An Oregon motorist’s holiday vacation was nearly ruined until Santa’s helpers stepped in to set things right. As thousands of travelers take to the road for family gatherings, Janice Conover found herself in the middle of a potential nightmare. At first, things seemed to go well: Conover stopped at the I-5 Baldock rest area near Wilsonville to use the restroom and stretch her legs. She then jumped in her car and was soon on the highway and heading towards Idaho.
Twenty minutes later, Oregon Travel Experience’s rest area administrative staff completed their site rounds and prepared to return to Salem. As Rest Area Administrator Heather Swanson freshened up, she noticed a wallet sitting on a restroom rail. Swanson and OTE Operations Director Jason Nash opened the wallet at OTE’s onsite supervisor office to see if they could find any information that might lead to its owner.
“It was pretty clear to me that this very large wallet contained someone’s entire life,” said Swanson. “Inside were bank cards, health and medical identification, and a significant amount of cash.”
Swanson contacted Conover’s insurance provider to see if they could locate the unsuspecting driver. The company rang Conover’s mobile just as she merged onto I-205. Nash and Swanson arranged to meet Conover in Oregon City at a shopping mall.
“I am so happy we caught her before she needed gas or was hundreds of miles down the road,” said Swanson. “Janice was so overcome with emotion, she sat in her vehicle with her face in her hands before she could continue her trip.”
One of OTE’s primary missions is to ensure traveler safety and convenience, so Swanson is somewhat reluctant to take credit for the good deed. She is however, supremely grateful that an OTE employee discovered the wallet before it disappeared forever. And Conover? She offered Santa’s “helper” a reward. Swanson told Conover that as a public employee—gratitude was the only reward necessary.