Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Non-Random Acts of Kindness

The news has been so depressing as of late, and it seems that somehow the best of human nature has been lacking in display. Yesterday, I was the recipient of some non-random acts of kindness, the kind where people are generally in a position to help, but normally do not.

My colleague and I arrive at the airport after an exhausting but successful 5 hour presentation, and we are running on a bit of adrenaline and I am running a bit on Dayquil. My colleague dutifully writes down the cab number on the receipt, and I tease him for his meticulousness. He is dropped off a few terminals before me, and so I actually pay the cab driver when we arrive at my terminal. I gather my laptop, my heavy overcoat, open the truck by myself (aren't they supposed to do that for you?), and haul the too heavy carry-on bag out. Slamming the truck shut with a deep breath, and the cab is on its way. It hits me like a ton of bricks. I check my pockets, three times, i check my laptop bag, but I already know the answer. I left my iPhone in the cab.

Sheer panic. This is not my city, not any where near my comfort zone, and this is not a good thing. The first person I run into is a porter, who somehow distinguished my cries for help and sends me to the taxi cab stand downstairs. I realize I have my other phone (the boring one that does nothing by call people, which is very important at this moment) and I call my colleague. "What is the cab number?" "What?" I repeated, "I need the cab number!" "6278" "Okay, good gotta go. Bye."

Fortunately, there is hardly anyone in line at the cab stand, so panic stricken me approaches the operator. I explain "my iPhone is in the cab, number 6278, I just left it two minutes ago!" She calmly smiles and never misses a beat. She is on the radio with the dispatcher. Minutes tick by. I start pacing with my rolling bag. At some point she asks if I know the name of the cab company, my answer? "It was yellow?" Then, ah, I remember, the receipt is in my pocket - and amazing, their number is on the receipt too!

I call the company and plead my sad story again. This dispatcher takes my phone and says she will call right back. I have serious doubts about this. The cab stand operator has no more information and my hopes are fading. Besides the actual replacement of the phone, I realize that I have not set up a password on my phone and much personal data is at risk. Shame overcomes me at my willfulness to ignore security precautions that I even preach about!

The boring phone in my hand rings, the dispatcher! She tells me that she will give me the cabbie's number, because he has already dropped off the iPhone with someone. Who?! I can't find a pen, and I know my panic was going to make me forget the number. Hearing me fumbling, the dispatcher calmly said, "Why don't you just put it in your phone?" Duh. Double duh.

The cabbie says "I gave it to a security guard in the parking lot." Which parking lot? No idea. Which security guard? No idea. Ok - so now, all I have to do is find the security guard in the massive Chicago O'Hare airport in one of the parking lots who has my iPhone and doesn't want to take it home for himself, because he has no way of knowing who I am.

Back to the cab stand, I ask her what parking lot might I find security guards with my phone in it. She thinks, probably the "lost and found" in that structure, pointing me on way - so dutifully, I go. I find nothing, the valet parking guys think I'm a little crazy, but at this point, I don't really care. I turn to see a well built tough Chicago guard coming my way. He waves a black object and calls, "You the lady missing an iPhone?"

Running towards him, I cannot resist a hug! I'm blaming all of that on the sinus drugs! He walks me back to the cab stand, explaining how many people lose their phones that way, and how his iPhone is his life, so he totally understands the panic. He bids me a good day and leaves me with the cab stand operator. She has now seen me go through the 8 stages of "Lost and Found" - panic, fear, anger, disappointment, hope, anticipation, relief, and finally, elation. She is pleased and laughs when I yell to no one in particular "I love Chicago!"

It is a rare but beautiful moment as I stand in the security line, and I reflect on how many people it took to coordinate getting that phone back into my hand, and how they made my day.

Never, ever, pass up an opportunity to show someone just a little random or not-so-random act of kindness.

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