonstrated to him how I had found the envelope, with its flap pointing skyward and some of the money spilled out upon the street. It was then that we peered inside and discovered that it was a rather sizable bundle - including several fifties - probably four hundred dollars altogether, maybe more.
Together, the officer and I went back to the scene of the discovery (although in the excitement, I was not certain precisely where it was). We looked around to see if we could find any more money, but we found none. Meanwhile, we both pondered how the envelope could have ended up as it did, smack in the middle of the street. Could there have been a criminal connection? All manner of scenarios flashed through our minds. Of course, the officer took my name and made a written report along with a case number.
"You mean you turned the money in?" said several railroaders with whom I spoke later as the day wore on. There's a moral lesson here, but I doubt if any of those fine folks would really have done anything differently than I, had they made the same sort of discovery themselves.
By the following Thursday my sense of curiosity had gotten the better of me, and I called the Brunswick Police. Happily, they told me that the money had been claimed, after being properly identified, and returned to its proper owner. Learning this brought tears to my eyes!
A couple of weeks later I got a letter from the family whose money it was, expressing their gratitude. Their explanation made perfect sense: The envelope with the money had been placed upon the roof of their car while they loaded their baby, his stroller and diaper bag inside. Then they drove away, neglecting to retrieve the envelope before they left.
"It was an answer to our prayers when we discovered the envelope and all its contents had been turned in at the Police Department," the letter continued. "Thank you for being our Good Samaritan."
As best I can remember the location, the family's address was right where I found the envelope. They had evidently driven away just moments before I arrived upon the scene. Perhaps it was more than just a "whim" that guided me to use Potomac Street on that particular run back from the motel!