Friday, February 18, 2011

Lost property JFK

Welcome to New York.

Here follows a tale, and after that we'll be back to terraces and food and Brooklyn, and leftover stories from South Africa.

It wasn't the happiest of arrivals. A promising beginning with a friendly immigrations officer who told us that Puerto Rican pork ribs are the best food in the world, but after 23 hours in the air (9 from Cape Town-Dubai, 14 from Dubai-JFK, on the excellent Emirates), and 42 without sleep, despite comfortable seats, we unpacked our yellow cab on Atlantic Avenue to check into our hotel for the night, and found...a missing computer bag. Mine. Also containing my passports, South African ID and a substantial amount of cash.

And a packet of lamb's lettuce seeds.

Freak. Out.

We asked the cab to wait and hauled our luggage to the NU Hotel at 85 Smith, where we would spend the night while Dinah, cat sitter deluxe,  got her last night of rest in our apartment, before flying home to Queensland in the morning. Then Vince headed straight back to the airport to the dispatch area where we'd probably left the bag in the luggage cart. I hopped up and down in the lobby waiting to sign in and charge my dead phone.

Who do you start calling when your life seems to have been lost at one of the biggest and busiest airports in the world?

In New York, 311.

Not that that helped much. I got a generic number for JFK, and then that gave me the number for lost property. All you can do is leave a message describing what was lost, and where. If it is found, they will call you.

If you're interested, it is 718-244-4225.

I thought, I've got to do better. I need the number for the dispatch guy at the cab stand. He must have found the bag. But first I had to call Melanie and Dinah, to cancel our dinner in 20 minutes at Al di La, where I had wanted to thank them for their kindness and help avec le chat noir while we had been gone. I found Melanie in bed in the Bronx with a virus. I found Dinah on Union Street heading for the restaurant. She did an about-face and headed for the hotel.

I said an emergency prayer. 

Vince called. The police at JFK had just called him, en route in the cab. They had a computer bag. They found his number as next of kin in a passport. He and the taxi turned around to fetch my driver's license (thankfully in my wallet, separate from the rest) so that he could claim it. They would not say how much money was in the bag. He returned, headed out again, this time on the A train, to save cash. The taxi driver had refused a tip on his second run to the airport.

Before Vince left he reminded me to check the bed for bed bugs*. I burst into tears.

[* New York has been besieged by bed bugs - found even at the Waldorf Astoria - and we booked into NU after I'd found a bed bug alert for another hotel.]

Three hours later Vince returned again, empty handed. The lost property could not be accessed after hours, despite the website stating that it was open 24 hours a day.

In the meantime Dinah had arrived bearing cold prosecco. We had never met before, and she must have been non-plussed at the sight of this jet lagged, stressed out, sleep-deprived person. I wolfed my first glass of bubbly. She stayed till Vince returned, and put up with my yawns and pink rabbit eyes. Not exactly the thank you I had intended. She is quite a lady.

In the morning, we walked our luggage back to the spotless apartment, slimmed down cat and vase of fresh tulips (I swear if I'd found that kid in the apartment on this day I would've ripped his head off), and headed straight back out to JFK. The A train, then the Air Train which was a free shuttle just that day, due to some maintenance work on the tracks, saving us $20, and yet another shuttle, and were dropped at building #269 on a service road. Walked in, showed my driver's license to Officer Velasquez, signed his book, and was handed my bag. Laptop, two passports, SA ID, and all the cash, which had been counted.

I learned that Marsha Dertan, a supervisor at taxi dispatch, had handed it in. I do not know who gave it to her. I took her number and left a message for her earlier today with a colleague who asked, You got everything? suspiciously. I hope that she will call, so that I can thank her properly, as well as the person who found it in the first place.

There were several opportunities for things to turn pear-shaped here, and not one was taken. 

We are back in the big, bad city.


  1. Welcome home!!!

    I too am so sleep deprived from a busy Valentines week at work your story has left me in a hopeless puddle of tears.

    Hope you rest well, I'll buck up and get back to work.

    Glad to have you back on this continent.

    xo Jane

  2. err, welcome back?

    Like some higher power shouted "Now Dance!" bang bang.


  3. =:o Truly amazing. So happy that you received everything back. Hope you have a restful weekend!

  4. Like Jane, I'm TTT - typing thru tears. There sure are a lot of good folks in this world. Glad you happened upon them.

    Welcome home. Hope you get to enjoy a day of nice weather before the snow gods reappear.

  5. Wow! We lost a $30 Timex watch at a security checkpoint in Newark Airport last June and nobody turned it in. You were very very fortunate.

    Do you upload pictures and/or anything else to any network site? I am starting to think I really have to do something with at least photos.

    Welcome home!

  6. Thanks, Ms Jane. For the empathy-tears, too :-)

    Howdy, Frank! It's good to be back. Breathing.

    Hi Monica, thank you - yep, quite amazing.

    webb - thank you, and warm today!

    Pam - yeah, that's what one expects, I guess.

    I have my pictures backed up on an external hard drive, as losing them would be very bad, and also because I am running out of space on my laptop. But the last two months are just on the computer. A few files for publications are in Drop Box. One valuable and long document is in Google Docs as back up. But a helluva lot is just here, on the laptop I'm typing on, which is old and creaky. Must fix.

  7. I had to read the end first, hoping against hope it all turned out ok. Thank goodness. Welcome back, but what stress you (and your readers) endured. I am always pleased when good people here do good things for other good people.

  8. All hail JFK police, cab drivers, Dinah, prosecco, Marsha Dertan & person unknown for the happy ending to this tale - not such a big, bad city after all.

    Welcome home.

  9. My goodness! Welcome back. Whew :)

  10. Sometimes (and I'm so glad this was one of those times) people do what they should do and faith in humanity is restored. It's a sign that NYC wants you to stay.

  11. Ag, vader. Ek is so bly als het uiteindelik goed uitgewerk, though. Lekker rus xx

  12. sjoe meisie...
    glad you're back home in one piece. after all that - hope those seeds grow big and woolly.

  13. The suspense almost killed me. I'm so glad you found everything. I had a similar experience in Vienna, Austria, in 1996. Hope to see you here in Koringberg someday! Regards, Peter

  14. That's awesome you got everything back. What a relief!

  15. Yet another example of why NYC is the best city in the world. Simply the best. Very nice story with a great outcome!


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