Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lost and found

This is a good news story. And a déjà vu story.

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I am currently visiting with my sister and her boyfriend in Vancouver. (Another tangent before beginning Filipino language classes next month.) They live in the notorious Downtown Eastside. The one made famous for sky high rates of illicit drug use, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, drug-related crime, and more recently, Insite (the supervised safe injection site). My recent experience belies such a reputation.

A lovely stroll through Granville Island: toy stores, flower stalls, produce stands, hat shops, quirky broom stores, Canada geese families. We stuff mangoes, strawberries, grapes, sheep feta, plantain, apples and pears into my shoulder bag and Steve's satchel. I slip my wallet into my jacket pocket.

The drizzle turns to rain. Out come the umbrellas. We speed home, trying to stay dry(ish). Dash across Terminal Road (timing the traffic lights is tricky). Make it home only mildly drenched.

I go to grab my wallet as we head out - except that I can't find it. Anywhere. We search inside and out. It is definitely gone. While personal security is not really an issue in the neighbourhood, a dropped wallet is unlikely to be returned.

The wallet would have been a pretty disappointing find for whomever picked it up as it contained less than two dollars cash. For me, the loss was more of a sentimental loss and a practical nuisance. The former because my one-of-a-kind wallet was made from recycled juice tetrapaks in the Philippines. The latter because acquiring a new driver licence, student card and health card is a tedious process (and I was nervous about boarding a plane without government-issued ID).

And thus begins the card cancelling process. My banks are surprisingly apologetic and sympathetic. In the future, if I ever want to speak with very helpful bank employees I will call the lost card hotline.

The phone rings, interrupting dinner. It's Dad. My sister jots down a phone number.

I call the security desk at the Tinseltown Mall. They had my wallet. A SkyTrain rider had spotted it at the Terminal Road intersection near the train station, and had brought it to the mall security. Security had contacted one of my banks, who then had contacted my parents.

Later that evening, after a riveting panel discussion on "Health, harm reduction and the law: the Insite case" at Simon Fraser University, we retrieve the wallet. Everything's there.

A sigh of relief and a smile. Not so much for finding the wallet, but for the evidence that people care.

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I have no idea of the identity of the good Samaritan who turned in the wallet, or that of the other security and bank people who played a role in tracking me down. To you, I am grateful. Thank you for your honesty, kindness and time.

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There's a déjà vu element to the story. A decade or so ago, I left my wallet in the back seat of a New York City taxi. And got it back. Fully intact.

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