While living in Texas, I took a Greyhound bus to a border-town in Texas to visit friends. It only took a few hours to realize I had left my wallet on the bus.
I hurried back to the station, hopeful that someone had turned it in. No luck.
I cancelled my credit cards and went on with my day.
Fast-forward 48 hours later. I glanced at my phone and noticed I had 12 missed calls from my parents. Worried that something was wrong, I urgently called them back.
My mom answered.
“Sally, are you ok?” She sounded panicked.
“Yea, I’m fine. What’s going on?”
“Someone called saying they had found your wallet and cards in Mexico. We thought you might have been kidnapped.”
Their concern was fair for two reasons. First of all, it is their parental duty to be worried about me at all time. My parents are experts in this area. Secondly, Mexico is notorious for kidnappings. My students from Mexico warned me of this. So did their parents. So did the news.
My parents told me they had received a call from a neighbor, Henry Holmes*. Someone from Mexico had called his house to share that they had found my wallet and my ID.
But my last name wasn’t Holmes. Why did they call Mr. Holmes?
Holmes was my middle name. On my driver’s license at the time, my name was formatted in the following way:
Last Name, First Name_Middle Name
The Good Samaritan who found my wallet misread the information, interpreting my middle name as my last name. They looked up the name Holmes in my small town, and called the one number associated with this last name. My hometown is small enough that a person in Mexico could call someone in my hometown that had no relation to me whatsoever, and still get ahold of me.
Country living doesn’t give you the conveniences of city life. You’re not surrounded by trendy coffee shops, museums, and restaurants. But you are surrounded by a community. I’ve never met Mr. Holmes. My parents aren’t particularly close with him. But he was there for me and my family because we were a part of the same community. I can’t say the same was true of the 20+ people that lived down the hall from me – literally steps away – in my apartments in D.C. and Houston.
*All names in this story have been changed