Why stay any longer in Haarlem, Netherlands, we asked? Everything we want to see is closed on Mondays. On our walk back to the railway station, I reach in my purse for my cell phone. I want to take a photo of a Mexican restaurant, seemingly a hot, new attraction in this city.
I try other pockets.
Where is my phone?
We run back to the store where I have just purchased a scarf. I must have set down the phone when I signed for the charge. The store clerk checks her security cameras. “You didn’t have a phone in your hand when you came in,” she says.
We return to the pair of picnic tables in one of the town squares where we’d landed when we arrived. I know I set my phone on top of one. I ask at all the nearby restaurants, “Did anyone turn in a cell phone?”
“Sorry, but if you left it there, it’s gone,” says one waiter.
We return to Amsterdam and I call Verizon to cut off service. I write on Facebook (I still have my iPad), “Sad day. Lost my iPhone and my travel photos,” and receive many comments commiserating with me.
About the same time my friend Claudia, who recently moved to Kentucky and talked me into getting What’sApp for my phone so she and I could stay in touch, receives a note from me on WhatsApp. It says, “Hi.” Since she and I often communicate in Spanish, she sends me an audio message in that language asking if I’ve returned home. She posts a picture of herself with a caption in Spanish.
She gets another response: “I found this foon.”
“Only hi?” she asks.
“I am living in Hoofddorp, Netherlands.”
The conversation continues until she understands that she’s not hearing from me and that the sender wants to reach me to return my phone. Claudia tells him to contact me on Facebook and she emails me details of what she’s just learned.
The story gets more complicated from here. The man with my phone calls our hotel; they tell me to meet him at the Schipol airport at a certain gate and time. We go to the airport and he’s not there, nor is the gate number correct. We walk 13 miles that day.
He posts on Facebook — which we read when we arrive back at the hotel — that the real time to meet us is an hour later than he’d first said. He, Claudia and begin to communicate regularly while Facebook friends watch on.
We leave Amsterdam the next morning. I check Facebook for messages before we go. Nothing. When we arrive in Seattle I find one message asking for our flight number and saying the man will meet us at the Schiphol airport. Too late.
Back home, friends who had followed the conversation on-line ask me what has happened to my phone. I tell them the man has agreed to send it to my home. He then sends a photo of the envelope he’s put it in and I groan. No way will it arrive intact. There will be a post office sticker that says “damaged in transit” and I will be staring at shards of what was once a cell phone screen.
Against all odds, the phone arrives. In one piece. In an ordinary envelope, neatly wrapped in part of a paper towel. All thanks to the kindness and perseverance of one friend and one stranger and the wonders of social media, (conscientious postal workers, too).