One day I had an early morning flight, and in the rush I managed to leave my purse in the cab—which I realized as I saw it pull into the airport exit lane. I hadn’t taken the time to get a receipt, so I couldn’t even trace the cab. Luckily I had my phone in hand and had stashed my ID and debit card in the case.
In my bag? A few hundred dollars in cash, a nearly full checkbook, several credit cards, home and office keys (same building), and thirty of my business cards with my address (from a recent networking event).
Try to make the flight and give the cabbie an 8-hour head start selling my info, if he’s so inclined?
Or skip the trip and try to recover my stuff?
I opted for a compromise: as my husband held down the traveling fort (daughter, bags, security line, gate directions), I started making calls. The operator from the NYC report-a-problem line stayed on with me, even as my phone went through the x-ray machine, and we resumed the reporting process as I slipped on my shoes, grabbed my jacket, and sprinted toward the gate to join my family.
Since our departure was then delayed due to weather conditions, I even had time to call the bank to stop payment on the checks, and contact three police precincts before boarding. During the layover in Chicago, I called the credit card companies to report loss of the cards.
Panic is optional
The real choice was this: panic, or deal.
In other words, panic and then deal, or just begin dealing.
In any situation, if you panic, you’ll still have to deal with the situation at hand. But you will have worn yourself out and exhausted your inner resources before tackling the problem. Not the greatest conditions for trying to function at your best!
The call I didn’t think to make till dinner that evening: my home phone to check my messages.
There was only one—from the cabbie.
He had found my bag, called the number on the business cards, and wanted to make arrangements to return everything. When I got back the next week, he brought my bag to me. Everything was there, including $637 in cash. He refused my $200 reward, stating that he was a practicing Muslim and he was just doing the right thing, that it was my money and my bag, and he wasn’t looking for a reward.
I insisted, and he finally accepted. Perfect ending.
What if it hadn’t gone so well, if he had taken the opportunity to steal my identity and rack up enormous charges on my cards before I reported them as lost. Would panicking at the airport have changed the outcome? No, but it sure would have made the situation harder to deal with!
If you have trouble skipping the panic to deal with the situations of everyday life, counseling can help you learn to cope more effectively.
Diane Spear, LCSW-R, owns a private practice in the Union Square/East Village area of Manhattan (New York City). She specializes in anxiety, depression, couples, and parenting treatment, and has been helping people find the joy in everyday life since 1995. She is accepting new patients. To learn more about Diane’s approach to treatment, click here.