A missing notebook found in the road, poor voicemail transcriptions, Google Translations and a call from a police officer. It’s been a long day.
Today was clothing shopping day for back to school with Lola. The day started out with a trip to see mom and family, we met for lunch at Bob Evans and headed to JCPenny to school shop.
On the way to the store, a paper notebook was found in the middle of the road. We were curious to know of the notebook’s contents. What story did it tell? What kind of person owned it? Why was it discarded in the middle of the road out in the middle of nowhere?
The pages contained dimensions, to-do lists, the typical fare for a scratchpad. One page though contained a list of login details for web services such as email, banking, and other sensitive details.
I asked Amanda to try to find any identifying information so we may return the notebook to the original owner. There was a number scribbled on the front cover, “My Cell”.
“Hello”. It sounded as if a young girl answered the phone. I said, “We found your notebook, it seems to have a page of passwords in it. We’d like to get it back to you.” The person on the other line said that they’d call us back.
Driving in the country and having poor cell phone reception, the call went to voicemail. I received a transcription of the call via text message, “Ya ves que me joda la vida(?) de pues. Thank you. Escuchar su mensaje”
I asked Amanda to use Google Translate, I was driving:
We were confused, then upset that someone would call back cursing at us in Spanish. We decided to block the number and chuck the notebook back out of the window of which it came.
After all, we were on a short schedule due to Bob Evans taking forever and only had a few hours to ensure my daughter had school clothes before needing to drive an hour to take her back home.
We didn’t have time to deal with someone being rude when trying to return some litter we found in the middle of the road, in the middle of nowhere.
The next voicemail I received (from a different number said):
We just arrived at the store and was parking. I listened to the voicemail and it claimed that they had a video recording of me picking up the notebook, the police have my information and they followed up with my full name in a text message.
I became really angry to the point at which I was shaking. Why is someone claiming to have recorded me in the middle of the country, knew my personal information, and was threatening police action?
Not only is picking up something in the middle of the road absolutely legal (in fact, they were the ones littering trash, which gets under my skin, to begin with), but why was this person acting in a threatening and stalkerish way? After all, we called them to return something that we found out of the kindness of our hearts that we had no duty to return to them, that we didn’t really have time for in the first place, and yet they were acting belligerent.
I somehow kept my composure and shared how I felt:
Again, I blocked the phone number. I didn’t have the time, nor patience to deal with someone conducting themselves in a rash and threatening way. I felt as if my personal safety, the safety of my partner and child may be at risk of meeting someone claiming to have recorded me in the middle of nowhere.
Once we have finished clothing shopping, I received another phone call, this time from a police officer. This officer seemed frustrated and somewhat angry and began questioning me.
Long story short, I needed to return the notebook or the defectives would become involved. I didn’t take too kindly to being further threatened about some ridiculous situation about some litter on the road in which my family’s personal safety was at risk.
Amanda took the phone call as I was unable to do so any further. She explained the situation calmly and clearly, something I was unable to do. It seemed as if the officer started to realize that something was amiss here.
Having used Google Maps, Google tracks your location history on a minute by minute basis and saves it to your Timeline. I sent the location log of where we believed it was chucked out the window, as they wanted to go out and find the paper notebook. I also sent the conversation we had up to this point.
Later this evening I ended up emailing the police officer again, sharing full details of that day’s activities. There seemed to be some miscommunication occurring, I did nothing wrong and I still was rather upset about the clusterfuck of trying to do some good in the world by returning a lost item.
Amanda and I talked over dinner about it and came up with a theory. The police officer said that the notebook went missing sometime during a Home Depot run by the owner. The mention of video may have referred to security cameras at the business.
Did someone think that the notebook was stolen out of someone’s vehicle? Was this the key to understanding the situation?
I listened to the actual first voicemail. Instead of some Spanish cursing at me, it was a woman’s voice asking me to please return her phone call about returning the notebook. Excellent job on Transcription there, cell phone carrier.
Some time passed and I decided to give the owner a call. I was greeted by an elderly couple who seemed really nice. The husband put me on speakerphone so they could both hear me.
I explained the situation and apologized for the miscommunication. I asked them why they said I was being recorded out in the middle of the country. The gentleman apparently left the notebook on his rear bumper and thought that someone took it off his truck.
The lady misheard me when I first called and thought I said that I have their notebook with their passwords in some sinister way. When I first called, I had the impression that I was speaking to a child who was going to have her parents call me back.
“Hi. I found your notebook. It seems to have some important things in it like passwords. How can we get this back to you?” “I’ll call you back”.
I went through my location history again and cross-referenced the time of the voicemail to where the notebook may have been chucked back out of the window and sent the couple some maps as to where it could be. I offered any future assistance and wished them well.
I’ve learned a few things from this experience.
- People are very paranoid about their personal information and seem to assume the worst. It makes sense, identity theft, constant scammer robocalls and worst of all, scams targeting the elderly is far too common. It’s disgusting.
- Picking up anything in a public space, regardless of your intention, opens you up to some liability. It didn’t occur to me before those people who misplace things, even on the back of a truck bumpers, may still think that someone stole it at some other time. People don’t like to think of themselves as clumsy and making mistakes.
- Voicemail transcription can sometimes be absolutely off the wall, even in a different language. Don’t make decisions based on it.
- Invest in a good 360-degree dashcam for each of your vehicles. Not only will this help protect you in case of traffic accidents, such would have cleared up such a situation instantly.
And while I concluded my email to the police officer, “You can count on me never picking up and trying to return a lost item again.” in frustration; I’m not too sure I can completely adhere to this in the future.
There have been many cases of going the extra mile to return lost items in my history. Cell phones, a wallet and so on. I do so as I want to bring love and care to the world, and maybe, just maybe someone would return something of mine as I often misplace things.
I just hope next time the experience won’t be so stressful, or insane.