WalletA strange experience I had this past weekend made for a great What Would You Do? question: what level of responsibility will people accept for a lost wallet?

I was at a club with a friend. It was getting late; the club was about to close; my friend needed to get his jacket before we left, so I waited for him by the exit. The lights came on, and of course it was a tragic scene. Glassy eyes and disheveled clothes everywhere, stumbling, falling — looked as though everyone was coming off a violently turbulent flight, except for all the last-minute attempts at hooking up (a moment otherwise known to some gay men as the “sidewalk sale — all standards half off”).

Anyway, a polite but very drunk lady near me was just finishing a shot of liquor from what looked like a test tube, and she asked me if I’m from Missouri.

“I don’t think I’ve ever set foot in Missouri come to think of it,” I told her.

She said, “Really? You look just like this guy who lost his wallet.” Her friend opened up the wallet and showed me the guy’s Missouri driver license. I looked nothing like him. In all fairness, I’m often mistaken for someone else or I’m told that I bear an uncanny resemblance to such and such, but at most I looked like I could be this guy’s cousin’s neighbor, and the lady thought I was messing with her head until her friend reassured her that I’m not the guy.

My friend finally showed up with his jacket, and after a night of running into weirdo exes and too many goosings, I just wanted to get the hell out of dodge. I wished the lady luck finding the wallet’s owner and was on my merry way home.

Only after days had passed and laughs were had, I found the incident somewhat peculiar. The world certainly needs more Good Samaritans, I thought, but should they be trusted to do their handiwork when intoxicated or otherwise unreliable?

I was completely sober that evening, and if there was anything to blame for impaired judgment, it was just crankiness and a heavy dose of missing my parter who was out of town. Nothing about the nice drunk lady made me suspect that she would pocket money or contents from the wallet, but given that she was about to give it away to the wrong guy, maybe I could have said something like, “Hey, let’s give the wallet to the bartender over there. They probably have a lost and found for this kind of thing,” or “Careful with that wallet. You now have a lot of responsibility on your hands.”

The latter is surely preachy, and not something I’d utter, but it gets to the point I’m driving at. If you find a wallet, you have to find some way of getting it back to its owner. Depending on the options available to you, it can be as simple as giving it to a manager, the police, or dropping it in a mailbox.

But then again, you never know with people. If you pick up a lost wallet, maybe someone has already taken stuff from it. Rather than receive gratitude from the rightful owner, you can end up with anything ranging from doubtful stares to a handful of accusations.

I fully admit that I’m venturing into an entirely cynical, Larry David a la “Curb Your Enthusiasm” viewpoint, but live in a large city long enough, and you have witnessed or partook in almost every altercation imaginable, including ones where it doesn’t pay to be a Good Samaritan.

So in a way, even though you would yearn for someone to take the best care of your wallet should it ever get lost, it’s tempting to walk past someone else’s lost wallet rather than be stuck with the responsibility.

Or as in my case, you can find yourself unwittingly negligent of possible actions you can take. But should we always interfere if we suspect a lost wallet is being mishandled?

Dear readers, what would you do? Have we reached the point where we can’t look out for each other, or is a lost wallet a minor responsibility we should all accept? How much responsibility should we take when we encounter a lost wallet?

And is anyone willing to admit they would do nothing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.