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Finders Keepers?

Photo by Jacky Watt on Unsplash

The trendy bar was our starting-block for a night out in Austin. After a day of stumping my newest novel, my publicist and I met up with another couple for some laughs and a Texas-sized cold one. The joint had only just opened for the evening and no sooner had we slid into a corner booth than my publicist’s Gal Pal unthinkingly dipped her hand between the cushions and came up with an antique bracelet. Her face was instantly filled with delight as she modeled the jewelry across her delicate wrist.

“Oh my,” said Gal Pal. “It’s so beautiful. Can’t believe I just found it in the cushion.”

She asked my publicist to assist her in fastening the old clasp.

“Stunning,” said my publicist.

“And it’s so me,” said Gal Pal.

During the entire display, I was merely spectating. I’d only met the woman moments before we’d planted ourselves in the booth. Hell, we hadn’t even ordered our first round yet and I was watching her carry on over this bracelet as if she’d just won some kind of lottery.

“You’re not thinking of keeping it,” I found myself saying aloud.

“Why not?” she smiled back at me. “I found it, didn’t I?”

“But before you found it,” I countered, “Didn’t somebody have to lose it?”

“What’s to lose?” Gal Pal argued, her tone showing a little bit of teeth. “Not like it’s precious metal. Can’t be worth very much.”

“To you, maybe. But who knows? Might have some kind of sentimental value to the person who lost it.”


“Never know,” I said.

“Finders keepers is what I say.”

By now, my publicist was trying to figure out who she should be staring daggers into. Her obnoxious Gal Pal? Or her client who couldn’t keep his yap closed long enough to be polite.

“Really,” I said. “You should turn it into the waitress or something.”

“Like she wouldn’t just keep it for herself?” pissed Gal Pal. “No way. I found it. It’s mine, now.”

She held out her arm, modeling it again for the table and, my guess, using the gesture to punctuate her argument. It was at that precise moment a comely waitress arrived. She opened her mouth, beginning to form the words that would signal she was prepared to take our order. Instead, her words were replaced by an involuntary sucking sound.

“Oh my God,” the waitress gasped. “Where in the world did you find it?”

“…Oh,” said Gal Pal, regarding the bracelet. “This?”

“I’ve been looking everywhere for it since last night,” said the waitress. “Thought I’d lost it forever.”

“We found it between the cushions,” offered my publicist.

“Thankyou thankyou thankyou,” gushed the waitress, holding back her tears. “My grandmother gave it to me. It’s all I have left of her.”

My publicist didn’t need to help remove the bracelet. Gal Pal had removed it in no time and indifferently handed it over to the rightful owner. The waitress was so grateful that she insisted on buying us our first round of drinks. And not long after those four free cold ones arrived at our table, Gal Pal found some lame reason to excuse her embarrassed self and her date for the evening.

“Was it something I said?” I smirked to my publicist.

“She’s sure not gonna forget you,” my date retorted.

I never saw the woman again. And I can’t say I’ve missed her.

About now you may be wondering what the snuff this has to do with showbiz? Well, I might reply with this query: must every post be about my hacking through Hollywood? I encourage you to read on. Because there will be a lesson here.

I was in my Warner Brothers office when I received a call from a Marine Sergeant stationed in the Los Angeles area.

“You don’t know me, sir,” began the Marine Sarge. “But may I ask you an odd question?”

“Okay,” was all I could think to answer at the time.

“Have you ever attended a Dodger game and had your car broken into?” he asked.

“…As a matter of fact I have,” I replied.

My memory suddenly arced backward more than year. I’d parked at the outermost ring of a lot section which overlooked Chavez Ravine and parts of downtown Los Angeles. And though my beloved Dodgers had won that night, I’d returned to discover that the window of my car had been smashed. I’d been robbed of a large duffel bag that had been in my backseat.

“Well, so was I,” said the Marine Sarge. “Two nights ago. Smashed in my windows and stole a buncha useless stuff. So useless I figured that they might’ve left some of it behind. So I went back to Dodger stadium and climbed way down into the ravine to look around and see if I could find some of my stuff.”

“Any luck?” I asked.

“With my stuff? Nothin’. But I think I found your dufflel bag. Which is why I’m calling you.”

“You found my duffel?” I repeated, stunned.

I tried to recall the bag. Large. Black. Ballistic nylon. But if I recalled correctly there was no bag tag that identified me as the owner?

“Okay,” I continued. “But how in the hell did you find me?”

“Yeah, that,” said the Marine Sarge. “Had you been in some kind of wedding?”

He was dead-on correct. The weekend prior to my car being broken into, I’d stood up as a groomsman in a college pal’s big San Diego wedding. I’d driven directly to my office that following Monday morning, then to the Dodger game. Dirty clothes, a bottle of champagne and a gift from the bride and groom were in that aforementioned dufflel bag in the backseat of my car.

“There was a receipt I found in one of the pockets. It was for a tuxedo rental,” said the marine. “I called the tux place and they asked for the code on the receipt. Guess they still had your name and contact info on file.”

“Are you a detective?” I found myself asking.

“No sir. Just a Marine who got his stuff stolen. I figured if I couldn’t get my stuff back, I could at least get yours back to you.”

I made plans to meet the Marine Sarge at his Santa Monica apartment that very evening. The space was old, rent-controlled and smaller than Paris Hilton’s closet. He shared the apartment with his wife who appeared with my duffel.

“I’m really sorry,” she began. “Tried like hell to clean the bag the best I could.”

“Yeah,” added the Marine. “When I climbed down in that ravine, your clothes and everything were every which way.”

I squatted over my duffel and unzipped the top flap to find all my clothes, washed, pressed, and neatly folded in such a way I could never, ever replicate.

“Coupla white shirts in there I couldn’t get the rust stains outta,” she said. “Figured they musta been laying there on some kinda metal for a long time.”

“It was over a year,” I reminded them. “I can’t believe you did all this. You didn’t have to.”

“Yeah we did,” said the Marine Sarge. “It was the right thing to do.”

“It was, yes,” I said. “But you even washed and folded… everything. I’d have been impressed to get any of it back in a garbage bag.”

The couple offered me a seat and a beer. I gratefully obliged, spending the next hour with them, learning about their home in North Carolina and what led them to being stationed in sunny Southern Cal. As it turned out, they were big movie fans. Since I had none on the horizon, I was able to arrange for them to attend a movie premiere the following week. Hardly the kind of payback they deserved for all the kindness and care they’d showed me. But at least the night put a few smiles on their lovely faces.

Still wondering what the Sam Hell these stories have to do with working in showbiz? Well how’s this for a connection? It’s a business that is so overly-competitive that it is naturally rife with deception and dishonesty. So much so that to put a number on all the broken moral compasses I’ve encountered I’d need to employ a platoon of forensic accountants. Some of my showbiz compatriots are so accustomed to the sinful deeds that occur in the daily discourse of business that many have forgotten the simple and pure ethic of doing the right thing. It’s in moments like these that I remember the story exampled by that fine Marine and his wife. Or even myself in that silly case of the lost and found bracelet. The rewards for doing the right thing may be small to insignificant and, on paper, not worth the change in your pocket. But the deposits will be great to both your soul and character.

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  1. Kyle Sharpe says:

    Doug, you might make a great Ma-ti in a live-action Captain Planet movie. You don’t even have a magic ring and already can tell a story with immeasurable heart. Thanks for sharing.

    • Doug Richardson says:

      Thanks Kyle. I will pass on your compliment to my children. They might actually listen to me.

  2. Thomas b says:

    He went far above the call of duty in returning your stuff and didn’t ask you to read a script! Also, stay the hell away from Dodgers games. Many good life lessons this week.

  3. Tomm Gillies says:

    I have a paperweight on my desk that states: “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Blessings to you for standing up for what’s true and right, and blessings on that Marine and his wife for revealing that not everyone in L.A. is out for themselves.

    Your blog posts are always so poignant and funny, Doug. Thanks for sharing. Keep ’em coming.

  4. Tim O'Connell says:

    Great read as always Doug and a great message. Glad to see a story about good people like the Marine and his wife. Good deeds like that resonate, and make everyone who hears about them feel better.

    I’m sorry the greedy self interested side of your story had to come from Austin, Texas, my home town. I hope your next trip to Austin is better. Drop me a line next time you’re in town and I’ll buy you a beer and get you some great BBQ.


  5. Joshua James says:

    This is quite possibly my most favorite post of yours… and I love all of them.

    As a Buddhist, I’m a believer in karma, so … yeah. That’s all I can say. Great stuff.

    • Doug Richardson says:

      Wow. Thanks Josh. It’s a bit of a departure for me. But glad it spoke to you.

  6. Stacy Chambers says:

    I love this story. Not enough of them in the world.

    • Doug Richardson says:

      You’re so right, Stacy. I HATE that stories like that are anomalies in our lives.

  7. Marci Liroff says:

    Loved this story! It’s a good reminder that there actually are great people out there in the world – we just have to keep our eyes (and our hearts) open for them. Reminds me a bit of this blog I wrote:

  8. clive says:

    I’m still thinking about the blogg before this when you got the cinema manager the sack, and then felt guilty. I’ve decided that the girl who spoke to you about the complaint letter played you.When you think about it that’s her job, she told you what you wanted to hear (action had been taken), but in such a way as to make you feel like a heel, in a i’ll teach that hollywood big shot to fire off one of his oscar nominated compaint missives to me kind of way. Feeling played when you didn’t spot it is probably worse than guilt, sorry.

    • Doug Richardson says:

      Clive. I disagree. Don’t think I was played at all. She was polite, contrite, and offering way to much in free stuff. Doubt at all she wanted me to feel like a heel. Because most in LaLaLand woulda said “good, he deserved it.”

      • clive says:

        Okay i expect you are right. Just seen wolverine (with my son) and didn’t like the story.Nuanced is better, so even though this is your story (complaint lady) other interpretations are possible and she had more depth and resonance (possibly unintended) than the wolverine characters.

  9. I really needed to hear these stories. Just so you know 🙂 Thanks, Doug.

  10. Jenna Avery says:

    Doug, I’ve been out of the loop, but I’m glad to be back. As always, your posts never fail to inspire me. When I was in LA in June I met so many kind people who were going out of their way to help and support the group I was with (I was there with other writers for a conference of sorts), I got the feeling that many people there operate on this “deposits to your soul and character” principle. It’s nice to see more evidence of that. 🙂

    And next time I’m down there, I’m going to look you up. 🙂

    • Doug Richardson says:

      Please do, Jenna. I can usually be found with a tin cup at the corner of Faith St. and Cynic Ave.

  11. They Live Among Us says:

    I needed this. Recently, I was sent a link to a reel in which an AD that I worked with took my footage… and incorporated it in his/her own director’s reel. Mind boggling and heartbreaking… but I still believe that the good ones are out there in force.

    • Doug Richardson says:

      Suppose that one falls into thievery as a compliment. Still a lousy thing to do.

  12. fbluhm says:

    I don’t think you have to be a Hollywood insider to know of the “deception and dishonesty” that goes on in the business. If nothing else, Doug, your blog serves to educate many of us as to what the realities of working in showbiz are. Although I love the stories, and the fact that your are willing to share them with us, I have to admit that what first attracted me to the blog was that you seem to contradict so much of what we’ve been lead believe about those who work in the business. Good for you.

    • Doug Richardson says:

      There are some really good folks here. And I think we seek each other out. Thanks Fred.

  13. Phyllis K Twombly says:

    Lost my mom late last year so I know what it meant to the waitress. It was just a trinket to Gal Pal, in spite of her boasting. You definitely did the right thing and maybe GP learned something. (We can dream, right?)

    • Doug Richardson says:

      Funny. I remember it like yesterday. My publicist hasn’t the faintest memory of it. So who knows what GP walked away with. Prolly purged it from her psyche.

  14. Guest says:

    This is easily one of my favorite post although I love them all. I hope that we’re taking a turn as a society and favoring this kind of belief or values where we care for our fellow person as opposed to be out solely for our own benefit. Thank you for this Doug – it was needed!!

  15. VirtualBondGirl says:

    This is easily one of my favorite post although I love them all. I hope that we’re taking a turn as a society and favoring this kind of belief or values where we care for our fellow person as opposed to be out solely for our own benefit. Thank you for this Doug – it was needed!!

    • Doug Richardson says:

      I find that retelling the tales prove that I need them, too. We can never be reminded enough.

  16. Dianne says:

    It’s always best to do the right thing even when nobody is watching and you think that probably nobody would care … great story, Doug. Warms the heart. Thanks for that.

  17. […] Richardson wrote a fantastic post about paying it forward- it really resonated with me, and has become my favorite thing he’s written… definitely […]

  18. […] • Finders Keepers?  [Doug Richardson] […]

  19. Bryan Walsh says:

    Love hearing Random Acts of Kindness stories like this one. The world could definitely use more. And I’m sure if you ever need a consultant for Marine Ops you know who to call.

  20. John Thomas says:

    Chapter 1: A generous helping of instant karma, with a dab of pride-smothering guilt on top. Priceless.
    Chapter 2: Also priceless for entirely different reasons. It’s easy to forget, living in the land of the lost, how many beautifully decent people there are, doing wonderfully caring and honorable things every day. Thanks for the story, it’s definitely one to remember when working with the entitled (including ourselves sometimes) starts feeling a little rough around the edges.

  21. Aaron Clow says: