The Best City to Lose Stuff

If you’re going to lose something, there are a lot worse places than Seattle to do it.
I don’t know what it is about Seattle, but something about it brings out the worst in the Woodwards when it comes to losing things.
Not that we don’t lose things elsewhere. We lose things in our house, our cars, our yard – all sorts of places – on an almost daily basis. I can lose a cell phone or a pair of reading glasses in my sleep.
But there’s just something about Seattle. And, happily, people who live there seem to be as good at finding and returning things as we are at losing them. Seattle hereby gets my vote for Best City in America to Lose Stuff.
The most recent incident involved what can legitimately be called a heroic effort by Alaska Airlines employees to retrieve a computer my wife left on one of their planes. More on that later. First, some background:
The first incident happened several years ago at a hotel a few blocks from Seattle’s airport. I’d checked out and was walking to the airport to catch my flight home when I discovered that the wallet that should have been in my pocket wasn’t.
Panic! All my money and the ID I needed to board the plane were in that wallet. Without it, I’d be stuck. Visions of sleeping on sidewalks danced in my head.
The only hope was to search for the wallet and hope it turned up in time to catch the plane. I retraced every step. I went back to the hotel, turned my room upside down. Then I started looking in trash cans and dumpsters, hoping someone had taken the money and thrown the wallet away. That’s when a nice young man approached and asked if I’d lost something.
“The dumpster diving tipped you off?”
“Is this it?” he asked, holding out my wallet.
He’d found it on the sidewalk outside the hotel. I offered him the money inside as a reward, but he wouldn’t accept it. He wouldn’t even let me kiss his feet.
The second incident didn’t happen in Seattle proper, but close enough. My wife and I were driving from Boise to her folks’ house near Hoodsport, Wash., and stopped in Olympia to buy groceries. When we got to Hoodsport, an hour’s drive away, she realized her purse was missing.
Panic on steroids! Not only did the purse contain her ID, credit cards, makeup, photographs, cell phone, glasses, camera, pens, pencils, checkbook and a side of beef, it contained over $500 cash. Our money for the trip, and way more than she normally carries.
We drove back to the shopping center in Olympia, knowing it was hopeless. Who would turn in a purse with that much money?
We never knew, because the woman who found it in a shopping cart in the parking lot at Trader Joe’s didn’t leave her name. She just quietly turned it in – with every dollar still inside – and left. In the off chance you happen to read this, mystery woman, thank you for rescuing our vacation.
That brings us to the heroic Alaska Airlines employees. It was nearly midnight when our plane landed at Sea-Tac. We made it to the first restroom on the concourse when my wife realized she’d left her laptop in the overhead.
“You wait here with our luggage,” she said. “I’ll go back to and get it.”
She was gone a long time. Her expression when she returned left little doubt that the news wasn’t good.
“The plane is gone,” she said.
“What do you mean the plane is gone? You were back at the gate in ten minutes. They couldn’t have turned a flight around that fast.”
“They didn’t. They towed the plane to a hangar for maintenance.”
The airport was all but deserted at that hour, but we got lucky and found a solitary Alaska boarding agent finishing up at his post.
“Let me make some calls,” he said.
He did. Quite a few calls, actually.
“They’re going to search the plane. I’m giving them your cell number so they can call you when they know something. It shouldn’t take long.”
We sat and waited. And waited. And waited … The helpful agent got off duty and left. We waited some more. At last, a call.
“We have your laptop,” a voice said. “Where are you?”
We’d been expecting a call rather than an actual person, so we didn’t think it mattered that we’d left our gate. To our surprise, an Alaska supervisor had been waiting there for nearly an hour, repeatedly trying to call us.
It seems that a maintenance worker had transposed two of the digits when he gave my wife’s cell phone number to the supervisor. The supervisor, nothing if not resourceful, found our reservation on the lost laptop. The reservation included the correct cell phone number.
“It’s a good thing your computer isn’t password-protected,” he said. “We never would have found you.”
By this time half a dozen smiling Alaska employees who helped in the search had gathered to watch the handoff. You can’t ask for more from an airline than that.
And if you’re traveling and lose something really important, try to do it in Seattle.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Statesman and is posted on the following Mondays. Contact him at

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