Friday, November 13, 2009

Bus Spotting and Chasing - The Innovative Educator's Amazing Race to Find Her Lost Pocket Book

While on a rare shopping trip (I do most of my buying online) my friend Tonya asked what I thought about a shirt she was considering purchasing. I was about to answer when suddenly, I felt something seemed off. We were 15 minutes into our shopping excursion and I noticed my pocketbook was not on my shoulder. Ummm...I said calmly, "Tonya, my pocket book is gone...with all my money, phone, credit cards, house keys - in general my life. What do we do?" "When did you see it last?" she asked. I told her I knew I had it on the bus we took to get to the store because I used my Metrocard. I looked at each shoulder one more time and did a spin around the store. It wasn't there. I was thinking about what they say when you are caught in the undercurrent in the ocean. Stay calm. Don't panic. Follow the current.

Tonya was my current and without skipping a beat she said, "Let's get a taxi and try to find the bus that we took." I followed her lead and said, "Okay! Let's go!" That was the extent of our plan.

We jumped into a taxi and she said to the driver, "This may seem a little weird, but...follow the 14D bus route. We have a bus to catch!" Of course none of us knew the route beyond where we were -- We are Westside girls venturing to the Eastside. Tonya immediately called her boyfriend to try to determine which street the bus took. He looked it up online and we had our route.

Within minutes, our plan became, this: As soon as we find the first bus, I'd hop off and ask the bus driver to radio in the lost pocketbook. She would stay in the taxi trying to find the bus we had got off about 20 minutes ago.

We spotted our first bus. I jumped out of the taxi and onto the bus. Tonya would continue in the taxi trying to track down the bus. I explained my saga to the driver and asked him to radio in my lost item. The bus driver was clearly feeling more disturbed that I was delaying his route then helpful. "Can you call this in, please???" "No," he said. "We can't do that." He rattled off a number for me to call trying to get me off the bus. I explained I had no phone, no pen, no paper, and sadly a memory that probably couldn't hold those ten digits in it for very long. I asked for a little more help please. He quickly scribbled a number on a piece of paper and scooted me off the bus.

Following the not-too-well thought-out plan I ran to the next bus stop, but after I saw a bus pass on the other side of the street, I realized I should go there and try to catch the driver toward the end of his route. Maybe I'd be able to find my bus.

Of course I had no way to tell Tonya this, but I just hoped it would work out or that she might figure out what I was thinking. What I did have with me was a laptop with an almost dead battery. I thought maybe I could get an email out to some people who would see it who could call Tonya and tell her where I was. At the same time I knew I would be hopping on buses trying to find my pocket book. So, I held my laptop (think waitress) in one hand and logged in with my other, while I kept an eye out for a bus. I had 17 minutes of battery power.

The first bus came before I could start typing an email. I couldn't close my laptop, because it would take to long to reboot and probably die. I told the driver my saga and he lets me take a look around even though I don't think it's the bus. I find nothing and get off the bus.

While watching out for the next bus, I go back to my laptop. There is 14 minutes of battery power left and I typed an email out to two friends, my boyfriend, and Tonya with the subject line "Help!"
left purse on bus. no money. no keys corner of East 10th and ave c
stopping all busses.

no blackberry only laptop with almost-dead battery.
Then I jump on the next bus. Not my driver, but he says he'll radio in my lost item for me. I'm not sure if he did, but I was thankful he offered and a bit disturbed at the earlier driver who told me that was not possible. I get off the bus about to go back to the laptop. When I look up and another bus had come right away. My laptop and I get on the bus and I tell this driver my saga.
I ask him if my lost pocket book was radioed in and he said he hadn't heard anything. Hrumph! Was that other driver just trying to get me off the bus or maybe he just hadn't had a chance to radio it in. I wonder. This driver offers to drive me to dispatch, which he says is at 14th/9th. He said maybe someone turned it in there, or maybe someone brought it to the main depot in the West 40s. I asked if there was a definite system of turning lost items into dispatch or the depot. He said, he didn't know, but if he he found something that's what he'd do. I decide to stay on the corner because at this point I'm not sure if Tonya is still looking for me, and I think maybe my boyfriend got the email and he may be coming so I didn't want to disappear. I have a plan B to ask a subsequent driver to take me to dispatch if Tonya or my beau don't find me.

Even though I felt relatively confident I would be collected, I was a bit concerned as I realized it was going to get dark soon. I started to occur to me that I was on a corner in the East Village without any money, credit card, phone, house key...nothing and this could be bad if Tonya can't find me and she is not reached. Still holding my laptop waitress-style and with 8 minutes of battery, I send out my next email, entitled, "Help 2." I write:

purse gone. I'm staying at ave C and East 10th for a bit.
like 30/40 mins looking for my bus. then 9th/14th to dispatch.

can someone call 2127125012 and report this. gray purse. blackberry. credit card. drivers license. whole nine yards.

Can someone call tonya's beau. jen has the number and let her know i'm on 11th and ave c. She may be able to get me.

oy vey!

I check my email and I receive two messages. 6 minutes of battery left. My boyfriend replies:
I'm heading in now to get u.

Phew! I think. I won't be left on the corner all night.

The second was from my friend Mel who writes that she is at her office and if there is a problem I should just come there. Double phew-at least I know I have a plan to get home safely if need be. 5 minutes of battery power left and I realize I need to write down the address and directions to Melanie's office since my computer will be dead and I won't remember. I ask a few people on the street and find someone who lets me borrow her pen. I quickly copy the address and directions on the back of my hand as another bus pulls up.

It's a woman, and I know my driver was a man. I ask her if drivers ever switch between the start of the route and here. She says they don't and I get off the bus and check my laptop again with 2 minutes of battery left. I see a "New mail" message from Tonya responding to my help email. It says:

"Got it Lisa! I'm on 14th St now walking to Mel's office."

I quickly shoot an email to my beau saying:

purse found. i think. crazy adventure. going to mel"s
office union sq east

And with that, battery dead and my computer shuts itself off.

I close the laptop hoping "Got it!" meant Tonya got my pocket book and not my email message. I decide she meant she got my pocket book and literally skip down the street in my high heel boots that certainly were NOT made for walking. I had about a 30-minute walk ahead and tired feet, but I was happy as could be. I couldn't believe my purse likely was found and I didn't yet know how.

I got to Mel's office around sundown and Tonya explains how she and her taxi driver chased buses all along the route and at about bus #5 she actually found our bus driver. When she asked, he told her to get on the bus so not to delay the route and asked her to describe it. Gulp. She realized she never asked what it looked like and she had yet to receive my email at this point describing the pocket book. A lady on the bus shares with Tonya that someone had turned in a missing item and perhaps it was what she was looking for. She asks the driver if she could take a look as she was sure there would be something with my name in the pocket book. She found ID and was off the bus with the goods-elated, and skipped to Melanie's office too.

I have no idea how I walked off the bus without my pocket book. I had never lost it before in my life, but somehow I just did. I felt fortunate that so many circumstances and wonderful friends and strangers jumped into action to enable this story to have a happy ending, but I couldn't help but think...couldn't there be a system in place to help people who lose items? This could be a win-win-win all around. The unfortunate soul would have an answer, the driver's time wouldn't be wasted, and people would know how to help. This could be free and easy if a system was determined. That will be the topic of another post.

Stay tuned...

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