A few months ago I was returning to university by train after a weekend visit to my parents. I’m travelling alone and just read and listen to my mp3-player during the trip, my luggage being a suitcase and a shoulder bag. I have to switch trains two times, and the second switch is when disaster strikes.
As soon as I sit down in the third train, I realize I do not have my shoulder bag, and in a panic jump up, grab my suitcase, and sprint back to my previous train.
I manage to jump in right before the doors close, and quickly walk back to the place I was sitting in, hoping to find my bag. It’s not there, so I ask people sitting nearby if they have seen it. They haven’t. Literally my everything is in that bag: my cellphone, my house keys, my wallet, my ID, my day planner, and maybe most importantly a scarf that used to belong to my mother, who passed away when I was 10, that I always carry with me. All I have now is a suitcase full of clothes and toiletries, my mp3-player, and my Public Transportation pass.
A passenger advises me to ask the train conductor, and I go find him, but when I explain to him what happens, I break down. I’ve never been good with stress and am very emotional; ever since I was a little kid I would break out in tears when stressed or confronted. I’ve been chastised for this many times by relatives, teachers, and other adults, and bullied about it by age mates.
Recently I’ve been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and now I know that’s where the tears come from, but I still feel like an immature idiot when I can’t keep it together in seemingly minor situations. But I just can’t keep the tears in, no matter how hard I try. At this point, I’m choking up, trembling, my legs feel about to give out, there are tears running down my cheeks, I have trouble getting my story out, feel about to throw up, and generally feel like I am making a complete fool of myself.
The conductor, however, stays completely calm and friendly, telling me to take deep breaths and gently puts a hand on my shoulder to steady me. Thanks to his soothing demeanor, I manage to finally tell my story. He tells me he just got on the train himself, and nobody had turned in a found bag with him, but he calls lost and found at the station we just left to ask if someone turned in my bag there. Unfortunately, no-one has. He then helps me to fill in a lost possessions form over the phone, and even though I still can’t stop the tears, the man on the phone is very calm and friendly.
When he is finished taking my information and I’ve handed the conductor his phone back, the conductor calms me down further, helps me clamp down on my panic at not knowing what to do, and helps me figure out a plan. He advises me to go back to the station where I got on, since I had to wait there and might have left my bag on a bench, and ask their lost and found. He also adds a bit of reassurance that my bag might have been turned in at the station we just left, but hasn’t been processed yet.
A little calmer, I sit down and the conductor proceeds to help another passenger, but hovers close in case I need anything else. When we get back to the station where I got on, he wishes me luck and I thank him and jump off. I make a beeline for lost and found, and explain to them what happened, but again the tears start flowing. Again, I feel like a fool. But again, I am only met with kindness. The women behind the desk calm me down and help me out.
They haven’t found my bag, but one of them offers me her phone and suggests I call my dad to let him know what’s happening. I call him and make a plan to go back to the station where I first missed my bag and ask lost and found again, and if it’s not there ask to borrow a phone, call him again, and figure out a way to get back to his house, since I won’t be able to get into my apartment without my keys unless my flat-mate is home, which is probably not the case.
When I hand the lady behind the desk her phone back, she gives me some tissues and a bottle of water and wishes me luck.
I take another train, still too stressed to even listen to my mp3-player. At the station where everything started, I again make a beeline for lost and found, but find out they’ve already closed for the night — it’s now around nine pm.
Cue the next wave of panic.
I spot a security guard and, out of desperation, ask him if he can help me in any way. He says he can’t leave his post, but he’ll use his radio to find out if someone from lost and found is still around. After some radio-chatter, a lost and found employee, who was about to go home with her daughter, replies and says she’ll come over. She walks up and asks me to describe my bag. I do so and she asks for my name. I give it to her and she says a bag matching my description has been turned in, with identification in it. She asked for my name to see if it matched, and it did.
My bag has been found!
She walks me over to lost and found and brings out my bag, and I just pour out my thanks. She tells me to be more careful in the future, and I can go home, making sure to thank the security guard along the way. When I get home, I am just hit with a wave of gratitude, not just for having my bag back, but also, and even more, for the amazing people that have helped me tonight, going out of their way and definitely beyond their job description.
The conductor that put helping a crying young woman before checking train tickets, the woman who let me borrow her own phone, the security guard who was supposed to be watching out for troublemakers and had every right to turn me away but didn’t, and the employee who was ready to go home after what was no doubt a long day, but still made time for one last person. I wish I could do something to thank all of them, but since I will probably never see them again, I wouldn’t know what.
All I could think of was sharing my story to show that, while people are often complaining about the train system and its employees, those employees also do wonderful things like this.