Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Tale Of The Lost Wallet/Purse

In England, the word for a woman's wallet is purse. The English word for a purse is handbag. MadPriest and Mrs MadPriest explained this all to me. To aid understanding of the story for my international audience, I shall refer to the wallet as wallet/purse, with the US term first and the English word following. When I mean purse, I will use purse/handbag, again with the US usage coming first. Are you bored yet?

What I believe happened with my missing wallet/purse during my visit to England is that after I paid the taxi driver, I tried to put the wallet/purse back into my purse/handbag, and it must not have gone in completely, or it fell out, and I did not know it. My driver was a Muslim with a long, pointed, gray beard. He wore a hat similar to what I would have called a lady's pillbox hat back in the day. He looked dour and did not speak during the ride. Perhaps he did not speak English well.

Anyway, I was scheduled to go out to eat with Doorman-Priest and one of his delightful daughters that evening. I misread the time and was still in the shower when they arrived, and did not answer the door for a while, but I did eventually. What were they thinking? I started off with them in a state of embarrassment and confusion. We went to an Italian restaurant with very good food, and I was going to treat, but when the bill came, my wallet/purse was not in my purse/handbag. Of course, that meant no English money and no credit cards. DP paid the bill. Second misadventure.

We returned to the hotel and called the credit card companies to cancel the cards and then the police, to be on their records with my address in Leeds in the event that the wallet/purse was turned in. They asked how much money was in the wallet/purse, and I said between 120 and 170 pounds. The staff at the hotel were wonderful, very patient and helpful. Finally, at about 11:00 PM, I told DP and his daughter to go home. They had done all they could and beyond. Lovely beginning to our real life relationship, no?

I went to my room and went to bed, but I only got about two hours sleep all night, because I was wired over the loss, and I could not fall asleep. The next day, I had to catch a train fairly early in the morning, and that was on my mind, too. All of this happened on Friday, March 20, the day after my arrival. What were DP and Mrs DP thinking? Of course, they're too kind to ever say if they were having misgivings. I know what I would have been thinking. What's next with this woman!

I made up my mind then and there that I would not let the loss of the wallet/purse spoil my trip. I still had my traveler's checks with the bulk of my money left, and I thought perhaps I could get my American Express card replaced. I played Pollyanna's "Glad Game", which is a version of "counting your blessings" and focused on how much worse it could have been and carried on with my activities. I'm not sure how I would have paid my hotel bill, because the number I had given them was no longer good, but they said not to worry about it, so I didn't.

On Monday, I took a train to Manchester, the nearest place with an American Express office, and I was given a new card. On the way back, I took the wrong train, a train to Sheffield, instead of Leeds, and the trip back to Leeds took nearly twice as long because the train to Sheffield stopped at every village along the way, but the views of the Pennines were gorgeous, much more picturesque than the views on the way to Leeds. See. I'm still playing the "Glad Game", because Monday was pretty much a lost day for doing anything else. But I digress.

On Tuesday, I took a wonderful coach trip to Whitby, which I wrote about on the alternative blog, Wounded Bird Takes Flight. Back in Leeds, the coach dropped me off near a taxi queue, and the first taxi in the line was the car and driver in whose taxi I had left my wallet/purse. I didn't think or move quickly enough to ask him if he had found it, and he took off with the passenger ahead of me, but not before I got the number of his taxi.

I climbed into the taxi behind him and noticed that there was a police station right across the street, so I asked the driver to let me out. I mainly wanted to check to see if they had any news on the wallet/purse, not to turn the driver in, because I realized that a passenger in the taxi could have found it and made off with it. The taxi driver looked confused and asked why I wanted to get out, but I told him, "Just let me out, please."

I walked over to the police station to inquire. They had heard nothing, and I mentioned that I had the taxi number, but the officer was not interested, because she said that it could have been a passenger who took the wallet/purse, which I had already thought of. Bored yet? Just stop reading. I won't be offended.

I crossed the street and got into the next taxi in line, not the same one that I'd been in before. After we started, the driver asked me why I left the taxi in front of him and went into the police station. I asked him, "And why should I tell you that?" But I thought about it, and I decided that perhaps it would be a good thing for the taxi grapevine to have the information that I was in touch with the police, and I told him the whole story. The driver, who was also a Muslim, with a short, well-trimmed beard and a pillbox hat, said over and over, as I told the story, "Honesty is the best policy. Honesty is the best policy." I said, "Indeed! I hope that somehow an honest person gets hold of my wallet/purse and returns it. It was not only the money and credit cards, but all the other cards that would need replacing, such as my Social Security card and my health care cards." He asked me when I was returning to the US, and I told him on March 30.

Somehow, through all of this, I had a strong sense that the wallet/purse would be returned, although, on the face of it, it seemed less and less likely that I would get it back as each day passed. At the end of the day, when I returned to the hotel, I hoped, no, I expected to hear that it had been found.

On my very last evening, I heard a knock on my door, and there was a Muslim man standing in the hallway outside my door. I was startled and a little frightened, because I didn't think that hotels gave out room numbers. He asked me if I had lost a purse, and I answered that I had. I thought I recognized him as the second taxi driver to whom I told my story, but he was not wearing his hat, and I was not sure. He told me that as the taxi I lost the wallet/purse in was being cleaned out, the wallet/purse was found under the seat. He said, "You are leaving on the the 30th, aren't you?" Then I knew that he was the second driver. He pulled the wallet/purse out of his pocket and said, "See if it's all there." It seemed to be all there. There were 200 pounds in the billfold. I didn't think that I had that much. Then he said, "Honesty is the best policy."

Alhamdulillah! I wish that I had asked a few questions, but the man creeped me out a little. He knew well that I had lost a wallet/purse, so why did he make a big point of asking me? He seemed too knowing, nodding his head and smiling in a strange manner. I had my wallet/purse, and I wanted to close the door. I gave him 20 pounds for his honesty in returning the wallet/purse, and that was that. Honestly, I'm still am not sure I believe his story, but it could well be true. Why didn't the other taxi driver return it? I left it in his taxi. No reason for me to think that the man at the door was anything other than a good guy, surely.

What do you think?


  1. I think driver #2 decided that it was better to keep good karma and intervened with....someone... to make sure the wallet was returned. I suspect the banknotes were not the ones that had been in there before. How did they know your hotel?


  2. Oh my, I don't know what to think. Since you had the number of the taxi you dropped your wallet in, the taxi driver probably thought it wise to resolve the issue rather than risk getting the police involved. And he said "honesty is the best policy." The length of time it took is a bit puzzling though. So glad you're back. I missed your posts.

  3. How did they know not only your hotel but your room too??? That is strange. I would have been creeped out too.

  4. Many hotels are not as careful about giving out room numbers. Perhaps the police told them where you were staying. It is very hard to understand others' cultural cues and body language (UK and the country of origin of the driver). I would accept the face value of honest drivers and give thanks that all was well in the end.

  5. I think that it appears that you were treated well and honestly by Moslems, which is a lesson to us all.

    Greatly envy your slow train from Sheffield, though having someone with you who knew the places along your journey would have made it more interesting.

  6. Me too, I trust the guy (he may have had to do a little extra investigative work and arm twisting)..perhaps it was a goodwill jesture...you know, you´re American and he´s Muslim and all...maybe it was a tribute to the Obama/Biden victory!

    Be glad.

    BTW I once was President of a very large Handbag Company (a California Division for Better ¨upstairs¨ Department Store business)...the headquarters for the company was in New York which owned companies in the UK and Canada too...Handbags are handbags (purses are not) also wallets and billfolds are SLG´s (small leather goods)...I knew you´d want to know.

    And to think you made money on the deal...in this economy! Horray and welcome home and bless our Muslim brothers and sisters, I agree, ¨honesty is the best policy.¨

  7. I think this story is true. That's what I think. And I have a very high regard for truth. You happened into a pre-existing network. And...the good, the merciful. There is nothing so strange as truth. This is a story Ann-Holmes-Redding-ward.

  8. I have a hunch that your assessment of the first driver's language skills was on target. That may be why the other guy brought the wallet/whatever back to you. Or, maybe something else going on. Even you seem not to "get" it all, and you were there. I say just be happy for the good outcome. Good to have you back.

  9. IT, two Muslim taxi drivers dropped me off at my hotel, so two of them knew where I was staying. I do know that sometimes more than one driver uses a taxi in different shifts.

    Leo, should I have put SLGs in my story?

    I think that it was an "arrangement" by the driver who returned the wallet to me. I don't believe that I had that much money in the wallet, and there were no bills smaller than a 20 pound note in it, which was odd, since I had spent money, and there should have been at least a couple of smaller notes.

    You all encourage me to believe that I met an honest man. It was a good thing that I told the second driver the story, or the wallet may not have been returned. Sometimes I really believe that I have a guardian angel.

    I am grateful. You see that I said, "Thanks be to God," in Arabic.

  10. Alhamdulillah!

    "Wherever two or three are gathered together, there I am, in the midst of them."

  11. Lapin, I actually enjoyed the ride quite a lot, although I was suspicious that I was not on the right train because of the beautiful countryside, which I did not remember from the first train ride. It would have done me no good to get off at those small stations on the way, because I probably could not have found a train to Leeds quickly. The conductor even let me use my same ticket to get on the train for Leeds at Sheffield,

  12. It was a mitzva (Fran would have to tell me how to spell that) and I realize that if I could spell it that would be in Hebrew. But I suspect that all the children of Abraham (and lots of others as well) know what constitutes a good deed. When I was a Brownie (smaller version of Girl Scount) we were to wear out Brownie pins updside down every day except that we could turn them right side up if we performed a good deed. Perhaps your taxi drivers were brownies, I'd like to think so. AND WELCOME HOME!!!

  13. Quite a twisted tale! I'm just glad you got your wallet/purse back!

  14. I too think there was a language problem on behalf of the first driver. And the second one, definately was a good man being serious about honesty.

    But probably the money had evaporated when the purse lay about in the cab.

    This could have been anyone, of course!

    You're a lucky dame!

  15. Perhaps, as Lapinbizarre suggested, one can pin this down as Goodwill towards a nice American lady and the hopes for all brought about by the Obama victory last autumn...


    Alhamdulillah, indeed!

  16. Welcome home, Mimi. We've all been waiting for your return!

    I think a big chunk of this story ought to be chalked up to one part "stranger in a strange land" (and I'm talking about you AND the taxi drivers), one part to your good intuitive sense to go to the police and then let that piece of information spread through the community of taxi drivers, and the last part to the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

    Stuff happens. Especially when on holiday. There are no coincidence.

  17. It all happens for a reason. There was a reason you lost your wallet, a reason you were on the wrong train. What it is? I do not know? I believe God has the answer to that

  18. I'm glad you're back safely, and that your wallet/purse was returned. Sorry I couldn't get up to Leeds to meet you, I would have liked to but life has been rather exhausting recently.

  19. It is strange, though. Even if the first driver didn't speak English and so the second one returned the wallet/purse, he oculd simply have returned an empty one with all the cards in it. To actually put money into it is... odd, for honest as well as dishonest people. A dishonest person wouldn't have bothered, an honest one wouldn't have seen the need.

    But to give them the room number is quite normal. If they knew your name - which they would from the card, they simply needed to ask in which room Grandmere Mimi was staying. I've only once or twice come across a hotel that wouldn't simply give people the room number.

  20. I think the word went round the network of taxi drivers .... and due to the second man, the wallet/purse was "discovered". The fact that the cash was complete and maybe even a bit more, and in larger denomination notes, tends to suggest it had been replaced. By the driver or by God? Who knows.

  21. Most of the taxi drivers in Leeds are Asian and they have to put up with a great deal I suspect, particularly when the pubs and clubs chuck out. They are an easy target.

    I have never met one who has been anything other than gracious and polite.

    As to what happened, when and because of who's initiative, who cares? What matters is it came back and if, IF, that was in part due to conscience so much the better.

    I'm with Elizabeth.

  22. DP, you should know. I'm grateful to have my possession back. And now that I think about it, perhaps the scene in the hallway was a ritual that could not be rushed through. I believe in the good will of the driver who returned the wallet, and that he wanted me to have a good opinion of the Asian taxi drivers in Leeds. There was morality in play here, perhaps along with pity for the plight of an old lady. I do not believe that was the original money in the wallet. Imagine! Losing one's wallet and having it returned with more money than when it was lost!

  23. I should think the entire journey was worth just this anecdote! Did the taxi drivers tell you that they were Muslim? Did you tell them you were Christian?

    Maybe our assumptions about people are transcended by the manifest dignity, candor and charm of our little Thibodauxian.

  24. You're a very brave traveler, Mimi, making the best of a bad situation. If it was Michael and me, bitchy queens that we are, we would have been freaking out and thoroughly offending all the locals regardless of creed or class. I'm glad you enjoyed the little detour to Sheffield and back. That's just the right attitude, and you had a wonderful time.

    I second the comments of the others above who felt that the cabbies were indeed just being honest. We have incidents like this all the time in New York and if the cabby finds your wallet first, it will almost always be returned to you intact as soon as you can be located.

  25. A good story, Gram, and welcome back. They say the "devil is in the details" and so I say "Get thee behind me, Satan!" The details don't matter - through an accident, the loss of your wallet in the taxi - someone in that community learned a lesson and the community resolved to take care of you properly. If you truly believe the money returned was in excess than what an excellent opportunity to pay it forward?

  26. And remember, cabbies here often share cabs on different shifts.

  27. Song, I'm sorry we did not get to meet. I understand about the distances. Perhaps another time....

    Crapaud, we did not talk religion. The men wore hats like these and had beards, so I assumed they were Muslim. If they were Pakistani, I used the wrong language to thank God, because the official language of Pakistan is Urdu. Whatever. It's the same God.

    Renz, the whole episode is fascinating. I'm making another donation to the Padre Mickey fund to pass it on.

    DP, love, I know. I already said that. I think you were my guardian angel.

    The "Glad Game" worked for me in England, but it doesn't work all the time.

  28. Counterlight, would you and Michael really have done that? I find that hard to believe. After all it was my mistake in the very beginning.

  29. Life is full of coincidences and conspiracies...

    ...and MOST of them are benign.

  30. "Counterlight, would you and Michael really have done that?"

    We can get a little bitchy on tour, though Michael is a very generous tipper with hotel staff and cab drivers. We both like traveling. We just don't handle sudden adventures very well. I thought you handled yours with exemplary grace. I hope it rubs off on us.

  31. JCF, that's true. We don't even know about a good many of them.

    Counterlight, thanks. My life too often seems like one "adventure" after another, so I've grown accustomed to dealing wth the unexpected.

  32. I'm so glad you are back and have gotten enough rest to tell us of your adventures, Mimi. I missed you.

    If as DP says, most taxis in Leeds are driven by Asians, and you told one who obviously spoke very good English, I would venture to say that he went back to the 'garage' where they all meet up and are dispatched from and told all the drivers. Perhaps they all pitched in some money when it was discovered that your wallet had been divested of the original pounds. Just like we sometimes take up money to help when people travel... Padre Mickey and the Lovely Mona, f'rinstance! I also have a feeling that your manners and your age had much to do with the wonderful way you were treated.

  33. Susan, I agree. The driver who returned the wallet was a "fixer".

    I missed all y'all, too.

  34. Welcome back, Mimi! Wow, you actually met the MadPriests! And I'm jealous of the dinner with D.P. (Did you see his tattoo?) :)

    My take on the lost wallet/purse: I think the second cab driver was just a decent guy. I'm glad everything worked out!

  35. Welcome home, Grandmere Mimi!
    Thanks be to God for your safe and happy journey. As for your repeated question in this post: No! I'm never bored reading posts in Wounded Bird!

  36. A handbag is definitely a handbag but a purse is not a wallet and a wallet is not a purse. A purse is small with a click/snap fastening or a zip and the money is stuffed in the top. A wallet opens out and notes go in the slip pocket at the back flap and coins in a small pop or zip flap in the front or on the side. Men and women carry wallets. Men generally wouldn't own a purse.

  37. I have never found English cab drivers of any origin very chatty. I don't think the English encourage them to be friendly. As a chatty person myself, conversation with a cab driver is as difficult as squeezing blood from a stone.

    I hate the English rail too. I do things like try to get to Scotland from London and after umpteen dozen different trains complete with breakdowns, snow, overflowing lavatories and kaputt coffee machines, end up in Cornwall.

    However I am sorry for your drama with your wallet. Nevertheless I wouldn't suspect any ill doings of either driver. Maybe he first was worried about handing it in in case he was accused of stealing it - he was foreign after all - and was relieved when the second driver met you and offered to return it to you directly.

  38. PJ, dinner with DP? I nearly moved in with him and his family. They were very kind. I forgot to ask about his tatoo. I showed them mine, and I think one of his daughters was a bit shocked.

    Both drivers may have been decent. Perhaps the first driver could not speak English well.

    Pat, thank you!

    Steph, what to call the wallet/purse thing is history now, for me. I give up. What I lost was a wallet with a purse for coins attached to the side - not something that could be folded.

    A good many of the taxi drivers chatted with me, even the few English drivers that I rode with.

    With the train, the problem for me is finding the right platform and all the up and down the steps to cross the tracks to get to it.

  39. Ah, Mimi, who could resist chatting with you? ;-)

  40. Susan, thanks.

    Somewhere, sometime, I believe MadPriest said that English people don't talk to strangers, but he must associate with different English people than those I encountered, because not a few English folks initiated conversations with me. And once they heard me speak, they were even nicer after recognizing that I was from the US. Lovely.

  41. a beautiful and good story thanks Susan, do we value our families and loved ones


Anonymous commenters, please sign a name, any name, to distinguish one anonymous commenter from another. Thank you.