We were holidaying in Ahlbeck, a seaside town near the German-Polish border. It was our last night and we were in an Italian restaurant, waiting for the enormous pizza we’d ordered to go.
All of a sudden, a look of panic spread over LSH’s face, and he began tapping his pockets frantically. Then he emptied the contents of his bag on the table.
“I don’t have my wallet,” he said.
“It’s probably in the apartment.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Go back and check,” I suggested. “I’ll wait for the pizza.”
I couldn’t wait to tear into its cheesy, spinachy goodness.
It came moments after LSH had left. The heat from the box radiated through to my fingertips as I crunched through the snow back to the apartment. Giddy with greed, I expected to find LSH sheepishly reunited with his wallet, and ready to crack open a few bottles of the local beer we’d bought in Edeka earlier.
Instead I found him stony-faced.
“It’s gone,” he said.
We turned the apartment inside out, tearing open drawers, accessing nooks and crannies we hadn’t known existed. We even turned the couch upside down, as if we expected the wallet to tumble out with a guilty “alright, you got me!”
“I had it in Edeka,” LSH said later, miserably munching a cold slice of pizza. “I paid with exact change. I must have set it down when I went to pick up the bottles.”
“We’ll go back first thing tomorrow morning,” I said. “But until then there’s nothing we can do.”
“All my bank cards,” said LSH. “My BVG travel ticket. My Trinity College graduate library pass.”
“It’s expired,” I said gently. “We moved away six years ago.”
“The existing pass is required for renewal,” LSH said tersely.
The romantic, gorge-ful evening we had envisioned was slipping away.
“I just have to sleep it off,” said LSH, and went to bed, leaving me to nurse a flat regional beer.
The next morning the snow sparkled under brilliant sunshine. It has to be in Edkea, I thought, though I was careful to conceal my optimism.
The shop had just opened. A young man sat at the till.
“Good morning,” I said. “We’ve lost a wallet. And we think we left it here, on this very ledge, last night. Could you check to see if you have it?”
He shook his head vigorously. “Nope,” he said. “No wallet here.”
“Go to the department of lost items,” the customer behind us chipped in.
“Oh?” I said. “I didn’t know such a thing existed.”
“It’s in the town hall,” he said.
“This is very odd,” I said as we made our way down a long and narrow yellow-walled corridor, passing glass cases that featured posters outlining the requirements for passport photographs due to come into effect in 2004.
“It is a sleepy town,” said LSH.
We found a door labeled “Office of found items” We could hear a radio on in the background.
There was no answer.
A young woman swept past us on her way into another room.
“Can I help you?” she asked pleasantly.
“Sure,” I said. “We’d like to declare a missing wallet.”
“You’re in the right place,” she said, sympathetically. “But the office might not open for another few minutes. Why don’t you just take a seat?”
“Thanks,” we said.
We sat down outside the Lost and Found office, and became aware of a male voice coming from it.
We agreed that this time it wasn’t the radio.
“I’ll knock again in a while,” I said.
Fifteen minutes later, the same woman emerged again from her room.
“Still no answer?” she asked.
We shook our heads sadly.
Forty-five minutes later, during which time no one had actually entered the room, we knocked again.
“Come in,” said a gruff voice.
An old, bearded man was sitting at a desk. Judging by his expression, he was not happy to see us.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“My husband has lost his wallet” I said. “Has it possibly turned up here?”
“Oh, that’s a shame. Perhaps we could report it missing?”
The request appeared to pain him.
“I’ll need your ID.”
“It’s in my wallet,” LSH said helplessly.
The man sighed.
“Perhaps I can give you my passport instead?” I suggested.
He agreed, reluctantly.
He typed my details – painstakingly slowly – into the computer.
I asked if I could provide an e-mail address so he could contact me if the wallet was handed in.
He squinted at the computer.
“There’s no box on this form for an e-mail address,” he said. “There has to be a box.”
“Oh, hmm perhaps you could just take a note of it then?” I asked.
He continued to gaze at the screen.
“Actually, there is a box,” he said. “So you can give it to me after all.”
He printed out a document to confirm that LSH had lost his wallet.
We thanked him profusely and left.
“I’m going to have to cancel everything,” LSH said, crestfallen. “So many phone calls.”
(We hate phone calls.)
On or way back, we passed Edeka again.
“Come on,” I said, suddenly determined. “We’re going back in.”
We passed the young man at the till and made our way up and down the aisles until we found another member of staff: this time, a woman stacking shelves.
“Excuse me,” I said, with a hint of desperation in my voice.
“My husband thinks he left his wallet here last night. Is there any chance it’s been found?”
“What does it look like?”
“It’s black!” LSH blurted out. “Bulging with receipts.. a ton of cards!”
“And look,” LSH said, brandishing our document from the man in the town hall. “We’ve even got an official document declaring it missing!”
She glanced at it, bemused.
“One moment,” she said.
She disappeared to the back of the shop and came back with the wallet.
LSH clapped his hands together in adulation. I called her an angel.
She looked at us with the kind of sympathy reserved for the deranged.
“You’re welcome!” she said and returned to her tins of soup.
As we left the shop, passing by the young man at the till, LSH turned to me and said:
“Katzi, men are absolutely useless.”
“Go on,” I said, happily.
“The tosser at the till, swearing blindly that he didn’t have the wallet. He didn’t even look. Or ask someone!” He paused, then continued, “that old man in the town hall: zero help!”
“Yes,” I said. “I can certainly see where you’re coming from.” But then, for the sake of diplomacy I said, “Not all men though. You, for example, are alright.”
“Katzi,” he said. “I’m the one who lost my wallet!”
“True,” I said. “And I’m the one who got it back.”
We crunched through the snow back to the apartment, singing the praises of women everywhere.
Happy International Women’s Day!