And no, I'm not talking religion here, but bear with me for a bit of a yarn before I get to the point (what's new, yes?).
Okay, so last Thursday I took the bus to work - not an unusual occurrence, I should say, but something I haven't done for a few weeks. That being the case, I took the opportunity to do some reading while the bus negotiated the inevitable traffic jam on the bridge into town. As often happens when I read, though, I was so absorbed in my book, I nearly missed my stop, and had to rush to get out in time. It was only when I got to the university entrance that I realised I'd left my handbag on the bus. Yes, I did.
A traumatic emotional eruption of some magnitude ensued. At least 9 on my personal Richter scale. This was my nightmare scenario coming true.
I don't think I've mentioned it before, but for some years I've had a recurring dream about leaving my bag in a classroom in a building with a maze of corridors and rooms. You know the type. Anxiety in extremis. In my dream, I can never find the room where I have been teaching and I usually wake in total and utter panic. The realisation it's just a dream sometimes takes time to sink in, but the relief is immense.
My real life version was, however, even worse, as the bus had gone on its way and I was convinced I'd never see my bag again. This was no dream and I wasn't going to wake up.
I've had a few experiences like this before since I've been here in Europe: twice my bag was stolen; once my purse was snatched; and another time I dropped my phone on the train without noticing. On none of these occasions have I been lucky enough to get my things back. What it meant each time was an exhausting, frustrating and expensive process of replacing passport, cards, driving licence, car papers and keys, not to mention one cancelled trip to South Africa.
So here I was again, this time wide awake and sweating with the knowledge of what I'd lost: passport, car papers, driving licence, keys….sound familiar?
I was doing some individual coaching that morning, so when I arrived in my student's office, I threw myself on her mercy. First things first, I took over her phone and cancelled all my bank cards - a reflex action I am now horribly used to. Then I looked up the bus company and called them to report the loss in the faint hope someone might hand it in. A very nice woman took the details and said she would let me know.
My next task was to look up how to replace my passport if I didn't get it back. The British Consulate in Amsterdam no longer does them, so I knew I'd have to apply to the UK. My heart plummeted even further when I saw the plain, stark truth. It would take "at least" eight weeks to replace, they said. Splosh, gurgle, sink went all my plans for travelling in the coming months. European countries might have no borders, but to get any kind of ticket to anywhere interesting, you have to have a passport.
But then my guardian angel came to the rescue. My 'student', who is in fact an events organiser at the university, is a real life angel, not to mention a wizard when it comes to charm offences. She patted me on the back, winked, picked up the phone and performed what can only be viewed as a miracle. Calling the bus company again, she persuaded (or rather cajoled and coerced) another very charming girl to contact the driver of the bus I was on. I don't know exactly how or what happened (it was all done in rapid fire Dutch which I was too dumbstruck to understand), but it seemed he'd found my bag and the bus company girl told my angel that if I stood at the same bus stop at precisely 11:42, he (the driver) would hand it back to me. I could hardly believe my ears. Was this really true?
Sure enough, half an hour later, I was waiting at the stop when I saw the bus approaching with 'my' driver waving and smiling at me though the windscreen. The doors opened, I jumped on board and he gave me back my most important worldly possessions - intact, complete and with absolutely nothing missing.
I was so incredibly relieved, I kissed him. He was so incredibly surprised, he blushed beetroot and promptly drove off with a big grin. Luckily I'd managed to hop off the bus again before he screeched away or that might have been another calamatous story.
But, with this kind act I have to say my faith in humanity was restored. Isn't it just a wonderful story? In a large, notoriously brash metropolis like Rotterdam, this personal service really made my day, week, month and year so far.
So now of course I'm very curious as to whether I will continue to dream the dream. I'd love to believe it's over, but knowing me and my penchant for inventing things to be anxious about, I'm not sure…. What do you think?