Only in Switzerland?
In 1985 I took a summer German class. Since that time, I've been able to count to ten and say "I have forgotten my watch." This week that finally came in handy. I was able to adapt that sentence to say, "I left my computer on the train."
Just in case you were wondering, that's a really embarrassing way to start a new job. Hello. My name is Robin. Can you help me call the train station?
Actually, the Swiss railway system has a very efficient Lost and Found department. Everything is sent to the Bern station and is handled there. They have an online claim form. They promise to get back to you within four days. Even so, I wasn't very hopeful of getting my laptop back. My only hope was that the conductor might have picked it up before the next stop. So after two days, I gave up. It's not like a coat that someone might have picked up by accident and not noticed for a week.
But. Being a Quaker and traveling away from home, I hadn't really paid attention to the fact that it was Easter weekend. So the train system was at about half staff from Friday until Monday. They didn't have their usual personnel to manage the Lost and Found office. But on Sunday night, before the four days were up, I got an email saying that they had found an item matching my description and with identification and 20 Swiss francs, I could pick it up in Aarau (where I left it) on Tuesday. I'm not staying in Aarau anymore so I called to ask if they could just hold it at the Zurich station and I would come get it on Thursday. They said yes, they could send it to Zurich but it would have to go back to Bern first and then to Zurich and I wouldn't be able to get it until Friday. So I went to Aarau. It's an extra 50 francs and another hour each way but better to just get it sooner.
Everyone at the FWCC meetings has been very sympathetic and kind. And we are comparing notes on the chances that I would have gotten my computer back in other countries. In San Francisco, I think there might be a 30% chance that a computer would have been returned, but I'm fairly confident that if an item made it to the Lost & Found, it would still be there two days later. In other places, or even on a city bus in SF, it would be even lower. In Switzerland, they have an 80% return rate on lost items that are reported to the railway system.
So besides a tremendous reminder of the potential integrity of human beings, I've learned several lessons.
1. Back up all your files before leaving home. My computer is not new or fast or fancy. The devastating part would have been losing all the files and photographs that are stored on it. Chris copied some of it before I left home, but not everything. There is NO excuse for not doing this. I have to take a deep breath every time I think about this.
2. Have a more explicit check list of items I'm carrying and check when I get off of any mode of transit. I think what happened this time is that I took my purse out of my backpack when I went through customs and so I had one additional item to keep track of on the train and I didn't realize I was missing one until I arrived at my lodging.
3. Start with the online system but then go to the station and talk to someone in person. Swiss railway employees, at least the ones in customer service roles, all speak English. Don't mess around in bad German. Ask for help and look at what they've written down to be sure that it is correct. A black laptop with a case is not the same as a laptop with a black case.
So, all's well that ends well. God is good. All the time.
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