How I Lost My Wedding Ring At Rockaway Beach (And Still Had A Good Time)
I downed a quart of Gatorade, peeled off my sweaty running clothes, took a long, hot shower, and joined the revelry.
It was barely noon but already Abbi, Chris, Meg, Renee and Marlyn were getting their party on. And why not? The sun was breaking through the clouds, and the Atlantic Ocean was just a few feet away.
We convoyed down to the beach loaded to bear: a cooler full of ice, beer and pre-mixed vodka cocktails, chips and salsa, sliced fruit, folding chairs, towels, bocce balls, a frisbee, and a basketball. We set up shop just shy of the 77th Street jetty, unfurled our towels, unfolded our chairs, and settled in. I took off my baseball cap and sunglasses, placed my wedding ring on my lap, and began applying SPF 45 to my shiny dome.
Seconds later, I spotted a tiny, blue children’s ball — the kind one buys for ninety-nine cents at the grocery store — out of the corner of my eye, and stood to grab it. Four paces later, I tapped my ring finger with my thumb as I have a thousand times before. And it hit me.
Oh shit. My wedding ring.
I didn’t say a word, but quickly pivoted in place, and retraced my steps. I ran my fingers through the sand, then began raking it with both hands. Nothing.
“Guys,” I said, “we have a problem.”
Soon enough, all eight of us were on our knees, desperately clawing at the sand. The others offered supportive words and empathy. I was silent and nauseous and silent. Minutes passed. Then twenty. Nothing. Finally, Abbi called it.
“I think it’s time to find someone with a metal detector.”
I walked to Renee and Marlyn’s apartment alone, my stomach twisted in knots. Life slowed to a crawl: the traffic, the elevator, my brain. Upstairs, I began Googling like mad: Rockaway Beach Police, Rockaway Beach Lifeguard, Rockaway Beach Metal Detectors, Rockaway Beach Hobby Shop, Rockaway Beach Bike Shop, Rockaway Beach Bait Shop, Rockaway Beach, Rockaway Beach, Rockaway Beach…
Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing and nothing. No one know a thing. No one knew anyone else. No one had any idea.
An hour passed, then two.
Finally, Abbi called me.
“Honey, come back to the beach,” she said. “It’s been two hours. You’ve done your best. We’ll get another one. It’s ok.”
I’d sweat clear through my t-shirt. I was sick, angry, frustrated, endlessly beating myself up. How could I be so stupid? How could this happen after such an amazing morning? I ran twenty miles this morning, for God’s sake! Why!?!
I don’t need to remind you (but will) that my parents divorced when I was ten-years-old. I waited until I was thirty-five to get married. Sure, the ring was just a hunk of platinum, but that wasn’t the point. It’s a symbol. I wanted to wear this ring forever.
“No,” I said. “I’ll call you in a few minutes.”
I changed out of my swim trunks and back into my running clothes, laced up my Asics and headed back onto the street. I raced toward toward the boardwalk, my eyes focused like lasers on the beach. I scanned for over forty blocks, growing more and more hopeless with each passing minute. And then I spotted him: a distant, hunched figure slouching his way northward along the edge of the water. I bound through the deep sand waving my arms.
“My name is Benjamin Wagner,” I said, peeling my sunglasses from my face. “I jogged here from Hell’s Kitchen this morning and met my wife and some friends. Like a knucklehead, I dropped my wedding ring in the sand a few blocks back and wonder if there’s anyway I could convince you to help me find it.”
“Oh, I dunno,” he said. “I’m on a mission.”
He was in his late sixties, gray hair, weathered skin. He carried a metal detector in his right hand, a seive in his right. He wore an orange baseball cap, blue-mirrored sunglasses, fingerless gloves, and neoprene booties.
“Sir, you don’t understand,” I said, digging deep for empathy. “This is my wedding band it’s really important.”
“Oh, I dunno,” he repeated. I’m on a mission. But if you write down your phone number, though, I’ll give you a call tomorrow.”
“Is there any chance I could get you down there today, like, in the next two hours?”
“No, no,” he said. “I’m on a mission. But if you write down your phone number…”
“Well, I ran here,” I said. “I don’t have a pen handy. May I program it into your cell phone?”
“Oh, I dunno how to use this thing. Do you have a pen?”
“I’ll find one,” I said, jogging away. “I’ll be right back!”
I found a Rite Aid a few blocks away. I purchased an indelible marker and mini-notebook with cash back, sprinted for the beach, and carefully wrote my name and number on a piece of paper.
“Sir, I have a number of dollars bills fresh from the ATM that I’m prepared to give you if you’ll help me find my wedding ring right now.”
“What’s your name?”
“Sig,” I said shaking his hand, “My name is Benjamin Wagner.”
I raced forty blocks back to 77th Street, leaping over pails, castles, and scribbles in the sand. Meg was reading in her chair. Abbi waved from the surf. Seconds later, Sig appeared on the boardwalk. I ran to meet him, then walked him back to our spread.
“Show me the money, will ya’?”
“Sig,” I said, crestfallen, “My handshake is my bond.”
He pulled on his headphones, and began sweeping his metal detector above the waves of sand. Seconds passed. Minutes. It felt like an eternity as Abbi, Meg and I stood by staring. He paused, dove his seive into the sand, and sifted. Nothing. He dug again, sifted, then reached into the shovel as I stood breathless. When he removed his hand, my wedding band was around his pointer finger. My head fell, relieved, as Abbi bound toward him with a kiss on his cheek. We shook again. Sig walked away. Meg left us alone. I cried with relief.
“I want to wear this ring forever,” I said.
Meg came back, smiling. Chris and Renee trudged through the sand from the handball court. Marlyn brought lunch. Abbi poured me a drink. I began to laugh again, and have a good time.