Losing the wallet in Paris. Meeting a wonderful person.
Paris! A teenager’s dream. June 2015, we find ourselves in Paris for six appy days. Armed with iphones, one of us with a local simcard, two counting on wifi and whatsapp, and all the apps we could use; including one for cycling and walking, while figuring our way around. As a traveller parent, I had aspired to package every kind of experience for my kids. Major museums, churches, perfume factory, Versailles, beautiful town of Chartres, every mode of transportation, train passes, reasonably priced customer-reviewed mother-hen-style picked hotels, meeting a cousins’ family from London, a nice restaurant dinner near the Eiffel tower, one whole day for random surprises and any adventure life brings our way.
That was intended for the last day, but little did we know, despite security on many interesting wheels, what else was in store for us! As they say, “Be careful what you wish for.” We had last ten hours in Paris, after returning from magical light and sound shows of Chartres and before catching our onward flight. My daughter wanted to go souvenir shopping for her friends. Since we didn’t want to keep much cash on us, we used to go for ATM-darshan^ every other day.
On this whimsical touring day, we window-licked* a lot of stores and just before crossing the street for the ATM, my daughter called to show me what a small shop, four people standing room, offered for a good deal.
That’s where it happened. I took out my wallet to pay, and just then my eyes fell on Eiffel key rings for school souvenirs, and so I set my wallet down for a few seconds to free my hand. After I made my final selections, I couldn’t find my wallet! It was gone along with my driver’ license, my one debit card, three day rail-passes, and forty euros in cash. The shopkeeper lady was helpful, called the police station for directions, and gave us all the information we needed.
We walked with a friendly escort from point of confusion to a point from where the police station was visible. We went to file a report but an ignorant cop stalled us from going in, presuming we had no ID. Luckily, I knew how uniformed people work, and stood my ground, asking him to call his senior. Finally, a mother daughter team going in spoke to us and we were allowed inside. The cop even proposed we walk all the way to the hotel to get money for a cab or train. Their front office advised us to file the complaint at the relevant embassy from where we were able to call the credit card company and eventually cancelling it! A branch of my global Bank was found, but they do not share data with other countries, so I couldn’t cash a check.
Five hours of walking and hungry discussions later, we reached a central location, from where we were to convert some currency, to finish the souvenir shopping and subsequently get a cab to go back to the hotel. Or, maybe not! One refused and flew away soon as he realized we had twenty euros short for the airport. We took the very next one that agreed to go to our hotel. He asked us if we were headed elsewhere after the hotel, because we’d been discussing getting bags ready. That’s when we thanked him and apologized that we couldn’t use his services any further, because of the loss.
On hearing the story, he said, “Go get your bags, I will wait. I’m sorry you had such a bad experience in my country. I will take you to the airport. You just give me what you have.” We were on top of the world in Paris that moment and since we had to check in at the airport within an hour, we accepted the offer made by a winnerful gentleman. I fell;) in love with the wonderful people of France.
Enroute, we thanked him profusely, and soon we were happy at the day averaging out. One negative and one positive experience makes a great average, my daily motto. Suddenly, my daughter remembered she had a twenty tucked away in her passport for an emergency! We asked him if he will accept that to match the total needed, and when he agreed, advised him how and where to cash foreign currency.
As a parent, I was thrilled to the core. Forty euros, price of a simple wallet, lots of walking, was a small price to pay for an opportunity to problem solve together as a family. It was a priceless experience, no one can buy or teach!
Moreover, our cab driver, was a responsible human. He was generous and broad-minded compared to many people I have met in my life’s journeys. He won our hearts and gave wings to our weary minds.