It’s something transit riders dread: leaving something important on the bus or train after you’ve disembarked.
Sloan McGinn Thompson, 17, has been riding transit for years and knows that feeling.
“Like, you know, when your stomach just drops,” he said Friday morning.
“I have my instant check: my phone, my headphones, my wallet’s always there.”
But on one recent bus ride, the high school student instantly realized he was missing his wallet.
“It was a hectic bus during rush hour, and I was wearing shorts with these little pockets. And all of a sudden, my wallet falls out. I didn’t notice. I get off the bus and immediately I’m like, ‘Oh, man, my wallet’s gone.’”
By that time, the bus was down the road, leaving McGinn Thompson no opportunity to chase after it.
Instead, he called Calgary Transit’s lost and found department, filing a report and providing a detailed description of what he had lost.
“Make sure to, like, emphasize the youth part, too, just maybe there’ll be a little extra pressure to find it,” he said.
“It would have been fortunate enough, like if the cash was gone and the wallet was there, I would have been thankful enough for that.”
Driver Dominique Padmaraj, trying to ferry riders along his route during rush hour, didn’t realize anything had happened until he reached the Penbrooke terminal.
“That’s when I saw somebody approached me with a wallet. I think her name is Nafi. So I went ahead and just followed (Calgary Transit) procedure to write down (a report) and then open (the wallet) up,” Padmaraj said.
“I saw a lot of money there.”
Along with ID cards and a transit pass, there was $140 — a birthday gift the teen recently received.
“I was planning to get some basketball shoes for the summer,” the teen said.
Padmaraj immediately turned over the wallet to his supervisor, Inderjit Chauhan.
Chauhan, stationed in the north of the city, identified the wallet owners’ address as in the south of the city, and called a colleague at Chinook station.
“Because this is rush hour, I can’t leave my zone, so I called him,” Chauhan recalled. “I just met him at Chinook Station and I gave him this wallet. And then he knows the drill as well.”
That colleague was Gurpal Guraya, another operations supervisor with Calgary Transit. That drill was to try to return the wallet to its rightful owner and request a signature upon receipt.
“I went to the house. I rang the bell a few times. There was nobody there,” Guraya said.
“So then I thought, ‘Let’s try the neighbours. They might be able to help.’ So I knocked on the neighbours’ door and she said, ‘Yeah, I kind of know them, but I don’t have their phone number.”
After taking the neighbour’s contact information, Guraya left the wallet in their care for 24 hours and asked them to contact him when they returned the wallet.
The following afternoon, Guraya received an email from McGinn Thompson’s mother.
“She had received it and was nice to know that it was his birthday money. It was his 17th birthday (the next day),” Guraya said. “I was really ecstatic I was able to help with all these buddies here.”
McGinn Thompson was at his father’s house when he got a text message from his mother about his wallet.
“I didn’t even talk to her about it yet. And all of a sudden, she’s like, ‘You missing something?’ with (a picture of the) wallet,” he recalled. “I’m like, Wow, that is amazing that is all back in there.
“Everything was in there. Nothing even touched.”
All of the contents of the 17-year-old’s wallet — including his birthday money — had made it through the hands of many strangers and back into his possession.
“So many good deeds happened,” he said. “I think we counted, like, up to five people who, like, did the most amazing thing they could have done for me. And I’m just glad I got to be the one in the center of it.”
Guraya said he and his Calgary Transit colleagues were “very excited” to not only reunite the teen with his wallet and birthday gift, but to hopefully give him something more.
“It also helps him have some faith in humanity — that there are some good Samaritans around here who are in this world,” Guraya said.
“We hear a lot of negative things happening. So there’s something we can do and make positive (impact) in his life and as a community, as a whole and as a transit.”