Every once in a while I think about a strangely, particular day in my life. This day was fun, unfortunate, unbelievable, lucky, worrisome, strange, and relief all rolled into one. A series of events that unfolded to the point that if Las Vegas odd makers were taking bets on this one day and I put everything on it, I would be a multimillionaire. Just when you think the odds are stacked against you and all is lost, a light can shine down and provide good fortune from an unknown source at “the happiest place on Earth“.
This all happened back in December of 1990. I was a part of USY‘s International Convention in Orlando Florida. I went as part of Northern New Jersey‘s Hagalil region of USY. I am not sure if the Orlando area was ready for such a large Jewish contingent to come down during Christmas week.
As part of the convention we had one day to spend in any of the Walt Disney World theme parks. Since I had never been to Disney before, or since, I decided to go to the Magic Kingdom over Epcot and MGM Disney. The total time we had was eight hours in the park. Definitely not enough time to do everything I wanted, but enough time to get to the main rides and attractions. Or so I thought.
After departing the Orlando Hyatt and arriving at Disney World, everyone went their separate ways. I went with a few guys I barely knew. After taking some obligatory pictures around the entrance and in front of the Castle, we proceeded to go on the Runaway Train. I loved this ride in every other amusement park I have been to and Disney kept the momentum going.
While standing on line, there was excavation being done next to the ride to make room for the Animal Kingdom. So I snapped some pictures. We end up chatting with a few girls from elsewhere on line. As the girls move on, we talk to a few guys behind us on line laughing at some of the lines we were using. More on them later.
Our next ride was in Tomorrowland, Delta Air Lines sponsored Dreamland, the former Eastern Air Lines “If You Had Wings“. Once again, we chat with a few girls but they were from our youth organization. So we invite them on the ride with us. We venture on this look into tomorrow, sponsored by Pan Am, and then the girls say they need to meet other friends. Not a big deal at least that is what we told ourselves.
I then notice I lost my wallet. In Disney World, I lose my wallet. Cash, American Express travelers checks, ID, everything.
What a joy the rest of the day was going to be. I head over to Town Hall as that is where “Lost and Found” is. They said they would keep a watch for it. This was around 11 AM. I hadn’t eaten, the guys I was with left me, and it felt horrible being alone in this situation.
I did a lot of wandering; just walking around the park focused on an outcome I was hoping would turn in my favor. I wandered in the same areas. I treated Town Hall like base camp. This was the epicenter I needed to come back to. The employee inside must have been thrilled to see me every so often.
Even as I walked around the park, I did not see a single person I knew from my youth organization. I was not a single rider on any rides. I did not go on any rides or watch any attractions at this time. My mind was so focused on my wallet I forgot to have fun while on the quest to retrieve my lost wallet.
I was starting to get hungry. Not a good feeling when there was only lint in my pocket. As time went on, my confidence and attitude were getting lower and lower.
I must have window shopped every store along Main Street. If Foursquare was around in 1990, I would have been the Mayor of Town Hall& every store on Main Street in less than five minutes. I wandered around like my ancestors in the desert but I had less than 40 years to retrieve my wallet.
Things were starting to look bleak. About four hours had gone by and nothing. I trudged my way back to Town Hall and asked again if my wallet had been returned. To my amazement, it had!
Not only did I get my wallet back, but all my money, American Express traveler’s checks, and ID had been in there. A full wallet. Nothing was missing. Someone was looking out for me that day. I guess it was a good thing I was on a religious convention.
As soon as I had money in my hand I proceeded to get something to eat. A pulled pork sandwich, fries, and a drink for about $12 sounded good, but seemed expensive. I was hungry; at that point the cost was insignificant and secondary to my hunger.
My mind kept reiterating the good luck that had fallen on me. How a stranger in Disney could find my wallet and not take a thing. Something so easy to do and take found money. But one person just wanted to do the right thing and return it all.
After eating and feeling better about myself, I was not prepared for the surprise that came next. While casually walking I heard “Excuse me, are you David Levy?” This woman then proceeds to tell me she was the one who found my wallet.
With thousands upon thousands walking through Disney in one day, what are the odds I would encounter the person who had found my wallet? I was amazed by the possibility of this. Coming across the one person among thousands of strangers in Disney.
I thanked her several times. I even offered her $20 for her kindness but she refused. I even asked how she knew it was me. She remembered my picture from my school ID. Duh, of course!
I was just in amazement of coming across the person who had found my wallet. I knew I had a great story to tell the others. I could not even calculate the odds in my head. Somewhere, someone in Las Vegas made out like a bandit on those odds.
After a long, tiring day everyone met back up in the parking lot by the busses around 5 PM. Once I was back at the hotel, I knew I had to call home to explain what had happened in Disney. I figured my family would love to hear about my fortunate luck.
I make the call home and I say to my mother “Mom, you will next guess what happened”.
She replies back “Did you lose your wallet?”
Stunned and in disbelief I can only answer “Yes, I did.”
My mom proceeds to say that the woman who found my wallet left a message on our home answering machine that she had found it.
All I kept thinking was the series of events I did not see. The kindness one person showed amongst the thousands in Disney that would have emptied the sucker and tossed the wallet in the garbage. In a true Scarlet O’Hara moment, I relied on the kindness of a stranger.
Repeatedly, I kept trying to process what the possible odds were on wandering across the one person amongst thousands in Disney that found my wallet. I figured that was a once in a lifetime event. That there could be no possible way I would run into someone that random again.
I was wrong.
I had to leave the convention a day early. At the time, I had earned a varsity spot on the wrestling team at 189 pounds. We hosted a Christmas tournament every year. In order to qualify to wrestle, one must attend practice the day before any scheduled tournament or meet.
That is how important wrestling was to me. It took precedent over the convention in Florida. To be quite honest, I was glad to be out of there.
As I am riding in the shuttle to the airport I was thinking of the events at Disney and the upcoming tournament. Caught in thought about amazing odds and my first varsity wrestling match.
I check in and sit waiting for my Continental flight back to Newark. After finding my seat on the plane and getting situated, I hear a comment being thrown my way:
“Hey there, so what ever happened with those girls?”
The comment comes from one of the guys I met on line for the Runaway Train ride at Disney.
Are you kidding me??
Here is this guy I only talked to for a few minutes on line for a ride at Disney and he is also on my plane back to Newark?
Can someone please check the odds on that one too?
I chuckle and answer his question. We had another good little laugh. All I kept thinking was here are two separate incidents from Disney where certain odds had to be enormous.
What could the odds possibly be for meeting someone on a line ride at Disney and then several days later seeing them again on the same plane back to Newark, NJ?
I kept throwing the two incidents back and forth the entire plane ride back. Two separate incidents with mind boggling odds in each case. At this point, I knew this could not happen again.
I am always thankful that the one person who found my wallet was a kind hearted, thoughtful individual who returned everything. Then when offered a reward, wanted nothing. Acts of kindness like these are rare in this day and age.
This week I am headed back down to Orlando for the first time in over 20 years. More time will be spent at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, but will be venturing to Disney Hollywood Studios for their Star Wars Weekend.
It will be a better experience this time. The company with me is an improvement and very welcome while having Star Wars as a park theme makes it even more memorable. There is no way I can lose this time around.
We won’t even have to hire a Handicapped Guide to help us cut into lines.
This trip is going to be fun, details to come. The real excitement is yet to come…….