For now, Stuart Goldberg of Riverdale has decided not to decide. "I don't want to do something with it and look back and say, 'That was foolish,' " Stuart says. So he has deposited the money in a savings account. There it sits, out of sight, but hardly out of mind.
In fact, according to Goldberg, the $500 he found in the middle of 15th Street on May 7 has become a burning, almost burdensome, issue to his wife and him.
Should they give it to charity? Donate it to a political cause? Blow it on a color TV set or a weekend in Atlantic City? Put it aside so they can buy a house someday?
Goldberg doesn't know. He has asked his coworkers for advice. He has asked the people he meets in the course of his job as a bicycle courier for advice. He has gotten so much differing and conflicting advice that he doesn't know what to do.
So he turned to me.
Now, that was a bit of a hoot at first. I always like to say that I got into the newspaper business because I knew nothing about money--and my salary in the years since has done nothing to change that.
But this is a human problem, not a financial one. Many of us have found a quarter here or a dollar bill there. But not all of us have found big bucks like Stuart. Financial ignoramus though I am, I was intrigued. You'd have to be six feet under not to be.
"Let me get this straight," I said. "The money was just lying there in the middle of 15th Street?"
"Right," said Stuart. "It was five $100 bills, folded, then folded again. It was 15th Street, between H and I, between 2 and 3 in the afternoon. I was riding my bike about two feet away from the edge of the parked cars the way I always do. And I just looked down and saw it."
"What did you do first?"
Stuart brought his thumb and forefinger to his cheek. "I did one of these," he replied, tweaking himself. "Y'know, was I really awake? Then I looked around to see if any of the people on the sidewalk was patting his pocket, as if they'd just lost something. But nobody was."
Determined that the right thing to do was to return the money, Stuart called the appropriate police precinct. The clerk logged the information, and noted that, for that kind of money, it would probably be only a few minutes before the phone rang.
But more than two weeks after Stuart's discovery, police report that no one has come forward. According to police, that probably means that no one ever will, even though it seems amazing that the former owner of that much money wouldn't have missed it by now.
For Stuart Goldberg, though, the problem is still tossing and turning him. Should he be selfish? Or should he give the $500 to someone less fortunate and be done with it?
"The thing about it," notes Stuart, who is 29, "is that it's enough money that you say to yourself, 'Wow!' But it's not enough to change your life style significantly. It's not enough to change the world. I mean, the day I found the money, I went home and the street still had the same ruts and bumps and piles of broken glass."
Stuart says he will make a decision about the money in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, he asks your help.
Although he will not give the money to an individual, he says he will consider giving it to charity. Readers are urged to mail in the names and addresses of particularly deserving groups, with cover letters explaining why those groups are especially needy. I'll collect them here at The Post (address: Bob Levey, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW., Washington, D.C., 20071). Then Stuart and I will go through them, and he will decide.