Lost & Found

I’ve never read any concierge manual, nor any outline of what my duties as a concierge entail.  Typically, and in tow with the tradition of the concierge profession, I deal in restaurants, transportation, sightseeing, amenities, and general information brokering.  These fields are somehow subliminally acquiesced upon by 99% of hotel clientele, as most of the time this is the shit I’m asked about.

How, then, and by what perverse accordance of logic (or total lackthereof) can a complete and total stranger – albeit a hotel guest – part ways with a personal item somewhere out there in the big bad world, wholly independent of the hotel, and insouciantly transfer the responsibilty of finding that item – somewhere in the ether – to me?  I wasn’t in that fucking cab with you.  I was never holding that massively important briefcase of yours before you left it on the fucking curb at O’Hare.  How the fuck are you going to implicate me in tracking the thing down?

Hey!  Look at me!  Free at last!!!

Hey! Look at me! Free at last!!!

Nine times out of ten I’m affronted with idiots that have left items in cabs.  No one is an idiot for leaving something in a cab, but idiot status is attained for stretching logic to think that after leaving something in a taxi in a city of 9 million, the best person to enlist – no – place in charge of finding this item is some schmuck behind a desk that wasn’t in the cab, didn’t see the cab, doesn’t comingle with cab drivers in their spare time, and by all accounts is better suited to talking at length about Chicago-style deep dish pizza, than presciently locating inanimate objects.  This is the concierge desk – you want an oracle.

“Well can’t you call the cab company???” is the typically snotty retort.  Mind your attitude dear!  It could get significantly more difficult to find that Blackberry the shittier your tone gets!

I’ve heard this story and been down this road possible 200 times?  I’ve lost track.  I know the ropes.  So I’ve got my MO ready:

“Oh no!  You did?  You lost your Blackberry?  The one you were unable to unlock your gaze from while I was trying to explain to you how to walk to the Starbucks a block away?  Drats!  Of course I can call the taxi – what was the cab number?”

No one ever knows the cab number.  Ever.  I always ask.  It’s tantamount to twisting the knife, but again – I know where this road leads and how little enjoyment is ultimately in it for me, so I take pleasure where I can.

“No?  Didn’t get that cab number?  No problem – what was the cab company?”

No one ever knows the cab company.  Ever.  I always ask.  And this is where it always gets shitty.

“Well it was a white cab…..”

I know it was.  You know how?  They’re all fucking white.  Sure there is a large fleet that is yellow, and another that is maroon, but no one ever seems to lose anything in one of those cabs.  It’s always a white cab, of which there are 50? 100?  200 different operators?  I then explain that the problem is that any enterprising young chap can start a taxi company, get a license to operate, slap their logo on the side, and with one car – voila – a cab company.  The response is almost always the same:

“Well can you call a few?”

I’d rather not, sir!  Er – I mean of course!  I’ll call the secret number I have for the Taxi Central Nervous System of Chicago and they will telepathically channel an all points bulletin for your Blackberry so you won’t lose important confidential company information, or fall behind in your fantasy baseball!!!  Did I mention that even if cab companies have radio dispatch systems, only about 10% of drivers use them?  And that’s if someone found the otherwise-expensive-but-now-totally-free-to-punt-on-to-the-next-schlub Blackberry and gave it to the driver, who I’m sure won’t hold it ransom for a hefty reward when he turns down fares left and right to drive across town through rush hour traffic to lay it on your doorstep in a basket of downy feathers and fragrant lilies.

There are, unbelievably, occasions where I’m able to ascertain the exact cab the item of value was left in.  Guests often believe this is it – problem solved!  But here is there inherent problem – you have lost an item of value.  Stay with me here – an item of value.  This means that the item you coveted so dearly until you could no longer resist the urge to splash out large sums of money to have and make other people covet, is now floating around amongst the general public in the backseat of a cab – a vessel in which the general public enters and leaves, with high frequency, for short periods of time, in total anonymity.  The valuable item which you purchased to turn the public at large green with envy is now free for the taking, yet you assume only good Samaritans –  like yourself! – are forking over the $5 necessary to shuttle between the baby seal orphanage and Cure for Horrible Diseases Invention Laboratory.  I very recently explained this rather cruel dynamic – in more soothing and diplomatic language and metaphors – to a very important looking German businessman with a handlebar mustache.  He reasoned that I should try to track down his eyeglasses (that he left in a “white cab with a colored driver” – thanks for narrowing THAT down, chap!) because “they were quite expensive.  About $1,000.  Prada.”  Ah yes, mein Herr.  What is that word you chaps invented?  Ah yes – schadenfreude.

Hey! Look at me!  New Blackberry!

Hey! Look at me! New Blackberry!

You can see how totally ludicrous the whole “lost item” premise is for a concierge.  But it gets far more ludicrous.  We are often stung by rashes of “found” items – quite possibly just as bad as lost ones, as now we are transferred ownership of the fucking things.  An example – this week a lady was in a cab and picked up a set of keys – about 30 keys on two rings, attached to a lanyard – that she “thought was her husband’s”.  Really lady?  Are you married to a fucking janitor?  What to do when she realized the keys were in fact a burden?  Pawn them off on the concierge!

But that pales in comparison to the Japanese lady that frantically approached my colleague tonight.  He had been talking to her for a good 15 minutes when he tapped me and said this lady, who speaks very little English, had lost her wallet on a Metra train between Chicago and Aurora, and do I know anyone we can call that speaks Japanese?  I thought about calling the sensai at my dojo, but then remembered it breaches the sanctity of my ninjitsu oath.  Long story short, we come to find out that this woman didn’t lose her wallet, but in fact found a wallet at the Metra train stop in Aurora, and was turning it over to us.  Um…..ok.  What the fuck?  Are we playing hot potato?  My colleague reasoned that in Japan, however, it is a crime to find a wallet and not turn it over to the police, which was, in fact, what she was trying to do.  I won’t even get into the debacle that was calling various phone numbers found in the wallet, but needless to say, this is no easy fix.

So if I can impart just one bit of wisdom to the public at large, if you take anything at all away from reading this, it’s not to pat yourself down when exiting a cab, or anything smart like that.  It’s this:  there is a reason we label items lost.  Think about it.  Lost.  Gone.  Forever.  Not misplaced.  No one misplaces a cell phone in a cab.  If something is lost – and it’s what you’re calling it, not me! – say goodbye.  Set yourself free.  Set your cell phone free.  And for christ’s sake – don’t bother the fucking concierge with it.


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