The sign hanging in Asia and Imran Khan’s new dry cleaning business, Snow White, at Chicago and Humphrey avenues reads, “Please check the pockets.” But Anthony Hardman, who’s recovering from surgery, was loaded down with far too many suits, pants and shirts to go through them all as he dropped them on the counter in front of Asia the last Saturday in January.
Not that he missed the $900 left stuffed in one of his suit pants pockets. In fact, he’d forgotten all about it.
“It was among some of my suits I haven’t worn in a month, he said.
Imran, who works in the back dry-cleaning and pressing suits, goes through the pockets of every item, looking for forgotten pens, lipstick, and prescription medicine. He found the wad of cash and showed it to his wife. After waiting 30 minutes, fully expecting a panicked Hardman to come rushing back in, they telephoned him.
Hardman, who operates Reliable Funeral Services at 5834 W Division St. in Austin, didn’t know what to make of Asia Khan’s call.
“I didn’t have a clue. I was absolutely unaware of it,” he confessed. “She just said, ‘We found something in one of your coat pockets.'”
Hardman laughed as he recalled some of the thoughts that went through his head at the time.
“I’m thinking, what did they find, something illegal?” he said, laughing again. “I told my driver, if you see the Oak Park police in the parking lot, keep going.”
There were no police when he arrived, though, just the Khans standing behind the counter, holding up a wad of bills.
The money was the Khans for the keeping, had they just kept silent.
“It could have been like Christmas in January,” Hardman admitted.
Being Muslim, the Khans don’t celebrate Christmas, but they do celebrate honesty. For the two Pakistani immigrants, keeping the cash was not an option. Period.
The couple could be excused, perhaps, for thinking they might have had some right to keep the money for themselves. Around eight years ago, when they first came to America and were preparing to be married, Asia left her purse, containing $1,000, on a counter in a store while shopping. When she returned a short while later, the owner told her he hadn’t seen the purse.
A grateful Hardman peeled off several bills and offered it as thanks to the Khans, who declined the reward. “They didn’t want to accept anything,” he said.
Hardman looked down at the Khan’s 8-year-old son, Fayaz, who was playing at a table behind the counter.
“I asked him what he liked to do, and he said he liked to play with clay.” So Hardman offered the boy $50 to buy art supplies for school.
“He froze stiff as a statue and looked at his dad,” recalled Hardman, laughing again.
This time the Khans relented. “I think that’s more than enough for $900,” Asia said.
The Khans said their response required no hard thought. “Honesty is not the kind of thing you adopt. It’s in you; you’re born with it,” she said. “I learned from my mom and my brothers and sister just to be honest.
Hardman, though, still thinks $50 isn’t enough thanks. If he has anything to say about it, a lot more people will know about the Khans, and not solely for their ethics. “If I haven’t told 50 people, I haven’t told anyone,” he said. “Anyone who’ll listen, I’ll tell them.”
There are still plenty of empty hooks on the dozen or so looping racks used to store the dry cleaning orders, however. More business is one reward Asia Khan said she’ll gladly accept.
“We do good quality work. Bring your clothes in,” she said. “We’re doing good. Slowly, gradually, people hear about us.”