McKinley Neuser, 21, had just arrived at her job as a waitress at The Contented Sole in Bristol on Monday, July 30, when she realized that her purse, with about $600 in cash, had disappeared from the basket of her electric scooter.
Neuser, a student at The University of Arizona who has summered in Bristol her entire life, had gone to C.E. Reilly & Son for a sandwich and fruit before work.
She placed her purse in the grocery bag and the grocery bag on the scooter.
Around 10:45 a.m., Neuser arrived at work and noticed the purse was missing.
“Obviously I noticed right away,” she said. “The first thing I did, I didn’t even come inside, I just went back right up the road right away, looking for it.”
The small gray purse, which doubles as Neuser’s knitting bag and is adorned with pins, contained about $600 in cash, Neuser’s IDs, credit and debit cards, her Social Security number and bank account information, and paychecks for hundreds of dollars, which had already been electronically deposited.
“I knew how much money was in there – my whole life,” she said. Neuser would also need her identification to take a plane back to Arizona in a couple weeks.
“That’s a whole month of rent for me,” Neuser said of the $600 in the missing bag. She had the cash because she was unable to deposit it over the weekend.
Neuser said she knows not to carry around her bank account information and Social Security card, but had them with her because she had just set up an account with Damariscotta Bank & Trust and wasn’t sure if she would need her Social Security number for employment paperwork.
This is Neuser’s second summer working at The Contented Sole, the restaurant on Pemaquid Harbor at the Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site.
Between the time Neuser dropped her purse and went back to look for it, Bristol resident Carl E. Reilly Sr., whose family owns the C.E Reilly & Son grocery store Neuser had just visited, was driving on Snowball Hill Road and noticed what looked like clothing in the roadway.
“It was right in my travel lane. I almost went by because I thought it was just a piece of clothing. I thought it was a shirt or something,” Reilly said.
Reilly stopped and picked up the bag. Upon realizing what it was, he brought it home to figure out who it belonged to.
“I realized that it was going to be quite valuable to the person that owned it,” he said.
When Neuser couldn’t find the bag upon retracing her steps, she returned to work. Her mother and grandmother, who were returning to Arizona the next day, looked for the bag while she was at work.
“I was kind of off all day,” Neuser said of waitressing while thinking about her missing purse. “I was spacing out. I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’”
In the meantime, Reilly was trying to figure out how to contact the bag’s owner.
“It took me a while to get all the pieces together,” Reilly said. “I was just playing detective a little bit.”
Reilly knew the bag’s owner worked at The Contented Sole from the paychecks, so around 2:30 p.m. he visited the restaurant.
When he met Neuser, he first asked her a series of questions to see if she was the bag’s rightful owner. When it turned out she was, he returned the purse and all of its contents.
“It was just relief, I couldn’t believe it,” Neuser said. “I assumed it was gone.”
“I feel like that wouldn’t happen everywhere, that you would get not only your wallet back but all the money that was in it,” she said. “It’s just a really nice community.”