The Lost Library Book

Here’s a story for you. Once upon a library book….

Back in January, Kelly had me come in to her class to do a book talk for her students as the official kickoff to “I Love to Read” month (which is February). I’ve done this for years for her. I bring in a ton of books from different genres and talk to the kids about what the genres mean and what types of books they can read. It’s a ton of fun, the kids love it and learn a lot.

Then I leave the entire pile of books with Kelly for the kids to use and explore and play with. Now, I would not do this for just anyone. The books are checked out to me, so I’m responsible for them, but Kelly loves the library as much as I do, and she’s very responsible with the books. YEARS we’ve done this and never had a problem.

Of course, this year, there was a problem.

She kept the books and the due date slip and returned them all by the date. As she returned, she checked them off the list to make sure she had them all. She didn’t. There was one missing. She looked for it. And looked for it and looked for it. The kids cleaned their desks, scoured the room, looked at home, this book is missing.

Kelly had told me all of this from the minute she couldn’t find it, so I knew. I fully believed that she would find the book. I figured one of these little kids had it tucked away somewhere and it would turn up. But, it’s been 2.5 months now and it still hasn’t turned up. Kelly offered to pay for the cost of the book, because it is in fact lost.

I’ve been renewing the book this whole time, hoping it would just turn up. But, it’s been so long now, Kelly is sure it won’t. Last night, I went to the library with the intent of paying for the book. There are no more renewals, so I just wanted to deal with it.

I explained this story to the woman working there. She said, “did you get a bill?” Um, no. I didn’t even know they did that. Honestly, I’ve never lost a library book in my life, so I have no idea how this process works. I only know it from the librarian end, how to handle payment for a lost book. And I only know that procedure for Anoka. She said that after a period of time, she thought 30 days, but wasn’t sure, the system would send me a bill for the lost item. At that point, she said, I can come in and pay for it.

Now, I wasn’t trying to be difficult, but I asked “why do I have to wait?” I explained that the book is 100% lost and we’ve been looking for it for months already and I’d like it taken care of. At this point, she is staring at me like I’ve grown another head while talking to her. She explained that until the system registers the book as lost, she can’t accept payment because there is nothing to pay. I’d really like to know who comes up with these things. That’s not true. She should have the ability to mark the item as lost, forcing the system to add the charges to my account. Thus, allowing me to pay for it. But, whatever, it’s not a huge deal and I wasn’t there to make trouble. So I just said fine, that I would wait until I get the bill.

Then she asked if she could call me with additional information, she said she wanted to talk to her boss today. She would find out the details of the this procedure. I couldn’t believe she didn’t know them, but I agreed and gave her my cell phone number.

She kind of hesitated and then she looked at me and said, “thank you for being such a conscientious library user.” I asked what she meant, because it is kind of an unusual compliment.

She said that it is extremely rare to have people step up and take responsibility for something like this, usually it is a fight that the library loses. Now, having worked in a public library myself, I can understand that, people don’t usually take responsibility. They claim they returned it or they accuse us of making a mistake or whatever. But this situation has nothing to do with being a librarian. I told her, “well, the book belongs to you, you trusted me to take care of it and I didn’t do that, so I am responsible for what happens next.”

She nodded and said, “that’s what I mean, very conscientious, so I just wanted to say thank you.”

And that made my day. And they still won’t let me pay for the book yet. When I get the bill, I’ll take care of it, because I am a conscientious library user. And it was nice to be recognized, but nicer still was the fact that I know I somehow made HER day just by doing the right thing.

Lost and Found

Here’s a fun story for you.

Back to Halloween weekend. I went out with some girls on Friday the 28th. We were in MPLS and partying hard. We ended up taking a taxi back to St. Paul. On the ride home, Elena and I were starving and I suggested we stop at Taco Bell. She hardly ever eats TB (no idea why that is…) and had never before experienced the awesomeness that is TB, in the middle of the night, when you’ve been drinking. Ain’t nothing better, just saying.

So, of course, we get a cab driver who doesn’t know where a TB is. I pull out my phone and look it up. I had the answer for him in like 10 seconds. He was seriously amazed. He kept saying, “how did you find it so fast?” and finally I said, “man, that’s what I do” (I get kind of sassy at 2am). So we hit the extremely long line at TB. I am in the front of the cab. We order, I pay. I even offered to buy the driver a taco and he said, “no, I have a bottle of water”. I still find that funny.

Now, I have a handful of change and a bag of food. We drive about six or so blocks to Elena’s house. As we pull over, I am trying to scramble out of the cab with a bag of food, the change I’m trying frantically to shove in my pocket, and my costume accessories; all while wearing a cape that is getting in the way.

Not graceful, not at all.

We go inside, I dump my stuff, unceremoniously, on the couch and strip off all Halloween accroutrements, jewelry, wig, etc. Then we sit at the table and dig in to our fantastic bag of TB. We got done eating and Elena’s dog needed to be walked. I said I’d go with her because it was almost 3 am and I didn’t want her walking alone. Although, her dog is a Sheepdog and he’s bigger than me and barks like a maniac at anything that moves, so I don’t know who’d be dumb enough to mess with her, but still.

We got back and I told her I was going home. She asked if I was okay to drive and I was. Not drunk at all. Hadn’t had a drink in about 3 hours at that point. And I was drinking Coors Light, so there’s that.

She said, “text me when you get home.” No problem.

I got into my car and something niggled at the back of my brain. I didn’t know where my phone was. I figured it was in my extraordinarily messy purse, but I hadn’t seen it in a while. I started to dig around to find it. I couldn’t. I flipped all the lights on in my car and tore through that purse, taking every item out. Not there.

I climbed into the backseat and looked through the bag I had with my Halloween stuff in it…not there. Shit.

I went back to Elena’s door and knocked. She was already in bed. I knocked for a while and finally she came down. I said I couldn’t find my phone. We looked through her house and couldn’t find it. We tried calling it and calling it and calling it. I figured we might hear it. I knew the ringer was off, because we were in a loud bar, so there was no point in having it on, but it would still vibrate.

We went out to my car and she called it again…still nothing.

By this point, I was feeling very sick. I had the worst feeling that I had lost this phone. Other than my house, my car, and my laptop, it is the most expensive thing I own (and the laptop only wins by about $100). Aside from that, practically speaking, it is my PHONE. I don’t have a house phone, and I live alone, so it is the only phone I have. It also powers my internet connection. And it is my alarm clock, but that is a smaller concern.

However, it was going on 4am at this point, so there wasn’t much we could do, so I just went home. I’ll tell you, I felt extremely vulnerable and naked without that phone. I kept thinking that if I got in an accident or ran out of gas I don’t have a phone to call for help. (Which made me think all the way back to high school, when I didn’t have a phone, when no one had phones. Dear God, how did we survive?)

I got home and went to bed. When I woke up…the next afternoon…I still had no phone. I wanted to call the cab company, to see if I forgot it in the cab, which was the only thing I could remember. I know for sure I used it in the cab, so I thought I must not have put it back in my pocket and maybe it got knocked on the floor.

I had to drive to my mom’s house. No one was home, fortunately I have a garage door opener, so I could get in. I called the cab company. But, I should mention, I don’t know for sure what kind of cab we took home. I called the cab we took there, because it was the number I knew. They told me that weekend items left in cabs aren’t turned in until Monday, when the central lost and found opens.

Monday.

It was Saturday.

I didn’t think I could go for two days not knowing.

Finally, I left my mom’s and decided to drive to Elena’s. I couldn’t call to see if she was home (do you see the annoyance here?) and I don’t know her number by heart. I thought I did, so I called, but I was off by one digit. I disturbed some poor elderly woman in Portland, ME. Ah well, my phone was lost.

So, I drive back into St. Paul. Luckily, I just caught Elena. She was about to leave for a baby shower. First thing I did was search the boulevard, in case I dropped the phone getting out of  the cab. It hadn’t rained the night before, but it was supposed to rain that night. Overnight in the cold won’t destroy it, but rain will, so if it was outside, I wanted to find it.

We both searched and searched and looked in the gutter and under leaves and everyplace we could think of. My phone was not outside. We then went in to search in the house. We had done that the night before, but I wanted to search in daylight. Lane pointed out that I would hear it, but I thought if it was between couch cushions we wouldn’t hear it. We basically tore her house apart and didn’t find it.

I did not know what else to do. I had the worst suspicion that it was gone forever. I was hanging a lot on the integrity of a cab driver to turn in a highly expensive Iphone. Assuming, of course, I could get in touch with the correct cab company.

Then, there is the problem with At&T’s contracts. You have to sign a 2-year contract to upgrade. I did this in July of 2010. The phone itself is covered by warranty for one year. Of course, that was expired. And, warranty doesn’t apply to losing a phone, but in order to re-up a contract you must have served 21/24 months. That means I am not eligible until March. For this period, I am SOL. It means that if I need to replace my phone, I must pay full retail price. Most people don’t realize that the price of a phone in the phone store is NOT the price of the phone. That is the discount price you get for signing a contract.

Without being able to get out of my contract ($350) and having no choice but to get a new phone…a new Iphone would cost me $599 for the smaller memory. The lost phone is the larger memory. That one would have cost me $699.

To get the older version of the phone, older than what I lost it would still have been $499.

So, to get a phone worse than the one I lost, without all my information inside it, would have been FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!

I do not have $500. At all. I’m broke. Flat-out, no money extra at all, kind of broke.

Why then, would I get an Iphone, you ask? Well, because I use it for internet access. Without that, I don’t get internet at home and then I couldn’t do my PT job. As I have to do my PT job, or I’ll lose my house, I must have internet. To buy internet at a monthly fee would end up costing more, long term, plus I’d still have to pay to get some kind of phone. The cheap, “free” phones, without a contract are still $179.99 for the cheapest AT&T has. In order to leave AT&T to get a prepaid or pay-as-you-go phone would cost me the $350 to break the contract.

I wanted to cry for how expensive this was…because I wasn’t careful with something that I AM ALWAYS CAREFUL WITH.

I was so upset, because I saw zero options. I could not afford to replace this phone, but I had no choice, I had to replace this phone.

Before leaving Elena’s, she had a brilliant idea to send a text to the phone with her number. Just in case. Then, if someone found it, or if the cab company saw it, they might call or text her to let her know it was found. I didn’t have high hopes, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. Besides, as I told Elena, someone could have found it on her boulevard before we did our search. She said she would never have picked up someone’s phone. I said I absolutely would, but I would also try to figure out who it belongs to. Call the most recent calls, see if they have “home” or “mom” or something in their contacts. That kind of thing. But, no one had done that, that I know of.

Still, we sent the text, just in case.

Then, dejected, depressed, and feeling very naked, I went home. I realized that my family couldn’t reach me, but I didn’t have any way to call them to tell them I lost my phone. I guessed that if they were looking for me and couldn’t get in touch with me, they’d drive over.

I sat at home for the rest of Saturday, trying to do anything to keep my mind off of this.

About 8 pm ish that evening, someone rang my doorbell. I thought it was my family, worried about me. I ran downstairs and opened the door.

It was Elena. She couldn’t call…

…so she drove out to my house.

To give me back my phone!

Turns out, the text message worked. While she was at her shower, she got a message back to call a certain number. She got home and called them and it was this older couple who lived only a few blocks from Elena. They had gone out for a walk Saturday morning and happened to see my phone on her boulevard. They picked it up and…kept it?

They never tried to contact anyone. My parents are listed in my contacts as “Home”, which sure would have been a good place to call. They didn’t do that. But, for some reason, when they saw the text, they called Elena. She went to their house and picked up my phone.

When she held out her hand and my phone was there, I actually got tears in my eyes. I was so unbelievably relieved to have it back and to have that catastrophe averted. I couldn’t believe that it had been missing for less than 24 hours at that point and it was the focus of my whole world.

It helped me remember that there are still kind people out there who will do something nice to help a stranger. I sent a thank you note to those people, and I don’t even know their names. I had their address from Elena, as she had driven there, but that was it.

I wanted them to know that they really helped me out a great deal, without even knowing it.

I told Elena that I was glad to have it back because I had so much fun the night before, but if my phone was lost, that would be the only thing I’d remember about that night, it would have been forever tainted. Now, of course, it is a dramatic story I can tell and Halloween was still a raucous good time.

And, in the meantime, I don’t think my phone has been out of my sight since that night. I even leave it in the bathroom when I shower…just in case.