Cook finds wallet with $2K, returns it to owner - Albuquerque Journal

Cook finds wallet with $2K, returns it to owner

Matt Peralta, left, and Drew Frost, both employees of the Flying Star on Corrales Road, were singled out by a grateful customer for returning his lost wallet that had $2,000 in it. (Liam DeBonis/For the Albuquerque Journal)

His email came like a ray of sunshine splitting through some of the darkest clouds yet.

“I have a great feel-good personal story about local Albuquerqueans I would like to share in order to (a) recognize the individuals, (b) promote positive light on the quality and awesomeness of the individuals who make up our city,” Shaphan Hawks wrote. “We usually only hear negative clichés about our city.”

Well, that’s certainly true.

Shootings, crashes, high gas prices and tensions over everything from face masks and vaccines to Ukraine and Russia cover the front pages and permeate our conversations. The gloom of our times was succinctly summarized in several emails written by one of my favorite curmudgeonly critics and sent hours before Hawks’ sunnier missive arrived.

“The walking wounded. Financially, physically and mentally wounded. Not to mention morally wounded,” my critic wrote in his dismal dirge. “Life in this city. Last in everything good and first in everything bad. Have friends who have lived here years ago and when they visit don’t recognize the place. Don’t understand Land of Enchantment. Speeding, pedestrian deaths, drunk drivers, suicides, list goes on and on.”

bright spot

He did go on and on.

But he wasn’t altogether wrong.

Also included in one email was a mildly mangled quote from theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking: “We are nothing but an advanced breed of monkeys on a very average planet of a average star.”

He didn’t include the rest of that quote: “But we can understand the universe. That makes us something very special.”

Hawks understood the full of Hawking’s message. And he found proof of it at a not-so-average star – a flying one.

It began sometime during lunch with his wife, friends and business associates Feb. 22 at the Flying Star on Corrales Road. After paying for his meal, which is done counter service-style before being seated, Hawks said he paid a visit to the restroom and then joined his group.

It wasn’t until about an hour or so later outside in the parking lot and getting ready to leave that he realized his wallet was missing.

Shaphan Hawks

He freaked.

“My wallet was stolen six months ago, and it was such a hassle canceling all those credit cards and the auto pays,” Hawks said. “And I thought, oh no, not again.”

More than just credit cards and ID were in his wallet that day – he had just been paid $2,000 in cash in his appliance recycling business.

Also in that wallet was a bluetooth tracking device to help him find the wallet should it ever go missing. But when he accessed the app on his phone, he learned the tracker had malfunctioned.

Because, of course.

Hawks said he raced back into the Flying Star to retrace his steps, looking first in the bathroom. It wasn’t there.

“It was obvious that I was frantic and looking for something, racing around,” he said. “Then a manager comes up to me and says, “You must be Shaphan Hawks.'”

To which Hawks replied, “You must have my wallet.”

And so he did.

“My wallet was returned perfectly intact with all the cash!” Hawks wrote in his email. “I want to make sure their integrity and the yet another example of our awesome local Albuquerqueans does not go unnoticed.”

The awesome local Albuquerquean who found the wallet was Matt Peralta, a line cook who trains kitchen staff and also owns the Cool Beans coffee shop at the Mariposa Community Center in Rio Rancho.

Peralta explained that he was changing into his work uniform in the bathroom when the wallet, on the floor in the back of a stall, caught his eye.

“It was thick, so I knew it either had a lot of money in it or a lot of credit cards,” Peralta said. “I didn’t look to find out which because it was personal property. I also know what it’s like to lose a wallet, because I have, and I wanted this person to have a fair chance in getting it back.”

He handed the wallet over to service manager Drew Frost, who later handed the wallet back to Hawks.

“People leave stuff all the time, and not just wallets,” Frost said. “Cellphones, keys, wallets, you name it.”

Part of Frost’s job is to train his staff, not just on how to serve a drink or clean a table but to treat everyone with kindness.

“So many terrible things are going on out there, but in here I try to teach my staff about being good to others,” he said. “I like to think that we all try to do that.”

Hawks said he isn’t trying to ignore how gloomy the world feels right now. Bad news and being a curmudgeonly critic have their place.

“We need to know if an asteroid is going to hit us, not just that there are flowers blooming on Coors Boulevard,” Hawks said. “But there’s really a lot of good out there, and feel-good happy stories are important, too, in these tidal waves of negative stories that serve to malign and make us distrustful of everyone.”

In his email, Hawks summed it up like this: “The reality is, most of us are really awesome citizens capable of great things and we all need reminders of this at times.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Being able to find the good news among the bad may be harder some days than others. But it’s how we keep moving forward on this average planet of ours. It’s part of how we understand the universe. And that truly does make us something very special.

UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 730-2793,


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