Tuesday, November 5, 1996
Bad news for cynics: more good people

BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

OK. I give up. I surrender. Unconditionally. Your good news is better than my good news.

My little story was about a Montgomery woman whose lost camera was returned. It was really just a flimsy excuse to notice how nice people around here can be. (It's a radical point of view, but I'm sticking to it.)

Apparently, if you must lose something important and costly, a camera is the right item. Elizabeth Schar of East Walnut Hills left one at her son's Little League game. The folks who found it tried to track the owner through the manufacturer. They carried the camera around to ball diamonds all summer. They had the photos developed and showed them around. Somebody finally recognized the team uniforms. It took six months.

Really? Haven't these people heard of the time-honored tradition of finders keepers, losers weepers?

''The family had two young sons,'' Ms. Schar says. ''Those two boys will have a clear sense of what is right and wrong.''

Anonymous do-gooders

If you can't arrange to lose a camera, you might want to have a flat tire. Nine stories came my way about men who helped women change tires. Not one of these men would accept money for his time, and not all of these women were young and beautiful. (Note to these men: Thank you for understanding that we have the spirit to be liberated but not the muscle for the average lug nut.)

You'd be surprised to know how many do-gooders don't wait around to be thanked. ''Our daughter, 10, needs open heart surgery,'' wrote a young mother. ''She's scared.'' Her mom was answering some questions over breakfast at a restaurant.

They were finishing up when their waitress said the man at the next table had paid their tab and left. She asked the waitress if she knew the man. Nope.

''That gentleman was not facing us, so I have no idea who he was. All I know is that he was alone and doing paperwork.''

For the price of a Bob Evans breakfast, this guy is going to be in two prayers - those of the mom of a sick little girl and the waitress. Seems like a bargain to me.

A lot of people still walk on the wild side, rescuing strangers from parking tickets even though they might be arrested, fingerprinted and sent to jail for it.

''Waiting for my husband outside the library, I saw a poorly dressed man take a chance on the meter. As I saw a policemen coming up Walnut Street, I quickly put a quarter in the meter.

''I wasn't arrested,'' this criminal writes. ''A very nice policeman looked the other way.'' Nice cop. Smart, too.

Stupid human tricks

The camera I wrote about was lost after the owner put it on the roof of her car, forgot it and drove off. Just so she wouldn't feel self-conscious, I confessed that I once left my purse on the top of the car. There should be a support group for people like us.

At least 10 men and women came out of the closet on this one. My favorite was a woman whose husband (sometimes confessing about somebody else is very good for the soul) put a stack of papers on the roof while he was loading the dog in the back seat. He was on his way to the bank, and the papers were mostly checks - already endorsed.

''They blew all over town before he know they were missing,'' she says. ''And we got every one of them back.''

By now, my most faithful phone correspondent, Marty, must be sputtering in his Cheerios. He has never entrusted me with his last name, just complaints and his innermost thoughts. (His uppermost, innermost thought is that I'm a nitwit.)

Marty hates it when I write about ''small-town stuff.''

He also hates it when I write about urban matters. And politics. And education. And gardening.

He would like for me to take up another line of work. Such as testing bungee cords or dismantling live grenades.

After the camera column, he called to remind me that ''not all people are such goody-two-shoes.''

He forbids me to use his name in my ''dopey column'' ever again. If I were a good person, I would do as he asks.

Marty, Marty, Marty.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax to 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.