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The Lost Backpack

JanSport say that their backpacks have a lifetime warranty. Apparently that is true, since when the JanSport backpack I had since high school wore out, I got it replaced for only the cost of shipping with a completely new one. I still have the replacement backpack, and it often accompanies me on trips.

When I first moved to New Zealand, I slept in a hostel for the first couple of nights. But then I moved into the house of some friends while I looked for an apartment. I worked from their living room, and in the evening would take trips around the city looking at different apartments.

One evening, I had walked from the city out to Grafton, a suburb not too far from downtown. I hopped on the train at Grafton to head back to my friends’ house. I arrived at their house only to realize…I didn’t have my backpack!

This was a true panic moment. That backpack had my laptop (my only means of working) and my passport (ironically, I carried it with me because I don’t often feel safe leaving my passport places). Losing these items, plus the other things like my Kindle e-reader and my notebook full of notes on apartment hunting, would be a massive setback.

I immediately took the next train back to Grafton. Each train I got on, I walked through the carriages to see if I could find my backpack, on the assumption that I had left it on the train. I had no idea how to tell one train from another, but I knew the train routes so I tried to calculate how long it would take the train I had been on to reach the end of the line and then turn around. As trains arrived at Grafton Station, I would get on, run through them, and get off before the doors closed.

About the second time I did this, one of the guards at the station saw me and (reasonably) asked what I was doing. I explained I had lost my backpack. He said “oh, was it a big green backpack?” and I responded in the enthusiastic affirmative. He said that someone had seen it sitting out (turns out I had left it at the station) and had turned it in. Several minutes ago he’d given it to the conductor.

This very helpful man (incidentally, the man was Maori; I mention this because if I ever find myself lost or in trouble while in the South Pacific I will look for a Maori or other Polynesian person to ask for help. I have found that as a culture they are extremely helpful people) then phoned like three different numbers to try and figure out what had happened to my backpack. He finally got in touch with the train manager who had personally turned the backpack in to the lost and found. It was closed that night, but it opened at 8am the next day. He gave me the address and sent me on my way much cheered.

The next morning, you can bet I arrived at the lost and found right when they opened. In fact, I had a bit of a bother because the lady there hadn’t had a chance to even process the items from the previous night yet. The fact that my passport was in my backpack was helpful in that it was nearly trivial to prove that the backpack was mine. She gave me a lecture about how lucky I was that Kiwis are generally honest and trustworthy (Kiwis will often take the opportunity, when presented, to pat themselves on the back. I tolerate this behavior with good humor because to be honest many times its well-deserved) and then gave me the backpack.

I can’t say I recommend leaving your backpack at the train station. But if you do, New Zealand is a good place to do it in!

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