One of the many joys in my life is walking my dog through Virginia Avenue Park on a daily basis. I’m in that park usually twice a day and I see how active it is as a community centerpiece. I vote in that park, I see the young men and women who participate in the various youth programs, there is a constant parade of children and parents who play in the water feature and the sandbox, which makes it a microcosm of the city.
There are usually items left around after a weekend of playing. A random sock or jacket, the occasional set of mini-Crocs that some kid has kicked off and forgotten about.
Last week, I found a wallet for one Robert Maurice Ellston. It has some cash in it, a few frequent buyer cards, a VA benefits card and a driver’s license. I figured this would be easy to return. I’d go to the address on the driver’s license, wake the man up and give him his wallet back.
It turns out the address on the driver’s license is not correct. It’s frustrating to me, because I want to do the right thing and get this man his wallet back. I’m sure he wants his money, but I know he wants his VA card and his driver’s license more.
I have a friend who lost his wallet a few weeks ago, and of course he was traveling this holiday season without any ID. Well that’s not totally true, he had his birth certificate, a temporary driver’s license, and a photo ID from Disneyland. That was all he needed to get on the plane to fly home. No passport, no driver’s license, but a Disneyland annual pass was acceptable.
Now, I’m happy for him. I think it was great that he was able to fly home and see his family. I’m glad that the Transportation Security Administration recognized that he was not a threat to national security and didn’t give him a free prostate exam. I’m curious though, because making the Facebook rounds is a video of a TSA agent doing a pat-down search of a 5-year-old boy as his father watches.
It seems to me that instilling in a child that being patted down by a stranger, who is inspecting you for a bomb or contraband items, is a rather draconian measure, when a fully grown man can get on a plane with temporary driver’s license and literally, a Mickey Mouse ID.
Mom used to say it was an ancient Chinese curse/blessing “may you live in interesting times” and I guess that’s where we are. Because I do find it interesting that on the one hand we are searching people who fit no profile of being dangerous, and on the other, we let a single man in his 30s, with sketchy ID travel ostensibly freely.
As for Mr. Robert Maurice Ellston, I hope that someone who knows him will read this and tell him to call me. I know that getting his driver’s license reissued will be a time consuming process, and it will take at least six weeks for his new card to arrive, perhaps longer since he needs to update his address, and God only knows what kind of a wrench that could throw in the bureaucratic timeline.
But it’s his VA card that I am most concerned about. I imagine that will be a huge bureaucratic process, made all the more difficult if he lacks other identifying papers, like a driver’s license. The VA card is his key to health benefits, probably a pension and all the other perks we provide to the veterans amongst us. It is probably the most valuable item in his wallet, and I’d like to see him get it back.
Unless, that is, the VA is now accepting his Ralph’s Rewards Card, which might be as reliable as the Disneyland Annual Pass my friend used to gain access to his flights back east.
David Pisarra is a divorce attorney who specializes in father’s rights and men’s issues with the firm of Pisarra & Grist in Santa Monica. He is the author of the upcoming, “A Man’s Guide To Child Custody.” You can pre-order the book by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.