As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

Who says Bostonians have no public heart?

parkingI had a meeting in a big office building next to the Prudential Center shopping center in Boston yesterday. I parked in the massive– and massively expensive–underground garage.  I told myself to be careful with the ticket, and stuck it in my pocket with my phone.  Then I got a phone call, and who knows where I jettisoned that ticket when I pulled the phone out.

I realized it was missing three hours later.

I went to the shopping center info desk with my time stamped visitor’s badge, ready to plead my case.  I REALLY did not want to pay some crazy overnight parking charge. (I’ve written previous posts here and here on the lengths I go to not spend money.)

Here’s the exchange:

Me: “I was just over at 111 Huntington for a meeting and I lost my parking ticket.  Here’s my visitor’s pass…the guard marked the time.  Can you issue me a new parking ticket?”

Twenty something dude, with long hair, employee: “You say you lost your parking ticket?”

Me: “Yes.”

Employee: “About what time?”

Me: “Hmmm.  I got in the building at 12:05.  It was a long walk in the garage, so say 11:45.”

Employee: “Here you go.”
The laconic seeming guy then handed me my dropped parking ticket!  I know because I wrote the number of my parking space on it (a necessity–I could get lost in my own house).  Some nice person plucked it off the terrazzo floor, in the middle of masses of milling shoppers, and walked over and turned it in!

I told this to a bunch of Irish friends last night.  They were delighted.  “Only in America” they said.   I loved living in Ireland but I realized I would never have even set out on this quest in Dublin.  I just had a hunch it would work out in Boston.

No massively insightful conclusion here.  I just like sharing these wide-eyed kind of stories because they might inspire people to other acts of kindness.  In fact, I think I’ll submit this to the “Tales from the City” editor of the Boston Sunday Globe magazine.   They  do such a great job highlighting the heartwarming, the quirky, and the humanity of our city.

Update, August 2, 2009. The Globe actually published this story, here.

6 Responses to “Who says Bostonians have no public heart?”

  1. Susie Davis

    This is a delight of a story! I only have been to Boston briefly, but I did live in the suburbs of Chicago all my life (until I moved to NC 8 yrs ago). Your experience reminded me of when my Dad AND my brother, on two separate occasions, left their briefcases on top of the car before they got in. Taking off down the nauseatingly windy, tight circular indoor lot across from the Time Life Building, they left their bagged lives (ages ago, so no phones or blackberrys) homeless somewhere in that garage. Upon arriving in our garage, their routine of getting home was disrupted by that “Oh, NO!!” moment. Within minutes of them arriving home, during these 2 separate occasions, our home got a phone call from the “finder” of the cases. Relief cannot describe those moments. We ought to be grateful for these times. People simply being honest. Life is good. The “finder” was offered their respective rewards, but would not take them. These are the “little”heros in our lives. Thanks for the post creating these memories!

    • julespieri

      Susie–I love your story too. There has to be some deep-seated psychology to this….about how knowing these stories creates more chances for them. Actually I think it is not all that complex. You just want to feel part of a bigger thing. The whole George Bush kinder gentler society, I guess.

      I remember a speaker came to my son’s high school to speak about his time in Rwanda…this guy had single-handedly saved many many people during the horrific genocide. He was surprisingly unjudgmental, and had to work with both sides of the conflict. He mainly talked about personal responsibility and doing the right thing. The school staff reported that that single event of his visit created a much more civil school culture…at least for a time. Less trash, vandalism, and people holding doors and being more patient. Wow!

  2. Susie Davis

    Thank you Jules! That’s really wonderful.. especially in a high school!!! I almost started to cry.. I’m a total sap. hey.. we ought to get buttons made that say,
    “I like being nice” and distribute them to middle schools since that’s where so much of the cruelty starts.

  3. Sara

    Hi Jules,
    Great story!
    I never got the “Bostonians are an uncivilized lot” talk. Crazy drivers, yes, stiff upper lippers, yes, but uncivilized? NO!
    Of course, I was born in Boston, never lived anywhere else, so I may be a bit biased.
    But, its always nice to hear about people being kind for kindness sake.
    So, what’s up with the Irish?

    • julespieri

      Sara–I don’t have a simple answer to your “What’s up with the Irish?” question. I wrote a whole newspaper article about it when I was living there…the discrepancy between the people I knew on a personal basis (their warmth and humanity) and the behavior I saw on the street in Dublin (impersonal and very reserved). I keep promising to post more of my “old” stuff I wrote when I was living there. I will! People seem to like it when I do.


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