Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Thank You, Liberty

Two months ago, I lost my mobile phone in Glasgow.

I noticed it was gone just after my first private lesson. I checked both pockets of my coat, emptied out my ratty old backpack, and later, searched through the glove compartment of our car in growing desperation, but the phone was gone. A thorough search of our flat was also futile.

"I must have dropped it," I finally told my husband. "When we got out of the car, I must have had it on my lap and it fell into a pile of leaves or mud."

My husband isn't known for his optimism. "In that case, you'll never see it again," he predicted. "Not in Glasgow."

Now, I'm no fan of mobile phones, but I've learned how useful they can be. On a trip to London to see my cousins, I'd been able to use my mobile as a camera and to stay in touch with my daughters and husband. I'd used it to arrange meetings with private students -- I'd even learned how to text on the damn thing, and I'd just managed to top up its credit all by myself. In fact, I'd been seriously considering letting my daughter show me how to access my email account from it. The more I thought about it, the more I missed it: the little wand thingy I used to punch out messages, the ceramic Korean cat dangling from it, its shiny new touch screen. I could practically feel the heft of it in my hand, the good, connected feeling it gave me when my daughters sent me texts. Losing it just about broke my heart; we could afford to replace it, but only just.

"Maybe someone picked it up," I said. "Maybe they found it, but they haven't figured out how to use it yet, so they can't tell me they have it." Even to me this sounded lame.

Days went by. I wondered what the finder had made of my phone. Obnoxiously pink, in a pink silk bag -- that was bad enough. But my husband and kids have wicked senses of humor: the ring tone they'd chosen for me was Merle Haggard's California Cotton Fields,. Half the names in my address book are Japanese -- my students and translating partner. There was a voice mail message from the mother of the middle school boy who I am teaching Japanese, a screensaver picture of our Turkish rescue kitten baring pointed little teeth in a cross-eyed snarl, and a scrawled message in clumsy cursive from my daughter : I love you mommy! Best of all, on the camera were several pictures of a grotty old vacuum cleaner on the landing in the cheap hotel where I stayed in London, plus a fuzzy shot of the underside of the scarred bedside table, studded with old pieces of chewing gum.

I knew that if I'd found my phone, those vacuum cleaner and chewing gum shots alone would have driven me mad with curiosity: What kind of a weirdo takes pictures of old vacuum cleaners and wads of chewing gum?

Almost a week after I lost it, I got a call from a young woman whose voice I didn't recognize. "I think I've got your phone," she said. "I found it in the street just across from Glasgow University."

I was so happy I forgot to take her number, but we arranged to meet in a few days, when I was next due to go to Glasgow. Her name, she told me, was Liberty.

"You really think she'll show up?" my husband said dubiously as he dropped me off in front of the library.

"She said she would."

"How will she recognize you?"

"I told her I'd have on a green scarf," I said, tweaking my green scarf.

"You'll need some cash," he said, "to give her as a reward."

I'd already thought of that. I had £20 in carefully saved £5-bills.

Liberty turned out to be a stunningly pretty girl who showed up exactly when she said she would. She handed over my phone with a smile and shook her head when I tried to give her the £20.

"Do me another favor," I told her. "Please give whoever raised you my thanks and sincere appreciation." She blushed and smiled and we waved goodbye.

So thank you again, Liberty, for finding my phone and getting it back to me. I'm going to learn how to access my emails on that phone if it's the last thing I ever do. And if we ever meet again, I'll tell you about those vacuum cleaner photos if you tell me how you ended up with that name.



Dale said...

:-) How lovely!

Dale said...

I have a Colombian niece named Libertad (now in LA, where she goes by "Libby.")

Robin said...

That's just wonderful! Did you say "I told you so" several times to your husband?

"The more I thought about it, the more I missed it". Isn't that the truth for so many things? Maybe your phone ran away so you'd appreciate it more.

Anonymous said...

Lovely story! Goo Liberty! (Perhaps she is of London? :0 )

Vijaya said...

Oh, it's good to find lost things (or rather lost things finding you).

My son takes pictures of the strangest things from the strangest angles ... the effect is stunning, sometimes.

Girl Friday said...

Ah, nothing like random acts of kindness to warm the cockles :)

Angela Ackerman said...

I love stories where people do the right thing. Way to go Liberty!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Anne M Leone said...

Oh, such a pleasant, wonderful surprise (and a great feeling about humanity) when people are kind like this. Thanks for sharing.

Carole said...

Great Story. What cool young lady. Thanks for sharing.

Aledys Ver said...

:) Nice story!! If I had found your phone, I would've *had* to ask you about the vacuum cleaner and the chewing gum photos! :D

JLD said...

I'm so glad you got your phone back, Mary. I hope that one of my four daughters would have done the same thing if they had found a lost phone. Liberty's parents should be proud!

I would be so mortified by the pictures on my phone that I would probably deny that it was mine if someone called saying they had found it. Nothing not PG, mind you, but a pic of me from my hospital bed sent to my daughters with a NG tube up my nose and a pic of my dog with his tail all red and chewed up, plus a video of the pipes groaning in the hotel I stayed in for the NYC conference.


Mary Witzl said...

Dale -- I knew a Libertad myself once. Liberty could have used 'Libby', I suppose, but she didn't. You have to respect someone with an unusual name who uses it proudly.

Robin -- The temptation was strong, but I played the subtle card. Just said a few things about the goodness of human nature shining through from time to time, casting meaningful glances his way. He got the point.

You're probably right about my phone; I was taking it for granted, I'm sure. I'm a lot more clingy and affectionate with it now.

PN -- I really did wonder, but I could hardly ask after she'd been so sweet to return it to me.

Vijaya -- My daughter does the same thing. She sees patterns and designs in all sorts of things and photographs them. But the reason I photographed that vacuum cleaner was 1) it was about 30 years old, 2) it was a hideous orange, and 3) it had been placed in the stairwell and for all four days I was in London, there it stood, looking awkward and ugly. I just had to have a photo!

GF -- Yes, the cockles of my heart were well and truly warmed that day. Just remembering seeing my phone again gives me a warm glow.

Angela -- They DO happen sometimes in life, don't they, amidst all the sadness, greed, disappointment and carnage? :o)

Anne -- Anytime! If I hadn't gotten it back, you can bet I would never have shared that story.

Carole -- The way she turned down the money was sweet. Emphatic, but in a polite way. I'm pretty sure my daughters would do the same, but I'm glad somebody else had the same ideas.

Aledys -- I used to run a small inn which I personally cleaned and cooked for every day, to a fairly high standard. I never left the vacuum cleaner out, or chewing gum stuck to the furniture. In London, I was in awe of the fact that the proprietor got away with it day after day, so I had to have photographic proof.

JLD -- I'm sure most people wouldn't even look at the photos on your phone, but if I found somebody's phone, I absolutely would. How did your dog get his tail chewed up, I wonder?

Your NYC hotel room sounds suspiciously like my London one. Hotel proprietors in big cities can get away with all kinds of nonsense.

Anonymous said...

I'm late catching up on my blog readings, but I'm really, really happy you met Liberty. And found your phone, of course.

Texting is wonderful...and if you have Skype you can do it with a real keyboard!

Robert the Skeptic said...

We soon found out that my wife and I needed two cell phones in the household... for calling each other and listening for the ringing when one of us misplaces our phone in the house.

I created a custom ring tone for my wife's phone; I recorded our grand daughter yelling: "gramma gramma answer the phone!"