Cass Avenue

Cass Avenue is not known for being the safest place to walk at night in downtown Detroit. I recently had an experience that changed my view of who walks the ave…

I done a dumb thing.

I was tired and ready to go home and I had just finished teaching my afterschool class which runs pretty late. I go in later, but going home at 7:30-8:00 is still kind of rough.

I made a beeline to the car got in, drove home. That late in the day, the traffic wasn’t bad so I got home faster than I thought. Plod through the motions. Get out. The car. Open. The door. Wait.

Where’s… my laptop?

You know that kind of cold spike you get in your chest when you’re completely freaked out? it shot through the ground when I checked the trunk and there was no laptop case to be seen. In retrospect, I’m pretty proud of how well I kept my composure. Inside, I was freaked, outside you wouldn’t have been able to tell.

The next moment was like a scene out of The Ring…my phone rang.

“Excuse me, did you lose a laptop?”

Why, yes. Yes I did.

“Some man picked it up and brought it to the Veteran’s Shelter on Cass.”

She didn’t have to tell me twice. I was back in my car and bolting back to work.

When I got there admittedly it was a little disconcerting. There was a single street lamp illuminating the door and no one around except for some men hanging out near the facility. I knew I looked out of place down there and I could feel it was obvious. Upon entering the building I found a lotof people sitting around, some reading, some pushing tables around.

“Some Man” turned out to be gentleman I’ll only remember as “Willie”. He had found my laptop case sitting on the street, right where my rear tire used to be. He said when he picked it up it felt heavy so he took it to the shelter. That’s when he informed the lady that called me. THey had found a pay stub I left in there and looked me up.

What he did was immeasureably valuable. Not because the laptop is worth money or even because I had things like my engagement photos on there or work done by my students. He could have easiliy sold it to a pawn shop and I would have never seen it again.

I don’t know why he did it, he never said so. Maybe he opened it and saw the picture me and Christine at dinner, the wedding ring on the table and thought he couldn’t simply sell this thing. Whatever the reason, I’m ever grateful for it.

I gave him every dollar I had (which was only $30 at the time). I told him I’d take him out to lunch, it’s the least I could do. I wanted to talk to him more as much as I wanted to thank him for what he did.

But he never called me back. I tried twice, leaving my name and number but I couldn’t get in touch with him again. I suppose I could still go down there and try and find him directly, but I get the feeling that place was so transitory he’s probably not there and that’s probably not even his real name.

I had my digital camera with me so I took it out to take his photo. A lot of the people in the shelter started giving me funny looks when I took the lens cap off and I man, presumably in charge came up to me and said, “A lot of people don’t want their picture taken here”. I explained I wanted a picture of Willie and he said I’d need to take it outside, so I respected that.


This is all I have of Willie, besides my gratitude. I’ll always do my best not to judge anyone I see walking on Cass Avenue too quickly.

2 Comments so far

  1. baliad (unregistered) on September 27th, 2006 @ 10:31 pm

    great post… i live on Cass about 50 yards from the Veteran’s Shelter… Cass is a lot better than it used to be…

  2. Tom (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 3:46 pm

    I live on Cass too, but on the North side by the DPL. Great story.

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