Thursday, December 11, 2008

Romanians are Great People Department Re: Computer Mishap #2 - An E-Mail from Pat Hayes (Evan's Dad and Nancy Sherman's Husband)

Hi Duncan, from Pat in Oradea --

Well, we certainly didn't plan to try to top your adventure in retrieving a laptop, but try this on for size:

We made the Tuesday mid-afternoon train to Brasov; more snow in the mountains along the way, but the 3-5 centimeters Brasov experienced early in the day was mostly melted by early evening. We hopped in the first cab we spotted outside the station; the fellow was kind enough to notice Nancy had closed her coat in the door, so he graciously opened it so she could tuck the rest into the back seat with her. He spoke English rather well, so we chatted each other up on the 10-12 minute ride to the pensione that Jeremy had set us up in for the night. He even slowed down a bit to show us a couple of the better sights that he recommended we come back to see in the daylight. Got to our destination, unloaded our stuff, and headed in to claim our upstairs apartment.

Rendezvous'd (sp?) with Jeremy about an hour later and had a very nice dinner with him in a place that served rather respectable Mexican fare, along with lots of other Romanian/Hungarian goodies.

I think we made it back to the pensione a little after 10 and decided to check email before we settled down for the night. A complete and thorough search of the 2 rooms resulted in the inescapable conclusion that the computer (and it's backpack) never came up the stairs with us. 99% sure it wasn't left on the train, nor at the station... had to be in the cab. This was 3+ hours after we'd exited the cab ... didn't know the number or the cab company. Put a real good damper on what had been a busy, enjoyable day. Evan felt guilty because he'd been in charge of the bag, and Nancy felt responsible because she was in the back seat with him and the bag. I felt bad for both of them, and for all of us, because all of Nancy's RO research stuff was on the machine, several of Evan's games + 800-1000 of our best/worst photos from this Fulbright journey.

Nancy got a couple cab co. numbers from the front desk people and called. One of the dispatchers actually put out a call to all the drivers while she was on hold, but no response back. Nancy was quickly becoming a basket case, so she asked me to go back downstairs to the desk & see if we had all the likely/possible phone numbers. The staff (two waitresses and a bartender) was very sympathetic and actually helped me make a few more calls. No luck, tho' a couple did say call back in the morning to see what their co. grapevine may have come up with.

It was a gloomy set of omelets we consumed at breakfast. The morning manager suggested a long shot ... go down to the station and see if you can find the driver. Mmmmm, in a town of a quarter million people, with hundreds of cabs, that seemed ludicrous. But we had nothing else going, so we checked out, trudged over to Jeremy's apartment so Nancy could work on her talk that she was to give that evening at the local American Club at his university.
We followed his directions and took the #4 bus down to the station; decided to check Lost & Found to see if it might have turned up there. I think it was our psychological delaying tactic, as we weren't optimistic about going cabtocabtocab in the parking lot, looking at faces and telling our sad story to any driver that hadn't heard about it the evening before.

The info booths inside & outside the station yielded no help; we couldn't find the entrance to the police station inside the building, and the chap at the baggage holding room couldn't make out what we were after, so he walked us up to the money changer, who I think he was sure knew more English than he did. She did, a little, but she suggested nothing more than to check the info desk(s). Back to square one.

I thought we could both use a coke (or something stiffer??) at this point, so we walked over to the snack bar to survey the drink offerings. 5 seconds later our cab driver was standing there next to us -- he had come back down to the station to look for us!!! He said he had not initially opened the pack, once he'd found it late in the evening (it was still sitting on the hump on the floor in the back seat), but a couple of buddies said go ahead, it's probably not a bomb! Once he saw Evan's algebra book, he pieced the mystery together. He said if he hadn't seen us at the station, he'd have gone back to the pensione, so we probably would have gotten it back one way or the other, but really, we were just thunderstruck that we bumped into him. Right then & there I grabbed him behind the ears and gave him a big kiss right on the forehead... for Nancy of course.

Luciano said he'd been raised right in a good family, and made every effort to do the right thing. He has two sons himself, and knows that youngsters can lose things. What a guy!! He agreed to a photo side by side w/ Evan, so when I get the latest set of them uploaded, I'll forward it along.

Don't know if that tops yours, but we can add it to the Romanian Fulbright folklore, perhaps as another cautionary tale about alertness when traveling, no matter how comfortable you may have gotten with your surroundings.

Nancy did a nice job onstage that evening, got lots of response and questions from the assemblage of 15-20, mostly students. Had another great meal with Jeremy, made it to the train station with, wow, at least 12 minutes to spare, and had the usual rumbley overnight trip back to Oradea... slept off & on, adequately.

Best of holiday wishes to you!!

Pat in Oradea

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