Many of you will have received this blogpost four days ago. That was when I was editing it and pressed the wrong button, instead of Schedule I pushed Publish. So, here it is again, edited and changed a little, and if you want to leave me a comment at the bottom then I can see if the Comment section works. Thank you for your understanding!
Before we left Prescott, we sold a few things on Craigslist. That sounds easier than it was, because I had to re-list every item several times before it found an interested buyer. But we were happy to know that everything we sold found a good home. There was one item that I could not sell. It was a beautiful, exquisite ring that used to belong to my mother-in-law. It was an18K gold crown with a diamond on top, the edge set with 8 emeralds. I had it resized at the time, and wore it on special occasions. But as my fingers grew thinner – yes, that came with age – the crown became top heavy and so I kept it in my jewelry box. Placed on Craigslist.org, I had several scammers who wanted to know my address so they could send a check, and as soon as I had cashed it, they would send someone to pick up the ring. Or, they wanted to have my PayPal information so they could deposit the money plus $200 (how generous!) for insured shipping. But when I asked where to ship it to, seeing that their area code was one of Texas, the communication stopped.
In North Carolina I posted the ring on Craigslist again. After deleting a few scam offers, an unbelievable chain of events followed. Someone sent me the following email:
“Interested in the crown ring, please call or text 316-…….. My name is Josh, thanks.”
Now, for your information, I can see the person’s name in Craigslist messages, but his email address remains unknown to me. The “buyer” on the other hand can’t see my name, but only gets the Craigslist email link. Following is the correspondence that took place.
“Josh, where are you located? Area code 316 does not sound anywhere close to Raleigh Durham.”
“Just moved here from Kansas. I’d like to meet at a local jeweler in Raleigh if that works.”
Hm. Yes, it is a Kansas area code. But I don’t know my way around in Raleigh yet, and it’s quite far, so that’s not a good idea.
“We could meet at a jeweler, but in Cary if you don’t mind.”
“Sure, how about Plaza West Jewelry and Loan at 3pm?”
Hm. I googled it and it is a Jeweler/Pawn shop in a so-so looking neighborhood, not such a good place. Let me find another jeweler on a street I know.
“No, 3 p.m. today won’t work because I just got home, just got your message and it’s already 2:30 p.m. How about meeting at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow, Friday at J.M Edwards Jewelry, at 1137 Kildare Farm Road?”
“Sure, that’s fine. What will you be driving? I’ll be in a red scooter.”
A red scooter? What kind of a guy in a red scooter, who just moved here from Kansas can afford such an expensive ring? I don’t want to give away what kind of car I’m in, so I say nothing for a while. My son had told me that there are safe places in town that are electronically supervised 24 hours a day. Google told me that people sometimes make safe trades in the lobby of the Police Department. That’s a good idea.
“Josh, I don’t know you and my ring is precious, so I want to be safe. I can make it tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m., but I want to meet in the lobby of the Cary police department at 120 Wilkinson Avenue. If you are serious, please bring cash. We can make the exchange in the lobby. People do that all the time here. If you want a local jeweler’s appraisal, I can bring that for you.”
“That’s fine, don’t worry about an appraisal. I just wanted to know how much it weighs. I’ll bring a ring to compare it to.”
There were places in Prescott where they bought gold, including jewelry, for melting purposes. But you didn’t get a lot of money for it, and if it is beautiful jewelry, it should find a good home instead of landing in a melting pot! I did sell one of my own 14K gold crowns once, which our dentist was replacing with a porcelain crown. When I asked him what he was going to do with my crown, he said, “It makes for a nice Christmas present.” Yeah, right! I had found out that it had melting value, so I held out my hand and said, “I’ll take it, thank you.” That crown brought $60. Nice Christmas present indeed!
“My ring weighs 10 g. But that’s including the diamond and emeralds of course. I do hope he is not going to melt it! So are we still meeting tomorrow morning? Are you still interested?”
“Oh yes, I will be in the lobby at 10:30.”
The next day I found my way to the Police Office, parked and went inside. When I stated the purpose of my visit, a female officer told me about two electronically supervised “Swap Spots” in the parking lot and asked if I wanted an officer to accompany me there. Yes, that would be nice. So a nice young officer, sipping coffee (or water) from a tall mug, and I talked for a while in the lobby, and he said that if a buyer is willing to come to the police station he is usually trustworthy. But nothing happened. We waited fifteen minutes, no Josh. The officer walked me to my car, showed me the “Swap Spots” for the future, and left. I went home, very disappointed in someone who had sounded honest but had not kept his promise. Can’t you believe anyone anymore?
Now I have to tell you that I recently got a small iPhone from our son, but I’m still learning how to use it; as it was, I could not open texts or send any. Back home, I found three messages on my computer from Josh.
“I will be ten minutes late.”
“GPS says I’m still 20 minutes out. Sorry, had to scooter in from Zebulon and misestimated time.”
“I’m here. Where are you?”
My goodness! Was he to be trusted after all? Everything he said sounded strange, but it all seemed to be true.
“I’m walking to a local restaurant for lunch. If you are not here when I get back I will leave.”
I’d better call him now.
“Josh, I’m sorry we missed each other. I can’t get mail or texts when I’m out, so did not get your messages. I gave you 15 minutes grace time, then I left.”
“I am sorry Ma’am. Are you willing to come back? I will read a book while I wait.”
“Listen Josh, I went out of my way. I even went to a jeweler, to get an appraisal of the retail value of my ring. I am willing to come back but only if you stand there with $550 in cash, so we can make a quick trade. If you agree, I will meet you in the parking lot behind the police department in one of two “Swap Spots” in exactly fifteen minutes.”
“All right, I will be there. I only have twenties. Will you bring a ten so I can give you five hundred and sixty?”
It all seemed stranger still. A man in a red scooter, reading a book while waiting for me, cash in hand to pay for an expensive ring. When I parked in one of the “Swap Spots” I saw him sitting on the curb in the other spot, reading a book, a helmet hanging from the saddle of a small red scooter.
“Hello, are you the lady with the ring?”
“I am. He looks nice. Here it is. what are you going to do with it?”
“I am going to wear it.”
“You are going to wear it?”
“Yes. I am a chess player and I believe that wearing precious stones close to your body will give you extra power and insight in things. In other words it will make me a better chess player.” He tried it on several of his fingers but it looked like it would not fit and I was afraid he would give it back to me – after all we had gone through! But he put it back in the box, gave it to me, opened his wallet and started counting. In twenties. Twenty, forty, sixty, eighty, one hundred….Five hundred, five hundred twenty, then he had no more. He turned his wallet inside out. Nothing other than a few cards.
“Well, let’s go to the nearest ATM.”
“My card does not work because I just moved here. And I had to get some gas for my scooter.”
Hm. Thirty dollars short. I waited and thought about it. He was standing across from me and suddenly said, “If you come to my restaurant I will give you thirty dollars worth of food.”
“Your restaurant? Where is your restaurant?”
“In Raleigh. Wait.”
He walked to the curb, picked up his book and got a card out with pictures of a restaurant, menu, and a coupon.
“Don’t mind the coupon. When you come you can choose anything from the menu and I’ll make it for you. I am the chef.”
“You are the chef of this restaurant? He seems too young to be a chef! Ah, you have a French name, Josh Soutiere. Mais oui! C’est votre restaurant?” He nodded.
“Well, here is the ring. I don’t know if I will come to your restaurant. We’ll see. What are you reading there?”
“A novel about World War One.” And he showed me a thick book with yellowed pages in which the card of his restaurant had served as a book marker. One surprise after another. Could it get any crazier? He was reading a novel about World War One! Perhaps he would like to know about World War Two as well. I pulled my business card out of my wallet and told him he might be interested in looking at my website. I wished him well with his future chess games, he thanked me, put on his helmet, “I’d better get back to work,” and drove away on his little red scooter. I thought I would never see him again.
But then, on August 15, when I did my Presentation in the Waltonwood Theatre, someone in the audience asked whether my mother lost any jewelry during the Japanese occupation. I answered that my mom had hidden her ring and bracelet, and the Japanese had never found them. My goodness, that must be Josh Soutiere! Referring to jewelry, to get my attention and let me know he was there.
Afterwards, he came to the table where I was signing books. He bought two books and paid $30. Thirty dollars! He lingered until everyone was gone and Mike came in to help me clean up. Josh showed us his right hand, with on the ring finger Mike’s mother’s crown ring.
It all was completely unbelievable, but I had met a very honest person and I can say again, “I believe in the goodness of people.”
It’s a Wonderful Life!
Until next time!