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Kirby: Don’t expect credit for returning lost card

By Robert Kirby

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Nov 10 2013 01:01 am • Last Updated Nov 10 2013 11:08 am

I tried to pay for a TRAX ticket Wednesday morning but couldn’t get my card into the machine. There was already something in the slot reader.

When I removed the obstruction, the machine immediately printed out a ticket. That’s when I realized I was holding someone else’s debit card.

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My first thought was that the owner was probably somewhere on TRAX freaking out about leaving the card in the machine. I needed to get it back to them right away.

I know what it feels like to leave a credit card somewhere. That’s why my wife only lets me have one — so I’ll know sooner rather than later that it’s missing.

Concern for the card’s owner was immediately followed by concern for myself. The ticket machine had probably just snapped a picture of me using someone else’s debit card.

Note: I don’t know if UTA actually does this, but it would be just my luck.

What if it wasn’t an oversight? What if the card was loot from a burglary or even a homicide? Detectives would track the card’s use to this particular TRAX machine and sort through the photos until they got to mine.

Detective: "Hey, that’s that idiot from The Tribune."

Lieutenant: "Cool. Roll K-9 and SWAT."

This was serious. The ticket had only cost $5, but it’s a felony to fraudulently use someone else’s card and you don’t necessarily have to be guilty for it to make the news in a highly embarrassing way.

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Nightly news: "The controversial columnist reportedly used the stolen card to purchase Justin Bieber concert tickets."

Quite obviously I needed to do something about this right away. If not for the owner’s piece of mind, then for my own well-being.

Calling the toll-free number on the back of the card (1-800-USELESS) to report its whereabouts was a waste of time. I might just as well have tried phoning the moon.

A machine offered to help me check my balance, inquire about a loan process or talk to another machine. Seeking more personal attention, I called two of the local branches and got the exact same machine.

Then I did something even more useless. I tried to locate the card’s owner online. When I couldn’t find anything for free, I used a people locator service. For a small fee they will get you the most up-to-date information.

I ended up paying $6 for an address that was now a Wal-Mart parking lot and a phone number that hadn’t been used since Nixon was in office.

My frustration increased along with my concern. Thanks to machines it was getting harder to do the right thing and/or keep myself out of trouble. In addition to the time, it was costing me money for something that wasn’t my fault.

When I finally arrived downtown, the card had been in my possession for more than an hour. The cops probably had The Tribune building staked out just waiting for me to show up and get covered in dog.

I got off TRAX early and walked five blocks to a branch of the credit union and gave the card to an actual person named Ethan. I also deposited $5 for the cost of the ticket I "bought."

Outside the credit union I found a quarter on the sidewalk. I was now only down $10.75. That lasted until the ride home, when a kid asked if I had a nickel for five pennies so he could use a pay phone?

A nickel? Who carries nickels anymore? Hell, who uses pay phones?

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