Notes and comments on some previous columns:
The Ring Cycle, Part I
My column about a wedding ring lost at the West End Dinner Theatre a decade ago and found recently didn't help raise the ring's owner. But it did strike a chord with Silver Spring's Bill Carnahan.
In 1944, Bill was a 19-year-old conscript in the U.S. Army's 88th Infantry Division. As he fought in Italy's Apennine Mountains, he wore on one of his fingers a high school ring from McKinley Tech in the District. The ring had been given to his sister, Jean, when she graduated from McKinley in 1931 and engraved with her initials and graduation date. It passed on to their brother, Robert, when he graduated in 1933. When Bill graduated in 1944, the ring came under his care. "By that time, it was pretty smooth," he said.
"It was kind of a dumb thing to take that ring with me," Bill allowed. But take it with him he did, through the battlefields of northern Italy. On Dec. 7, 1944, while being treated by the regimental surgeon for blisters, jaundice and hepatitis, Bill noticed that the ring was gone. The winter cold had shrunk his fingers, and it had slipped off.
Bill spent three months in a hospital in Naples before rejoining his company. That's when he saw one of his buddies, Richard Choate, sporting a piece of jewelry that seemed oddly familiar: the McKinley Tech ring.
"He said he found it in the mud," said Bill. "When I showed him the dates, he immediately gave it to me. It was like finding a lost friend."
War, I said, must be full of amazing coincidences. Maybe, said Bill, who's now 79 and retired from a career with the Department of Agriculture.
"It was amazing that I got it back," he said. "It was stupid dumb luck that I lost it."
The Ring Cycle, Part II
Another ringing endorsement: In 1994, Maria C. Powell of Leesburg was carpooling into the District with her husband. "I did all the girlie stuff in the car while my husband drove," Maria explained.
The "girlie stuff" included applying lotion to her hands (definitely something you don't want to do when you're driving). Before slathering on the Jergens, Maria would take off her wedding ring and engagement ring and rest them in the cup holder. (You know where this is going.) One morning, the engagement ring fell from its precarious perch.
"We stopped the car and looked, but I couldn't find the ring," Maria said. She'd worn it for 24 years.
Fast-forward 13 months. Maria had a dream that the ring was still in the car. She told her daughter, who took the car to a mechanic friend.
"Lo and behold, they found the ring in the transmission fluid tank under the gear shift lever," Maria said.
And how did Maria react when her daughter told her the ring had been found? "I just cried."
My column about Chris Bennett, the Springfield man who is forever finding lost wallets while he rides his bicycle, didn't surprise Andy Lees of Silver Spring. Andy bikes a lot, too -- close to 8,000 miles a year, most of it commuting -- and says that among the things he's found are "keys, a wallet containing $1,000, a wallet with no cash but lots of credit cards, a check for $7,000 and the big winner, a FedEx envelope containing a mortgage check for $154,000."
Such windfalls, Andy said, are "one more reason to abandon the car." (He pointed out that all the items were returned.)
Charity Begins Anywhere but Home
What should you do when you find money for which there is very little hope of reuniting it with its original owner? I confess I tend to side with those who say possession is nine-tenths of the law. (For details, see that famous Supreme Court case Finders Keepers v. Losers Weepers.)
Not so fast, said Miriam Schwedt of Washington. She wondered if I'd ever heard of the superstition that you should not pick up any money you stumble across.
Miriam said she grew up learning that such money was left by "evil tempting spirits." Anything that you did with it would backfire. "If you bought food, you would get sick. If you bought a shirt, it would rip." (If you bought a personal computer, it would instantly be made obsolete by a new operating system. If you bought an NFL franchise, it would never again make the playoffs.)
"In college, I found $20, I picked it up, but then, nervous, refused to spend it," Miriam said. For days, she resisted her roommates' entreaties that she spend the money on the one thing they all agreed was an absolute necessity: beer. Finally. she sent it anonymously to an orphanage in Haiti.
"In my own head, I decided the money would obviously not be cursed if it went to a good cause."
Just a few weeks ago, in the Dupont Metro, Miriam found a Farecard with $10 still on it. She gave it to two lost-looking tourists. "I was condemned by my boyfriend for being 'hocus-pocus' and overly superstitious."
I think Miriam's actions are commendable. The world would be a better place if we all followed her example. By the way, our annual Children's Hospital fundraising drive will begin in a little more than a month.
My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. My address is 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. My phone number is 202-334-5129. And my weekly online chat is tomorrow at 1 p.m. at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.