My two scheduled activities for this day were (1) meet friend Christine down at Myrtle Edwards Park for some morning sunshine, #coffeeoutside, and breakfast by the sound, and (2) meet friend Paul at the ferry terminal to go west and ride gravel on Green Mountain. Yay! A fun day!
I foresaw the dilemma the night before: how would I bring all of my coffee-making equipment with me for the morning and deal with it for 30ish miles of gravel shreddin? Panniers were not my preferred option--too bumpy on the rough roads. A backpack is for activity one, but I don't think anyone wants to wear a bulky backpack on a warm, sweaty day of punishing climbs on the bike unless they have to. So I devised a foolproof plan: I take the backpack to the morning rendezvous and then, on my way to the ferry, I stop by a business or bank or otherwise large building and turn the bag in as lost and found at the front desk. Then, after all of my gravel dreams have come true, I saunter in and inquire if a certain kind of bag has been turned in that day and find that, to my feigned astonishment, it is completely intact! Oh praise heaven! My bag was turned in by some angel-human hybrid!
"This is genius and just a little devious but mostly genius," I tell myself and proceed to sleep.
In the morning, my coffee partner confirms that my plan is very clever and just might go off without a hitch. I feel emboldened by this! I unfortunately leave coffee time a little late, so I end up bringing the bag on the ferry with an hour boat ride to scheme with my companion, Paul. He thinks it better that he turn it in should the same person be at the desk later upon pickup, which I think is a smart idea. So after disembarking in Bremerton, I show Paul the terminal offices where I would like to have my bag turned into lost and found. I stand 30 feet away and watch Paul through the glass doors as a man from the office comes to meet him at a side door, inspects the contents of the bag, which Paul has had the foresight to open, and then disappears into the office with my bag. The door shuts; Paul walks out to me, and we roll off. *Brush dirt off hands emoji*
This is my bag, for future reference:
We had a terrific day on Green Mountain. It was 72 degrees, perfectly clear, and the roads were loose and fast.
We got to the top, snacked at the lookout for about 30, and then bombed back to Bremerton for a couple of beers and burgers without even a so much as a thought of my bag. We had about 15 minutes to get on before the cars, so it seemed time to roll, snatch the bag and board to Seattle.
I strode into the terminal and up to the window to a woman I would soon know as Charlotte, and said, assuredly, "Did anyone turn in a bag today that was found here!"
"No bags today. Sorry." She barely even looks up at me. I am not concerned!
"Oh, I guess it's actually a backpack. A kind of burgundy colored backpack?"
"No, haven't seen any backpacks today. Kevin and I have been here all day." She puzzles for a minute and looks left over the glasses perched on the edge of her nose. "Have you seen any backpacks today, Kevin?" Kevin shakes his head, apologetically. She looks back at me with a consoling sigh. "Sorry. I hope it turns up!"
Now, society is built on accepted forms of conduct, and one of its fundamental manifestations-particularly when dealing with strangers-is the social contract around when a conversation has ended. There was no line behind me and therefore no reason to leave, but as far as she knew the conversation was over. Two ordinary people in ordinary circumstances would both know this at nearly the same moment and walk away. Unfortunately for me, I knew too much to leave and so I hovered, unaffected by the gravity of our unspoken goodbye. I am uncertain how long I stood at her window in silence, wheels spinning, trying to dig out any possible way that I could imagine to communicate that I knew it was back there without revealing the truth. Ultimately, the awkwardness of my presence at her window and the obligation to speak when standing there won out.
"Can I start all the way over?" She looked up, possibly unaware I was still two feet away. "Hi. My backpack was turned into this office earlier today. I know it was turned in because I saw my friend give it to someone in this office. So, are you sure there is no red backpack in there?"
Charlotte was rightfully unable to process this dump of information.
"You say it was turned into this office? How do you know?"
"I watched my friend turn the bag in to lost and found. I watched him give it to a man who took it into this office."
"Well, why didn't you just come get it right then if it was lost?"
My friends, Charlotte was really trying to understand here, and this is an admittedly difficult position to put someone in, but boy was she going to make me dig all the way to the depths of my shame by her very failure to grasp the whole of it. My backside felt like it would sprout a tail just so that it could curl up between my legs, but I told all.
"I'm very sorry that I've created this situation, but I got off the ferry, looked around for day lockers (not totally untrue..), didn't find any for my backpack, and thought I would turn it in as lost and found in order to collect it later."
She takes off her glasses, finally capturing the full reality of the conversation, and says, "Wow. You really shouldn't do that."
I am silent with the deep knowledge that she is right and the frustration that now we must linger on this fact before she will help me.
"I know. I'm sorry."
"I mean, you just shouldn't do something like that."
Well, yes! Thank you, Charlotte. You continue to be very much correct about that!
"I am going to need to get my supervisor. Just stay here."
Here comes Tracy out of a back office. I had seen her walk through the room when I first spoke with Charlotte. She opens the side door now instead of the window.
"How can I help? I overheard some of the situation about a bag that you lost?"
Oh no.. I nice person to whom I must repeat this awful story. "Well, here's the story, and believe me, I did not intend to cause a situation. I realize I have now, and I regret it, but here is what is going on. I had a friend turn my bag in as lost and found earlier today so that I could get it later. The bag is not here now that I'm back to get it."
She thinks for a beat, and then, "Well you shouldn't be doing something like that."
Oh my. No one disagrees on this point. She turns and opens a cabinet.
"Here, I have one box of lost and found. It is right here. See?" She scrambles things around in it. She is angry. I get it. "No backpack in there, huh. So I don't know what to tell you. Are you sure your friend turned it in to this office and not the one next to ours? The state ferries office? They aren't in there now. The boat is loading, but they'll be back up after this boat leaves. There is no bag in here. I've got nothing for you."
She is um.. nonplussed. I, however, have somehow determined I've been sheepish long enough.
"I understand it's not where it should be for lost and found, but keep in mind I watched it enter through this door into your office. Either it is still here in a place that hasn't been checked yet or someone who works in your office has taken it. Are you willing to consider that possibility?"
This is what she said next.
I kid you not.
"You really shouldn't do something like this."
My hairs are completely out now. I am like all the way bald. It happened in 5-7 seconds, the fastest going bald of all time. Call the Guinness Book. I'm just a totally bald all over man standing in front of her now with my pants down and a biology-defying tail growing out of my lower back and curling between my legs.
I also want my bag back!
I decide leaving this situation is best for the moment, so I apologize again (!) and walk out to Paul, who has been patiently waiting these minutes as our ferry boards and prepares to depart in front of him. I am not carrying the bag; he sees this. I catch him up to speed and we resolve we will take the next ferry in order to stay and pursue this situation further.
I know where the state ferry employees monitor onboarding and offloading. It's below the terminal just next to the dock, so I figure a new person with a new perspective can't hurt. I walk up to a small, glass office and poke my head in where a woman, Chelsea, is talking on a radio.
"Hi, do you have a second--can I ask you a strange question?"
"Hi! Sure! What's up?"
"Well.." I tell her the whole story. Everything. I tell her that I knowingly abused the lost and found system, that I feel badly about it, and that I don't know what to do anymore about this bag.
She takes it all in, furrows a brow, and says, "Huh. Ya know. Something doesn't quite add up here!"
I don't scream OMGOONESS YUH I KNOW THANK U but I feel it. Deep down the tail unfurls a tiny bit.
"I know, it's kinda weird--"
"I mean, you didn't mean to cause a problem. You probably shouldn't have tried to be sneaky about it, but something feels fishy to me. I'm going to call my partner to see if she's seen anything."
I am thrilled that, at the very least, I have found a stranger who does not immediately despise me. She radios Mary about a backpack. Have you seen one today, Mary? I don't hold out much hope. Mary knows nothing.
"Hm.. so what did this guy look like that your friend gave the bag to?"
I describe him. He's tall (6'2" I guess) and is clean shaven with dark hair.
"Ok, so the only person I know of who works here that matches that description is the janitor. It's kinda weird that he would be in their office, but he definitely collects their trash. Maybe you should check with him? --Oooh! There he is over there. You should go ask him. See him carrying the pole?"
He is picking up trash some 40 meters away. As I approach, I see him duck into a doorway with another man. They might think they weren't seen, but I saw them pass each other something and lift it to their mouths. I round the doorway a few seconds later. They are startled.
"Hey, sorry to bother you but have you seen a red backpack turned in to lost and found today?"
"Um, nope. No backpacks today," and he shuffles away with the other man.
As you might imagine, my suspicion is not appeased by this, so I go back upstairs to the main terminal to ask Paul if he would I.D. the man he gave the bag to. We amble down the stairs unassumingly, arms crossed, looking about, and I point out the janitor. He is 10ft from us.
"That is not him."
We continue to ponder the situation together. I tell him about Chelsea's suspicion and interest. The next ferry will arrive in 30 minutes, so there is no particular hurry at this point. His suggestion is that I go back to the ferry terminal where I started and leave my name and number with them in case the bag turns up. I think this is a sensible solution that gives the office people a chance to reach me should the bag happen to resurface.
Before I get to that office, though, I must pass in front of the state ferries office where I see Mary, who was on the other end of Chelsea's radio, sitting behind the glass. I decide I would like to talk with a sympathetic ear one more time before I return to the original office, so I introduce myself as the person Chelsea was telling her about on the radio. She asks for my whole story and, after I tell it from the beginning, leans over and says, "Wow. Something does not add up here."
At this point, I realize someone else is in the office behind the door a few feet from Mary. She makes eye contact with this person, who then steps out to say, "Did they show you the lost and found log?"
He is a police officer. His name is Officer Fahrs. Officer Fahrs is now interested in this situation because he happened to be standing a few feet away and overheard me describe it to Mary.
I tell him the abbreviated version of the story. He is perplexed.
"Ok, so did they look at the lost and found log?"
"The lost and found log where they keep track of what is turned in?"
NO THEY DID NOT OFFICER JUSTICE!!
"Hold on. I'll go talk to them."
Dear reader, there is so much momentum building here. I just have to tell you how thrilling this was. It was so thrilling. My hairs grew back, I think. Some of them, anyway!
I see Paul is monitoring the situation from outside the glass doors so I walk over to brief him on the developments. Officer Fahrs emerges from the original office a few minutes later with papers a-plenty. He is actively filing a police report. He knows the kind of bag I am describing. They are nice, he says.
"Waterproof, roll-top. Those aren't cheap. So let me get some information from you here--"
His radio crackles to life. The dispatcher says a bunch of numbers and then very clearly articulates "...individual near the ferry terminal making threats with a gun. Please respond."
Officer Fahrs looks around, lowers his head to his unit, and spits out a bunch of numbers. He then looks up at me and calmly pulls out his pen.
"So, what's your name?"
!!!! UHH OFFICER JUSTICE ???
"I'm.. Aaron. You know you can definitely take care of that gun thing if you need to..."
He waives a hand dismissively. We talk for about three minutes before he sighs and mentions that he better go check on this other thing.
With Officer Fahrs off to nab the gunman, we determine it is in my best interest to return to the original office to leave my name and number in case it turns up. At this point, I really don't care if someone gets caught as long as I get my bag.
Charlotte is there again. Yayyyyyy! I say very calmly that I would just like to leave my information in case the bag happens to appear. She obliges, but before reaching for a pen, she arches her neck a bit to the side and asks:
"So, was the bag that you turned.. was it like a tall one?"
WELL LA DEE FRICKIN DAH CHARLOTTE HAS SOME RECOLLECTION OF THIS BAG
"Yes, it is tall. Especially when it is unrolled."
"And, was it... kind of a red color?"
LOOK AT THIS MASTERFUL MEMORY AT WORK, LADIES AND GENTS
"It was burgundy or maroon, yes."
"So the only thing I can think of is that the person you gave it to thought it should be considered lost and found for the ferry itself and so he ran it back out to the boat, so it may be in Seattle."
THIS IS A HELPFUL VERSION OF CHARLOTTE
"Ok, thank you very much."
We sailed back under a beautifully rotund full moon that was just dawning on the east over the approaching city. We enjoyed a ferry beer and relaxed. Officer Fahrs texted me halfway across the Sound that a bag with my description was logged in the Seattle-side terminal's lost and found. All was well and I would get my bag back the next day, my birthday.
I did get my bag back, ultimately. There was more drama, though, but it is less climactic. The lost and found at Seattle (a) did not have my bag and (b) did not have a log either. Everyone along this whole process assured me that things like a backpack are rare and would never fall through the cracks. And yet! There are cracks and they are gaping!
The woman from lost and found in Seattle walked me over to the captain's space where they were surveying incoming ships. She tells them my situation, that I lost a bag, that an officer told me it was checked in as having been delivered to Seattle but was not here. Impossible, they all say. And yet!
I tell them which boat I was on (Chimmicum) and wonder if someone could ask the crew if they had a bag. Inconceivable it would be on there still, they say, but they'll ask.
"See that boat out there?"
"That's the Chimmicum. Will be here in about 30 minutes. Come back up and we'll radio them."
I file an insurance claim; I am not optimistic any more. The Chimmicum rolls in, and the men talking with me have all disappeared onto the boarding ramps or to monitor the turnstiles for walk-ons. I catch one of their eyes as the foot traffic slows and float a "My bag?" gesture their way. They remember and hop to a radio. They have a bag but he couldn't remember what mine was like. The ferry leaves in two minutes, so run out that jetway and he'll meet you at the end.
You guys, I run. And it's my bag he's holding. I can't believe it. It is so strange to see something I've described in such fine detail and imagined in so many places it shouldn't be just sitting there in someone's arms being an actual object I can possess and own again. After going back and forth across the Sound on the same boat about 30 times it returned to me.
It was a caper, a shenanigan, a tomfoolery and dammit if it didn't work in the end. Genius!