It’s In the Bag: My Adventure with a Washed-Up Treasure in East Hampton

Purse washed up on the beach
Photo: iStock

Walking my dog on Main Beach in East Hampton last Monday afternoon, I looked down to discover a small, flat, leather zippered purse sitting on the sand just above the surf line. It appeared that the sea might have washed it in.

I picked it up. It was about two by three inches. One side of it had the Coca-Cola logo, very worn with the color red mostly worn off. Made me think it might have been very old. The purse was thin, as if very little, if anything, was in it. But the zipper, with effort, worked.

Inside was a credit card, a New York City Subway card and a pure white card with the name of a woman, a photo of that woman—she looked to be about 30—and the logo of a TV network on it. This card, I believe, would give this woman access to a tall building in Manhattan.

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I will return this, I thought. If I can.

For privacy sake, I will not reveal the name of the woman or the network. But I will say it was either Fox, CBS, NBC, ABC, HBO or ESPN. The name on the credit card gave just the first and last name of this woman. And it was a common name. Let’s call her Nancy Smith. Might be hard to locate a Nancy Smith from that network who came to the Hamptons. But then I saw that the ID card for the big building gave a middle initial, too. Nancy A. Smith. This could work.

Back home, I googled Nancy A. Smith and the network. What came up was a press release about a Nancy A. Smith who last October had been promoted to vice president. There was a picture of her. Yup. It was her.

So I called the network. This was not easy to do. There are no phone books around anymore. And online there were lots of phone numbers for customers to call for service or info, but precious little for corporate executives who might have dropped a purse in the sand.

Eventually, I tried a number.

Hello? This is (network).

May I speak to Nancy A. Smith?

One moment. (Long pause) We have nobody by that name working here.

She just got promoted to vice president.

We’re in Pennsylvania. You probably want to reach the corporate office in New York.

Do you have that number?

I don’t.

I decided to give up trying to get that phone number. I’d try Google. At the network website, I was able to locate vice presidents by division. And there she was, among three others, each accompanied by a picture and a short bio. The other three had email addresses, but Nancy A. Smith did not. So I decided to email all three of the other ones, and also Nancy.Smith, which seemed to be the style the network required for employees email addresses.

I wrote a short note to all four: “Found this on the beach in East Hampton. Happy to send it back to Nancy Smith. Let her know.”

The other three emails went through, the one to Nancy.Smith bounced.

Uh oh.

Here she was, promoted in October, and now gone. She’d been aboard a ship that sank, and now the sea had just washed up this purse. My efforts would soon lead to the investigators of this terrible tragedy. They’d come see me. I’d hand over the purse to them. And I should have to make an appearance at a trial if there were one. What did I know and when did I know it? Poor woman. And all there is of her is this purse, a credit card, a subway card and an ID card at a network.

I decided to redouble my efforts to find a network phone number. Ultimately, I succeeded and was able to be transferred to her desk, where, thankfully, I got to leave her a phone message. She was alive!

I got a phone call back within the hour. She had not known she had lost this purse. No, she had not been on a boat. She was walking her dog on Sunday.

“I figured I left it somewhere and it would turn up,” she told me.

“So the credit card was still good?”


“I could have gone on a shopping spree. Cleaned you out.”


I identified myself. She said she loved Dan’s Papers.

Two days later, I put the purse in an envelope with her name on it and gave it to the doorman at our apartment building in the city. The next day, I received from our doorman a white plastic goody bag with her business card in it, a water bottle, a ballpoint pen and a baseball cap, all with the network logo on them.

A thank you. All’s well that ends well.

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