When last we left our hero, he was agonizing over the inventory of what had been lost. The laptop computer and external hard drive held many gigabytes worth of video, pictures, and writings (some of it had been saved onto a new computer, but there was a lot that had not, including the latest video edits).
There was also the relatively new pair of glasses, the date book, the Metrocard, and a bunch of just-purchased food.
The appropriate calls had been made to 311 (lost property reports had been filed with the Taxi and Limousine Commission) and I had been informed that calling the Manhattan police precinct to which lost property is to be delivered could be made over the next couple of days.
One of the most useful suggestions had been to ask if local businesses had security video of the street. Certainly they would have caught the taxi, and maybe from that I could find the medallion number. With that, my TLC report would be complete and perhaps the driver himself could be contacted.
Armed with this concept, I called out for my day job with the intention of "putting my life back together." This would begin with checking out my other laptops from past years, other external hard drives, and seeing which files I currently need or hold in high value I had o n them, and which I had, potentially, now lost forever. But there are also a few other things going on right now that will require some phone calls,m maybe a visit to a bank, and some cleaning of my apartment, throwing things out, fixing things, and taking stuff to my strage space, and this would be as good a day as any to get that done.
But first I decided to go back to the site of the incident and investigate security camera options. Here was the rundown:
The deli on the corner, from which all this action began, does not have cameras pointing in the right direction.
Dunkin Donuts does not have security cameras pointed in the right direction.
The bakery-deli a few doors down from the deli doesn't have cameras pointed in the right direction, but they say the real estate office next door does.
The real estate office next door opens at 10 AM, in abut two hours.
The brand new bakery-deli that jiust opened up two days ago and is looking forward to the reopening of the Astoria Blvd station on the N line because it will bring a lot of business in (scheduled for December 18) does not have a camera pointed in the right direction
The convenience store further down the block says their boss-man will be back around 1 PM.
The gas station across the street may8 have cameras, but the boss-man will be arriving at 6 PM.
The traffic cop in the Dunkin Donuts does not know where there may be any traffic cams or how to get in touch with someone who does, just to go to the local precinct, but this is not his usual spot.
The construction supervisor (or whatever) working on the Astoria Boulevard N train station does not know anything about the security cameras they might have, or who to talk to about it.
All the other little businesses on that little strip are closed at that hour.
Armed with this knowledge,. I decided to patronize the new bakery-deli and bought an apple turnover/triangle for breakfast. I also decided to head back to my GF's house just a few blocks away, where my evening had started, and take a nap until 10 AM, when I would go that real estate office.
So I slept on the couch with the dog for a couple of hours, woke up, decided on a breakfast of healthy cereal (I would save the apple triangle for later) and put a note pad and pen in a bag, and went out to talk to the real estate folks.
When I got there, the fellow in the office was helpful as he could be, but the guy who could access the security camera footage was out of town and not getting back to the office until Thursday (it was now Tuesday morning). They did have a remarkably massive hardcover book about World War II under the coffee table, but I decided not to stop and look at...more than a couple of pages... before walking outside and seeing...
...a yellow Toyota Sienna taxi cab, just like the one that took my stuff, parked right at the curb in front of me.
I looked through the passenger window and saw the seats looking like the same pattern I remembered from last night (a double-seat-wide bench, and a single seat, presumably for asymmetrical fold-downs) but there was no baggage there. There was none in the luggage area, either, and then I heard a heavily foreign-accented voice to my right.
"[Hey buddy, are you the guy who left his stuff in my cab]?" (I actually couldn't understand the actual words he said, but I am pretty sure that's what he meant.)
Awkwardly, we were able to figure out that he was the cab driver who had driven off with my stuff, and that he had come back and dropped it off at the deli on the corner where this whole adventure began!
I asked him to come with me to the deli, and when we walked in, the female Korean shop owner I had seen earlier that morning reacted with joy and surprise, seeing that I had come back for my stuff.
I was still a little suspicious. Up until this point I had visions of the taxi driver believing that I had abandoned the ride and dumping the stuff on the street. I imagined that the taxi dispatcher, rather than going to Manhattan to drop the stuff off at a precinct, would have said "get rid of it. If they track it to this location, they could accuse us of theft!" and it getting dumped in some out-of-the-way abandoned lot, like a stolen car whose mag-wheels had been removed and replaced with ordinary wheels (as happened to a former GF of mine).
I did not see the bags at first, but the lady pulled out the Stew Leonard's shopping bag with its smiling boy on the stooll milking a smiling cow. "Well, that's one," I thought, "I wonder if the laptop is there."
Then she pulled out the laptop computer bag.
My cynicism and doubt of a man who drove off with my stuff after I had said "wait here" still had not completely vanished. I had fallen prey to scams before. I had once literally fallen for the "envelope in the pants" trick on the very night that "The Sting" had been shown on TV, so in cases like this my tendency is to verify, then trust.
I looked in the bag.
The laptop was there.
Then the lady pulled out the small black grocery bag that contained the last of last nights purchase at that very same deli and I knew that, for that moment at least, all was right with the world.
I thought about giving him money right there,but I only had a dollar in my pocket. I also must admit that a prt of my is ws a little miffed that he drove off with my stuff in the first place.
AS we walked back to his cab, he told me that he did not know that I had left stuff in the cab until the next fare came along and told him. He said that he had even gone to Roosevelt Island (I had told him that was my destination when I had initially gotten in and tried to find me, even asking a cop there for assistance.
He had left his name and phone number on a piece of paper that had been taped to one of the bags, and he said words that I think meant to call him any time I needed a ride somewhere.
I arranged the bags on the sidewalk in front of the car for a picture and he volunteered to get in the picture. That is the picture that accompanied the Facebook post of mine that I posted immediately.
I shook his hand, thanked him warmly and with appropriately accentuating adjectives, and he went on his way. I felt a great feeling fo relief. and then faced the question: What do I do now?
When I had called into work to tell them that I was taking the day off to deal with this, they had informed me that one of my co-workers was out sick for the day, as he had been yesterday. All the other various things I had intended to do that da that did not involve this bag were still on the table, though, and I as not sure when I would get another chance to do them. In the end, I decided to go to work. The staff of which I am a part is small as it is, the busy season has just hit, and there are people who need my help there. I also am trying to save up for the life change I am making in just under four months.
I have been astounded by the outpourigs of sympathy and advice over this story. Hundtrds of "Likes" and "Hearts" and "sads." I had shared this on some other groups in the hoe that by spreading the word the stuff might be found and returned. Likewise ther, from strasngers, the first day was full of sympathy, advise and support.
Then, after I posted the happy ending to the story, some negativity came out. "Delete this." "#fakenews." Accusations that I had made it up to call for attention or that I must have been stoned out of my gourd.
Well, fuck 'em. Haters gonna hate. If we can;t ask for help when we need it, how are we ever going to get the help we need? And if we can't have sympathy for one another, then someday (may that day never come) when we find ourselves in need of sympathy, we may to get it. And that is when humans, as a species, are doomed. If we cannot have mutual respect for each other, if we cannot sympathize with a person's feelings, if we cannot give a person a little respect and consideration, then we are just a pack of angry dogs or robots, hermits who will starve and die if we make that one mistake from which we cannot recover.
"You should have doe this; I always do that; I would never make such a mistake; people in that situation don't deserve help; they should pay the price for their mistake; bad choices lead to bad consequences, and it's not my responsibility; I'm not paying for that!" These are the words of those with small minds and small hearts.Maybe they can successfully screw over anyone who has something that they need. Maybe they have a small, select circle of folks for whom they do care but outside that circle is irrelevant to them. Maybe they seem like great, friendly people when you first meet them. But when the chips are down and a choice has to be made, will they step up? Will they make the sacrifice play? Heck with the sacrifice play, will they have the decency to be considerate?If you have two and I have none and each of us only needs one, what will it take to get you to give your extra one?
Thieves and scammers exist, yes. There are folks who do very well for themselves by playing on your sympathy. It is important to learn how to identify these folks, because they leach resources away from the truly needy. But that does to mean rejection of all charity for fear of some abuse. It only takes a little effort to help someone, a little time to be considerate. In the end, the more of us who can be willing to help, the more of us can be worthy of help, and then the greater the odds of survival of our species.
The suggestion has been made that I contact the driver's boss and report on how honest and hard-working he was to return my stuff. I will do that, somehow.
So, a question for you all (and also a test of who actually has read this far), how much should I tip the driver?