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It was sunny and about 80 degrees F. in Torrance, Calif., and Ludwig Geier was wearing flip-flops as he walked into a branch of First California Bank on Sepulveda Boulevard one day last week to withdraw some cash from his account. Now, you might dismiss his choice of footwear as immaterial, but, in fact, it was critical to what happened next. On leaving, he stumbled and lost his grip on the envelope holding the money. Worse, a strong breeze was blowing, and he watched in horror as it wafted thousands of dollars worth of bills far out of his reach. "It was gone in no time," the machine shop owner recalled, and because of the flip-flops he couldn't give chase.
Some of them landed on the windshield of a motorist's car as he was pulling in to a nearby parking lot. He took the first available slot and set about picking up all that he could see. So did a dozen or so other people who became aware of what was going on, among them a few employees of the bank who rushed outside. But not to keep the cash for themselves. In the end, 96 percent of it was returned to its rightful owner. "You don't see that a lot, not [in these] days," a grateful Geier told reporters afterward. "They were very good: kids and blacks and whites – you name it. I'm going to put a prayer out for them. If I could get them together, I'd buy them dinner...."