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Adam, an oasis in the desert

Antoinette Connell

Adam, an oasis in the desert

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A friend and I set out one day at twilight for the ATM.
It was a risky affair but time had slipped away and we desperately needed money, or at least I did.
Time and other intervening events have made my memory of the account a bit foggy.
Anyhow, as we headed in the direction of the bank we noticed it was littered with bits of coloured paper.
“Money!” we exclaimed and started gathering it up.
There they were, Grantley Adams and Errol Barrow lining the path from the sidewalk to the bank in pure Hansel and Gretel style. Only in this case, I don’t think the person intended to leave such an expensive trail.
With no one in sight we couldn’t determine whose money it was. We chalked up our find to a case of finders keepers after a few minutes and no one returned to the scene.
But as fate would have it, when we returned to the office we heard that someone had lost money. Our windfall was short-lived.
The incident came back to me last week after reading about the Ethiopian cab driver in Las Vegas, Adam Woldemarim, who discovered US$221 510 in his taxi after dropping off a passenger. Our find was nothing near that tempting amount.
Without hesitating, Woldemarim turned it in and the relieved owner gave him a US$2 000 tip.
While the 42-year-old graciously accepted the money, his friends were less than complimentary.
But the cabbie welcomed the money since he usually sends some of his pay packet back to his homeland to support his family there. He works five or six days for US$350.
His railing colleagues believed Woldemarim should have gotten 15 or 20 per cent of the cash, the going rate for tipping in that part of the state.
But what Woldemarim’s action has done is to change the image most hold of him and other cab drivers in the internationally renowned gambling city.  
The easy thing for him to do in the city famously known for its decadence would have been to keep the money and find a way out of the situation.
In a part of the world that encourages loose living, gambling and other sordid affairs, stealing in this manner no doubt would not have been a big deal. In fact, I believe people expect it and may be shocked if it doesn’t happen.
That is why Woldemarim’s case is so refreshing and stands out like an oasis in the desert.
How many of us would not have been tempted to keep the money and pretend as though it was never there? How many of us would have accepted the US$2 000 and then be discontented, believing we should have received more?
The following is a quote from Woldemarim’s friend:
“It would have been nice if my good friend got more money,” said Alex “Baharu” Alebachew. “But I think the most important thing here is that a lot of people think foreign cab drivers like us abuse tourists, or they long haul their customers or we’re just here causing problems and we don’t belong here. They never see the good side to us, the honest side. If you can just print that, that would be nice.”
Meanwhile, Woldemarim keeps as a souvenir receipt from his company’s lost and found department showing he turned in a quarter-million dollars. It is his reminder that he did the right thing and was glad that he did.
That piece of paper appears to be worth more than the other pieces he turned in.
• Antoinette Connell is the DAILY NATION Editor. Email [email protected]