It finally happened – one of my greatest traveling fears – I lost my wallet in a foreign country.
Maybe it was the sleep deprivation after more than 20 hours en route, maybe it was the chaos of wrestling with my squirmy 15-month-old, or maybe I’m just that absentminded, but I somehow managed to leave my wallet on the plane after a 14-hour flight from Washington Dulles to Beijing.
I realized it when we were at the baggage claim – far too late to turn around and go back to the gate. Before we left the airport, I contacted United’s baggage services, which had someone check around my seat on the plane for the wallet, without success. I also filed a claim with the airport’s lost and found. But I left the airport that day thinking it was gone forever. What a pain.
It could have been worse. My passport was tucked away in a much safer location. I only had a relatively small amount of cash in the wallet. And I had ensured that my wife and I were carrying different credit and ATM cards in case of such an event. The biggest bummer for me was that I would need to spend several hours in line at the DMV to get my driver’s license reissued.
The next day, I got an email from my mother back in the US, who had received a phone call from LaVerne Gaither, a United flight attendant. LaVerne had found my wallet on the return flight back to the US and handed it over to the gate agent at Washington Dulles airport. When I got home, I found out she had also contacted me through Facebook, sending along photos of the wallet and its contents. I called United’s lost and found handling at Dulles and, after filling out a short online form, my wallet was on its way back to me.
I’ll be the first to admit – United has made a lot of negative changes recently, especially for us lowly non-elites. Case-in-point – this never would have happened if I hadn’t had to get my wallet out to pay for my formerly complimentary drink on a trans-Pacific flight. However, this is a great example of how dedicated many United’s employees are. LaVerne would have done her job satisfactorily if she had simply handed my wallet off at the gate and gone home, but I would never have known to call Dulles if she had stopped there. Were it not for her taking the initiative to go out of her way to find me, I would be spending my day today standing in line at the DMV. It’s a simple thing, really – and it probably only took a few minutes of her time. But it made all the difference in the world to me. Thanks LaVerne – and all the hardworking flight crews for that matter. Faith restored.