It’s easy, I think, as we see the events unfold around us to lose a little faith in others. It seems daily there’s no shortage of people lying in wait to take advantage of any of our lapses in concentration.
However, in my own case, I thankfully discovered that there is honesty in the world. Recently, on a particularly bad knee day, and I say this only to differentiate that day from the normal everyday knee-pain days, I was working in Cincinnati, checking an account located off Red Bank Road.
Before entering my building, I spied a Walmart and went in to find a tube of topical cream to rub on my offending joints, hoping for some temporary surcease.
Actually, and sadly, the one that was giving me the most problems that day was the “good knee,” not the one surgically compromised in 1977 to address a torn cartilage that, over time, has become so arthritic that, as they say adopting the parlance of my pal and doc Jim O’Neill, “bone-on-bone.” The fact that the knee not surgically altered hurt worse than the other prompted me to take a run at some national notoriety, and I emailed my idea of “You know you’re a Plugger when your good knee hurts worse on many days than your bad one” to “Pluggers” cartoonist Gary Brookins.
At any rate, I did pick up a tube of Zim’s Maz Freeze, a product that works temporarily for me better than any of the others I’ve tried, and I’ve tried most, from Johnny Bench’s endorsed Blue Emu to Hank Hainey’s endorsed Voodoo Pain Relief Cream and on to the Icy Hots, BioFreezes and Thera-Gesics among others.
After picking up the tube, I proceeded to the checkout line. I was the only one at the register, one separated by quite a distance from any other checkout line. After paying for the purchase, I began to leave before I heard, “Sir, sir, you dropped your money.” I turned around and looked down. There were three $20 bills on the tile floor.
I picked my money up, thanked her profusely and headed for the parking lot. As I drove away, I thought about the whole incident and the potential loss, at least for this old former school teacher, of a pretty substantial sum of money. I thought of how easy it could have been for the cashier to swallow her tongue, let me keep walking and slide out from around her register counter and scoop up the three Jacksons before anyone came up. Really, no one would have been the wiser, and it would have been hours later, if not the next day, before I’d have even realized the money was missing. And, I may not have even realized it later at all, just perplexed, as I sometimes am, why I had less money than I thought I did.
I began wondering, say, out of a certain number of people in a test of honesty, how many would have done as that cashier. So, later that day when I had some time, I did a little knocking around the iPad and discovered that the folks at The Reader’s Digest in 2013 actually did conduct a little experiment to gain some insight into human nature and honesty. The experiment, called “The Lost Wallet Test,” encompassed 16 cities across four continents.
Reporters from the magazine planted a total of 192 wallets on the sidewalks of the busiest of areas, 12 per city. The wallets contained currency, a card with a cell phone number and an email address of the reporter and a family photo and was intended to see how many people would call the reporter to return the wallet.
Based on the results, it turned out the most honest folks are the Finns of Helsinki, with 11 of the 12 wallet finders contacting the reporters.
The results of the other cities are as follows. Nine of the dozen were returned in Mumbai, India; eight, in New York City and in Hungary’s Budapest; seven, in Moscow and the same number in Amsterdam in The Netherlands; six in Berlin and in Ljubljana, Slovenia; five in London and in Warsaw in Poland; and just four in Bucharest, Romania, and only four in Rio de Janeiro and Zurich, Switzerland, as well.
In Prague in the Czech Republic, the number was just three of 12. In Madrid in Spain, just two and, holding that most ignominious distinction of the least honest city using the criteria established by Reader’s Digest, was Lisbon, Portugal, where just one person called the reporter’s cell to return the wallet while 11 others scooped and slipped away.
Now, I realize the experiment is hardly a sweeping indictment, more, just a small sample and hardly scientifically sound. But, I found it interesting nonetheless. So, I suppose, I should be glad I chose Cincinnati as the locale to fumble a hard-earned $60 away. And, zeroing in further on my Google map, I’m glad I was in that Walmart off Red Bank Road at that particular register down at the very end with a wonderfully honest cashier, who could have scooped that cash up without a word with no one the wiser but choose to take the much higher road.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.