Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Lost and found

I was a Major Idiot on Friday.

I lost my wallet. Actually, I left it on the train. That would be the start of the idiot part of the story.

I sit upstairs in the train car, in an area where the seats flip up like the kind you’d find in a movie theater. My wallet has a clear window that holds my monthly train pass. I keep it out for when Sir Richard the train conductor comes through, then I usually sit it on the corner of my laptop or tuck it under my leg.

Friday I did the tuck thing and promptly forgot about it. Idiot.

At lunch I needed money for a cab and that’s when I realized I’d left it behind.
I called Union Station right away. I quickly got through to the Lost and Found voice mail and was told to leave a message.

Great. This was just the beginning of my phone frustrations.

Next, I called my credit card companies to report them lost. Amex was first:

“Please enter your account number.”

Hmm. What do I do now?

I hit zero, hoping to get connected to a person right away.

“We did not recognize that account number. Please enter your account number.”

I hit zero again.

“We did not recognize that account number. Please enter your account number.”


Finally I hit zero twice, and by some miracle of the universe I am transferred to a live person.

I gotta think that lost cards are one of the main reasons people call credit card companies – with everything on-line, why would you need to call except for that?

I do my best to not re-direct my frustration with myself towards the person on the other end of the phone. Thankfully I am helped and off the phone within five minutes. My new cards (one personal and one corporate) will arrive overnight Saturday morning.

Citibank is next.

Same thing: “Please enter your account number.”

Amazing. I try the zero zero thing again and it works, but my frustration burns just a little brighter.

From her accent, I can tell this woman is sitting on the other side of the world in India. I am halfway through giving her my information (social security, mother’s maiden) when the call is disconnected.

I’m so glad Citibank is saving money by off-shoring their customer service so that I can get disconnected after giving out my extremely personal information to someone halfway around the world.

I call back and manage to get through the process of canceling that card when I’m told it will be 10 days before the new one arrives. Citibank must be routing new cards through India, too.

There are what seems like a gazillion trains that run in and out of Union Station every day and the odds of finding my wallet are slim to none at this point, but I decide to walk over there to see if I can speak with a real live person about my predicament.

I expect bureaucracy like Tom Hanks trying to find the Voltar machine in Big. Fill out this form in triplicate and we’ll contact you in three weeks.

I am greeted by a surprisingly friendly and sympathetic person who tells me that my particular train “goes to the yard” after it delivers idiots like me to the city. The guys responsible for cleaning the trains usually bring the items they find back to Lost and Found between 3 and 4 o’clock so I should come back then.

Okay. I can live with that.

But I keep thinking about the way that seat flips up and how my wallet likely dropped behind it and it’s unlikely that anyone will find it any time soon.
I have a lovely afternoon. I drink three Amstel Lights on a 36-foot boat that takes me and my co-workers up and down the lovely shoreline of Chicago.

My mood lifts, but I can’t stop thinking about what an idiot I am and how my wallet is Gone Forever.
So I’ve got no money. No way to get money. And no train pass.

Assuming my wallet is in fact Gone Forever, I borrow $7 from a co-worker for the train ride home.

I head back over to the friendly Lost and Found person who searches diligently through the pile of black wallets he pulls from a safe behind him.

“It’s not here,” he says, looking at me grimly. “You should try back on Monday.”
Okay, it’s gone, I think. Time to go home.

There’s a 4:28 train that I just missed. Express trains run out of the city every 15 minutes on Friday so I catch the 4:44. There’s a 5:04 or a 5:26 after that.

The point is, again, there are a gazillion trains running in and out of the city every day.

I hop on the 4:44 with just a few minutes to spare. It’s jammed as expected and this time even the stairways are full. So I stand for most of the trip home.

Thinking about my lost wallet. I look around the train car and think: “What are the odds?”
Maybe this is the same train, I think. Nope. There are too many if’s. If this is the same train car, if no one sat in that seat, if no one found it.

But it couldn’t hurt to look.

I take a peek up top. It’s jammed up there, too.

There’s a giant of a man sitting in the seat next to where I was. He’s so big that I can’t tell if there’s anyone actually sitting in the seat where I might’ve sat this morning.

I have to wait until the train lands in Aurora and everyone clears out before I can look.

I walk back, fully expecting the pattern of self-induced idiocy, frustration and disappointment to continue through the day.

Why should it be there? Do I deserve to find it? Is this the Universe’s way of paying me back for being an asshole earlier in the week?
It was there. Sandwiched safely between the seat and the back of the seat. Right where I left it.

I could’ve been on any train. It could’ve been any car. Someone could’ve sat in that seat, but obviously didn’t.

And it was there.

My wallet was lost. Then found. But not really, since it was in the same place the whole time.
I am listening to: KT Tunstall – Other Side of the World
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Fortunate