Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Big City Saga

MVY -- We spent three weeks in New York between Key West and Martha's Vineyard. The weather may have been dreary but the city certainly wasn't. Arrived at our apt (after a weekend in Baltimore) on a damp Saturday night. Took me half an hour to realize my travel purse was missing. It contained my wallet with driver's license, credit cards, iPhone, a couple of prescription meds, a can of Simply Saline, a tube of Polysporin ointment and whatever else I'd managed to stuff into its many zippered compartments. I was also carrying a black shoulder purse, a garment bag, and had a small wheelie in the trunk of the cab.

I remembered the story a caterer once told me - of how she'd left a beatifully decorated platter of crudites in the trunk of a taxi. At the time I'd thought, What a ditz!

George dialed my cell phone and left a message while I called the taxi commission to report my missing travel purse. They gave me two phone numbers where taxi drivers can turn in packages/purses/etc. They reminded me always to ask for a receipt when getting out of a cab, or at least to make a note of the taxi number, listed on the back of the front seat for all passengers to see. You'd think this was my first time in the city.

I called the train station, thinking I could have left my purse on the train, because George was with me and he paid for the taxi, which means I wouldn't have needed my wallet so wouldn't have noticed my travel purse was missing. But the very nice woman on the other end of the phone said the train I'd traveled on had already been sent to the yard for cleaning and wouldn't be available for a search until Monday morning.

By now more than an hour had gone by. We were about to cancel my credit cards when the phone rang and a guy asked if we were missing a gray purse. He said he'd found one exactly where the taxi had dropped us off. He was coming off work at a neighboring building and there it was, in the street. He took it with him on the subway to Queens and when he got off he saw that a recent call had been made to my iPhone so he called back. He offered to return the purse the next morning at 11am in front of the Barnes&Noble (how fitting is that?) on 68th St and Broadway, near the subway stop. George told him there would be a reward and asked for his name. Bernard, he answered.

Was this for real? We went out for breakfast the next morning, stopped at the ATM for reward money, then planted ourselves in front of B&N. I expected a guy wearing my bag over his shoulder for easy identification. But the young man who approached us was carrying an Abercrombie shopping bag. He recognized me from my photo ID. He gave me my purse. I hugged him and gave him the reward. He explained the purse must have been run over because the can of Simply Saline had exploded so he'd thrown it out before it soaked everything. We chatted for a while about his summer job, working in one of the big apartment houses right near mine. I said I'd like to write a letter to the board of the building where he was working, commending him.

Later I told my story to one of the doormen at our building who said he knew everyone working at the building where Bernard was working for the summer. The next day he reported there was no one named Bernard working there. Either way, and wherever he works, Bernard is my hero and I'd give him a reference any day. Thanks, Bernard!

This should be the end of the story, right? But ten days later I did it again. This time I was carrying the small black purse in the photo above, getting out of a taxi at exactly the same place. Got up to our apt and realized I had no key, which meant - oh no - I had no purse!

When I was about 14 I lost my key so many times my father (who'd had enough of me coming home and ringing the bell after he and my mother were asleep) punched a hole in the corner of my wallet and attached my key. Since then I've hardly lost anything. Really. And I've never forgotten anything in a cab. Well, maybe a cheapie umbrella, but who hasn't?

I was tired, embarrassed, and angry at myself when I called George at the office and told him I'd done it again. But George actually sounded pleased because he'd just signed up for an iPhone tracking system and now he could try it out. He dialed it up while I was still on the line. Aha! It's in midtown, on 48th St. But wait...now it's.... And that's when he clicked the fatal button. It not only ended the tracking program, it "wiped my phone"(meaning no data and totally dead).

This time we knew I was cooked. I'd had my Florida driver's license with me but just one credit card which George promptly cancelled. Yes, my key was in the purse but there was no NY address or phone number. That was good. It meant we wouldn't have to call a locksmith to re-key our apartment. By now I had a headache and I lay down to rest.

An hour later the phone rang. It was my literary agent's assistant asking if I'd lost my purse. What?! She gave me a phone number and the name of a guy to call. When I asked how he'd tracked me down he said he'd found my driver's license, googled me, went to my website, found my agent's name and number and called her. This guy was as good as Nancy Drew! I told him I'd come to his place (he lived on the Upper East Side) to retrieve my purse, but he volunteered to drop it off at my building since he had a meeting in my neighborhood (Upper West).

My headache lifted. Things like this just don't happen, do they? Twice in three weeks?

I waited outside while the doormen guessed what kind of car he'd be driving. We were all surprised when a vintage red Porsche pulled up in front of the building with a cute dog in the passenger seat. (Okay, I admit I didn't know it was a vintage Porsche.)He got out of the car. I almost knocked him down with a big hug (actually, he was a lot bigger than me and there was no chance of me knocking him down). He pulled my purse out of the car. He'd found it in the street on 39th St as he was boarding a bus. He'd tried my iPhone but couldn't get it to work (thanks to -- ta da! --the "wipe" button). We chatted for a while. He refused any reward but accepted a signed book for his 19 year old daughter.

Another hero! What a city! Am I lucky or what?

On the Vineyard I bought myself a summer bag, one that practically screams to be noticed. George says it's the ugliest purse he's ever seen. He says if he has to look at that all summer he'll be nauseous until Labor Day. I said I'd get another and give this away if he feels that strongly about it.

It's been a couple of days now and I don't see any signs that he's feeling sick. His appetite is just fine. He ate a peanut butter and banana sandwich for lunch.

I have to travel to Chicago next week. The ugly bag won't be going with me. A friend suggests I pin my purse to my underwear instead. Stay tuned....
xx Judy