The Lost Wallet

It was 1980 and subsidized diesel was fifteen cents a gallon in Mexico. I had a new diesel car. My yearning for travel and exploration could be done for a few dollars per day- so off I went.

I planned to travel the West coast of Mexico from Puerto Vallarta South at least as far as Acapulco. There was one hitch in the plan. Mexico highway 200 still had one bridge under construction on that route. Had I only known then what I know now, I would have realized that a detour would have been provided. But, this story is about then. As a result, I took a grueling route usually not driven by tourists. After a tiring day, night was falling. I arrived at the coastal town of Lazaro Cardenas.

Lazaro Cardenas in those days was more than a village bur less than a city. It had two gas stations and I was just about out of fuel. Since I was dark, I headed toward the center of town where I found a station. I pulled up to the diesel pump, got out my wallet, and went to help with the refueling. The attendant then told me that they were out of diesel and I would have to go back to the other station at the edge of town. He was sure that they has diesel.

I found the second station and filled my tank. That is where my real story starts. I reached for my wallet to pay and it wasn't there. I remembered having it out at the prior station and laying it on the trunk of the car. I wasn't there now. It must have fallen out on my way between the two stations along the dark highway. My cash, credit cards, traveler checks, and Mexican tourist permit were all gone. I needed help. Fortunately, a couple saw my troubles and offered to help.

Let me stop here to explain a Mexican tradition in this town. Perhaps you remember the movie American Graffiti. In it, the teenagers and young adults would "cruise the strip". It was something to do with your piers on a Saturday night- a social occasion. This town had a similar tradition and had formed a club. Members of the club all had CBs. I had lucked out. The couple I had met alerted the club that a wallet had been lost and a search was beginning.

I locked the car and joined the couple and we drove down the dark highway. There was nothing to see. They said, "Why don't we go to the radio station". The radio station occupied a whole city block and was surrounded by a ten-foot high cyclone fence. In the center were a radio transmission tower and a two-story building. On the second story was a single lighted room.

We pushed open the unlocked gate. On the second story we found a pleasant disc jockey that seemed to know my friends. My companions explained the situation to him. He broke into the existing music program and made a brief announcement. He then suggested that I take the mike and talk to the whole town. Note that in a remote town like this that has only one radio station, all radios in the whole town are tuned to that one station. I didn't attempt my broken and insufficient Spanish. I spoke in English, hoping that some would understand.

Back on the road again, we got constant CB reports from others in the club, but all were negative. Then, after about an hour, there was success. The CB reported that the wallet had been found. It was waiting for me at the second gas station. The couple that had found it returned it to me. All of my cash and credit cards were just as I had left them. I thanked the couple and gave them all of the money in the wallet, about thirty dollars. It was worth it. I paid my fuel bill with a credit card and went to find a hotel.

The next morning I went to the local morning market to meet the man who had been so helpful. He had a booth selling tacos. I was offered a tongue taco. I thanked him but declined. Some things just don't appeal.

It is hard not to like people like this. I wish the whole world were as kind, honest, and helpful as my Mexican friends.