Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Now I have new friends

Before reading this entry, you should read the one below it to get the full context. If you already have, then carry on...

So, this past weekend I went home for my friend's bachelorette festivities in the city. But it would seem like returning the camera and the memory card to its owners was the big occasion. Even my mother said to me a couple of days before I flew out of Phoenix, "DON'T FORGET THE CAMERA!" There's no way I would have forgotten. 1) I was looking forward so much to returning it. 2) I would have needed to be talked down from a ledge if I had left it behind.

So on Saturday, I met the couple who own the camera at a Starbucks in Daly City. They were worried it was out of the way but it totally wasn't. I had to take the nearby freeway to get to San Francisco anyway. Of course, we recognized each other right away. We sat down with our drinks and talked for 10 minutes before I presented them with the camera. We made small talk at first--them asking me how long I was in town, how long I've lived in Phoenix, etc. At one point I said, "Does this feel like we're on a first date?"

We then swapped stories. I told them how Ella retrieved the camera and how I came into the picture (no pun intended). They told me how they accidentally lost the camera when they bumped into each other. At first the loss put a damper on their trip but they eventually were able to focus on still having a good time.

We actually ended up talking for two hours. I found out that the female half of the couple, she and I share similar interests. They are both foodies and love to travel. But she is like me and is open to hosteling it. She has a friend in Scottsdale/Tempe area that she wants to visit early next year. So, if they do that, they will definitely let me know so we can get together. And I can get them together with Ella and family! That would be surreal.

Fortunately, half of the pictures on the memory card had already been uploaded. But there were still lots of photos from Yosemite and elsewhere that would have been lost. Though it's great they have those back, I think they were drawn to meet me because they were so astounded people would go out of their way to track down the owners of a camera that looked absolutely totaled. I'm still marveling myself about how all this transpired. It took my being in Phoenix to meet these two really nice people from the Bay Area. So, let's just say, there was a lot of mutual marveling going on.

A friend said to me yesterday, "Terry, you always meet people in the most interesting ways." I guess that's true from time to time. This whole thing has reminded me the Universe, Fate, etc. is a very funny thing.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A Thousand Words? Puhlease, pictures are priceless.

Last Saturday evening, I decided to go for a walk because my food consumption that day had consisted of a piece of toast, two carne asada tacos with a little serving of beans and rice, lots of chips with four different kinds of salsa (at La Condesa in case you're a foodie and are wondering) and a cupcake and a glass of ice tea.

I ended up walking by my friend Jo Ann's house (some of you know her as that elderly lady who once gave me a can of olives). Her son Brian came outside and spotted me. I was graciously invited into the backyard to say hi to the three kids. This was the first time I had seen the entire family since they went on a road trip to Disneyland and Yosemite. The oldest child, 8-year-old Ella, proceeded to tell me a story of how when they were swimming in a waterfall, they spotted a camera under water stuck in some rock. Extremely curious, the family held onto Ella while she used her toes to try and grab the camera. Her toes did their little dance and somehow got the camera out.

They let the camera and the memory card dry out for several days. The camera was still totally un-useable but the memory card could be a different story. Since they had a laptop for the kids to watch DVDs, they popped in the memory card to see what was on there. Fortunately with the kids watching, nothing salacious or weird. From the looks of it, the camera belonged to a 20-something couple, Filipino American who had used the camera for two vacations--in New York and Yosemite. Dozens of photos. They looked like people I would get along with. I mean people who take pictures of food have to be pretty cool.

It was at this point that Ella said "You like to take pictures of cupcakes." Surprised, I said "Oh, you remember?"
Ella: "I know YOUR style."

Brian said they looked through the photos for some identifying information and what do you know...the couple had actually taken pictures of their boarding passes! Insisting he didn't know anything about social media or how to track people down via the Internet, he asked if I would be interested in taking part in the pursuit of our couple. The reporter in me could not pass that up; my Spidey-sense was already tingling. So when I left their house that night, I not only left with my iPod and keys, but a photo of these boarding passes.

The next day I started running both their names through search engines, White Pages, Facebook, etc. It was difficult because the passes mashed their first and middle names together. The guy had a very uncommon first name and it was hard to tell where the first name ended and the middle one began. And the girl easily could go by a couple of different nicknames or shortened versions of her name. Finally, I typed the guy's first name down correctly and got a hit on possible name in Facebook. Their boarding passes showed they had departed from San Francisco and this FB profile belonged to someone from the City. I sent a friend request which was granted a couple hours later. But I still couldn't see his profile and gain access to send a message. Afraid of looking psychotic but determined to contact him, I sent the request a second time. A few hours later, confirmed. This time I could see his profile.

So very late Sunday night, I clicked on "send so-and-so a message" wrote a lengthy note explaining how in a nutshell, I live in Phoenix, I know this family who found your camera, we can mail it to you, yada yada yada.

Monday morning, I checked my e-mail. There was a reply from him! Mr. Lost Photos was completely stunned that A) Someone retrieved his camera and B) Someone else went to the trouble of trying to find him. He said when they lost the camera in the river in Yosemite, they pretty much considered it and their photos lost forever. He went on to say that it was great to know there are good people in the world and that we really made his day.

This had me in really great spirits all day--which is rare for a Monday! Part of the reason I was so diligent about finding them was because as a journalist, I love trying to track people down. It's like a scavenger hunt. But of course, more than that, how often do you get to deliver really uplifting news to someone? If someone could get something of mine back to me just by making a small effort, I would hope he/she would do it.

As Fate would have it, I am going to be in my old stomping grounds of San Francisco in mid-September for a bachelorette party. So...the couple and I have tentatively made plans to meet that weekend and I will personally deliver their memory card and camera back to them. Mr. Lost Photos said they would prefer that over postal deliver so they can personally thank me (aaawwww). I'm thinking of also bringing them a picture of Ella's toes as a keepsake.

Wouldn't it be funny if we became friends for a very long time to come? We'd have a great "how we met" story. I think we all know what the lesson is here. Sometimes it truly is better to give than receive. And when it comes to taking vacation pics, snap a photo of your boarding pass!