My mother and father did a European trip a month or so back. They started out in Munich, wound their way through a bit of Northern Germany on a river tour, and ended their trip in Amsterdam.
Overall, it was a great trip for them – Oktoberfest, great weather, wonderful scenery, good food, good beer, nice attractions. My mother even indulged in half of a cookie infused with a substance that still banned in the Eastern US; first time in her life.
The one thing that marred the trip was that Dad got pick-pocketed the day before they left.
Now, if you knew my father at all, you’d understand without being told that this really upset him. I mean, REALLY upset him. To the point where losing his wallet would become the defining moment of the entire trip, eclipsing any pleasurable memories at all. Part of this is that Dad is a guy that has always played straight with everyone his entire life and expects the same from others. Part of it is the fact that pick-pocketing is fairly rare in the US outside of a couple very “touristy” areas like Times Square.
But most of it is that Dad has never thought of himself as a victim or a target. Like me, he’s well in excess of six foot, and he’s always had a football player’s build… albeit running more to flab as he got older. When you’re a big guy, you don’t go through life worrying about being mugged or hassled or molested or whatever by strangers - any street criminal will choose the little guy or the fat guy over the tall muscular guy. Add in the military bearing and haircut, and any criminal might think “cop” as well. So stuff like getting pick-pocketed just doesn’t happen.
But of course now Dad is in his 70s and he doesn’t move as quickly as he used to. Now, he’s just another old guy. He didn’t care about the money (a hundred bucks or so), or having to cancel all their credit cards (no activity), or even losing his ID. He just hated being preyed upon.
All right. Fast-forward to this afternoon. He sent out this email:
I received an interesting envelope in the mail today. It was an International priority mailing with a two Euro, 30 cents stamp, addressed to me. Inside there was another sealed envelope with a note written on the outside. The note was from a Koos Van Scharenburg which said:
[I]“I found your wallet in the railroad when I was at work. I hope that the papers come over. Of course, there was no money. Greetings Koos.”
[/I]Inside the envelope were my two credit cards, my driver’s license, my military ID, my Medicare card, and a picture of my wife. The wallet was not included, most likely because of the cost of sending extra dead weight.
I am in the process of trying to arrange for some sort of appropriate Thank You to Koos, but so far I haven’t been able to find a way to reward him for his efforts without insulting him. The Netherlands Starbucks does not participate in either the Gift Card or the Rewards Card programs. I am searching for some restaurants in the Centraal Station that might offer a gift card, but I cannot locate a website that shows what restaurants are inside the complex. I will keep searching.
So this has restored Dad’s faith in humanity nicely. He may still be a victim, but that’s OK if there are people like Koos who will go out of their way to help a total stranger on the other side of the planet.
Any suggestions on how Dad could say “thank you” to Koos without seeming too patronizing?