Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Samaratin Work

Well, that’s pushing it really…

In that odd twist of life where things happen in 3’s, two rather strange similar events have happened to me recently. Essentially, I’ve helped to return a couple of wallets to their respective owners.

The first one happened about 2 weeks ago when I was leaving my flat to go and watch some rugby. I’m barely 10 feet from the front door when I spy a bulging Japanese ‘Manga’ type wallet, lying on the ground.

Initially, I sorta walked past it in a way that a cat does, airing indifference, while it sizes up the situation.

I was already late for the bus and the game, but after taking a few more paces my good ol’ Kiwi upbringing took over and I knew I could not just leave it lying there. I dashed back and picked it up, whilst looking around for anyone who had that ‘oh crap, I’ve lost my wallet’ look on their face.

After a quick inspection I could see no-one (at all) so I figured I’d quickly stick it in my flat and sort it out later.

Many hours on, post rugby and associated mayhem, I’m back and ready to investigate the wallet situation. I open it to discover that it belonged to a girl, who was a local University student and like all good students, she had virtually no money - vice a fiver and some pennies.

Monday morning and I phone up the local University all ready to get a message to this girl that her wallet was safe & sound and arrange a way for her to pick it up.

Yeah, right – not in bloody 21st century Britain!

First of all I spoke to a chap who said I could bring it in, to which I said that I wasn’t able to come in right at the moment or, frankly, wasn't prepared to trapse over town, losing a couple of hours of work, to drop it off (well, like I said, not right then). He then said to e-mail in the details of the student.

Dutifully, I sent off an e-mail to the address he supplied and a couple of hours later I got a reply back saying that they couldn’t help, that I would have to drop off the wallet to them, in person. I wrote back a somewhat curt message saying ‘what do you mean, you can’t help? Surely you can get a message to the, by then, probably fretting girl, to say that her wallet and its contents were safe & sound?’.

More hours go past and I then get an e-mail back from his superior stating that due to the Data Protection Act, they can not give out any details about a student and, furthermore, they can not confirm or deny whether they have a student there.

WTF? I wasn’t asking her out for a date! I was merely trying to get a message to her that I had her wallet and that she didn’t necessarily need to go and cancel all her cards etc. Again, the overlord said I needed to drop it off to them or into a local police station.

I couldn’t be bothered replying to her by then, but, being somewhat irate, I was tempted to write back to say that ‘alright, no problem, I’ve chucked it back into the middle of the street - where I’m sure it’ll get stolen pretty quickly! But at least we wouldn’t breach the Data Protection Act’.

Anyway, a day or two later I discovered there was a police station somewhat closer to me than I realised and I trundled down there to hand it in. Going though the motions with the policeman, I related my tale of the University reaction fully expecting him to say ‘WTF, that’s crazy!’, but he only said ‘Yeah, they can’t give out details because of the Data Protection Act’.


I couldn’t be bother going further down the path to say about the ‘just passing on a message’ thing, as I realised this was going nowhere and my view of the Universe had been superseded by an early 21st century parliamentary act.

So there you have it folks, what a monkey’s arse-about-face time & place we live in. I agree about not giving out details on a student or encouraging any situation where they would be sent off to meet up with a stranger, but that is Data Protection gone absolutely spastic where they can not pass on a message to say something has been found and that it is safe & sound?!? Twats!

In the end, by the time any message got anywhere near the poor lass to say that it had been found, she must have cancelled all of her cards and, as such, the contents of it would have been thoroughly useless by then – save the £5 & funky wallet.

So, on to the second of these odd events…

About a week ago I hear the clatter of my postal slot and a rather ominous thud in my hallway, as something crashed to the ground. I go out to investigate there is a very screwed up white envelope, with the barest of writing on it. The scrawled address on it was right, but the name was not and there was no return address.

The contents were already spilling out so it was no feat of entry, nor breach of the 1792 postal act, to investigate the contents. I turned it over and to my amazement, a bulging wallet came tumbling out.

WTF, am I attracting these things?

Well versed by then in the art of wallet investigation, I got to the heart of the matter and found a drivers licence in this one, which belonged to a guy called Ben (I’ll call him that… since that is his name). It stated that he lived in the same street, but the next number along.

That night, early evening, I went down the road to look at the buzzers on the next building to see if I could identify the flat or his name. Like all good UK buzzers they were completely illegible and gave absolutely no indication which flat was which.

Back at home I fired up the trusty internet and did an investigation on him (I’d done the same for the girl above, but it was inconclusive). Eventually, on Facebook, I found a chap who was in Edinburgh and who’s profile picture sorta looked like the one on the driver’s licence (he had a cycling helmet on in his Facebook profile image, so his face was somewhat obscured).

I sent a quick message to him and the next day I got one back, saying ‘yeah, fantastic, that is my wallet, but he hadn’t lived there for a couple of years!’. He identified the wallet correctly in the message, for any diligent sleuth-like reader out there, and mentioned about some money being in it.

I wrote back to him to say ‘great, let’s meet up and I can give it back to you’, but, at the same time, had to tell him that there was no money in there (it was only a 20 Euro note). So, I’ve yet to meet Ben, as he was away for the weekend, but I look forward to catching up to return his possessions and basking in the light of my humanitarian work.

I wonder if he works for the Parliament or knows much about the Data Protection Act?


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