I had gone to Bahamas for a mini vacation (from 18 August to 22 August) with my brother’s family – my brother, sister-in-law, Madhuri and Swathi, who live in Grand Falls, Canada. My brother’s family planned to stay back in New York for a couple of days en route to back home. On 22 August around 7:15 p.m., we have landed at La Guardia Airport (LGA), New York. We took a cab from the airport to my sister’s place. My sister lives in Flushing, Queens. LGA is about 6 miles from my sister’s place and takes around 10 to 15 minutes depends on the traffic. As soon as we started from the airport, I called my nephew to inform him that we have started.
I should admit one fact about myself which I am very ashamed of before I further take you into this story. Even though I have been living in this country for more than 30 years, I do not drive. Manhattan is kottina pindi manaku. Once I leave Manhattan, I just rely on the driver. I try to follow the routes to make sure I am heading the right way. Usually I take the subway to go to my sister’s place. I even lived in Flushing for about seven years initially when I came to this country. I know Flushing very well. Once in a while when I go to Baba’s temple in Flushing, if I have a lot of prasadams to carry to the temple, I take a cab. Usually the cab driver takes Long Island Expressway (LIE) and I know the Kissena Blvd exit which is 24. This is all to make my readers know how much I know about expressways and exits I know once I leave Manhattan. And I also have very limited knowledge about cars.
So I’ll come back to the main story. There was no GPS in the car and we lost the route. I told the cab driver to take exit 24 assuming that we were on the LIE. It was a mini van and I and Madhuri were sitting in the back seat not the very rear seats and I could hardly see any road signs as if I knew even if I had seen them properly. My nephew was calling us to see where we were. Instead of going to Flushing we were heading towards Long Island and once the cab driver realized that he was on the wrong route, he turned off the meter. Then I gave my iPhone 4 to Madhuri to check the GPS (I should have done that in the first place). I have confidence in the driver and he has confidence in me. SUPER. Madhuri told that we should take some exit 32 or 35. I was completely lost at that point as it was little after 8 p.m. and it was completely dark outside. Since the driver knew his way to Flushing he was able to come to Flushing and I could guide him from there to my sister’s apartment. Actually if I hadn’t told him anything about exit 24, he would have taken us directly to Flushing and I could have easily guided him once I am in comfortable territory. Since there was no meter, I could not get a receipt from the cab driver. He seemed to be a very nice gentleman, and he did not want us to pay anything more than $20. When I paid him $40, he wanted to return $10 back to me and I told him it is ok as mistakes could happen for anyone. Usually I pay the cab fare with my credit card even though the amount is very small to have a record and take a receipt – A lesson learned from another previous experience.
I called my sister when we were few minutes away from her house and she and her son came down to the street to receive my brother’s family. My brother who sat in the front seat next to the driver got off the vehicle with the excitement of seeing my sister. As soon as the cab left, we realized that we had forgotten my brother’s backpack in the front seat of the cab which has a lot of valuable stuff – Apple Macpro, Sony digital SLR with extra lens, Ipod to mention some of the expensive stuff. Luckily he kept his passport and wallet in his pants’ pocket.
As we did not have the receipt, we could not track the cab. So as soon as we stepped into the house, I went to goggle to search for the complaints for the lost property for New York Yellow cabs and found the following site which looks very authentic.
So I filed the complaint on their website and I was asked to pay $47 fee. So I paid with my credit card and I even received a receipt immediately to my email address. I waited until the next morning but I haven’t heard from them. Then I called 311 (311 is New York City’s main source of government information and non-emergency
services.) and they transferred me to the New York City Yellow cab services and when I was asked to provide the information, I told the lady that I have already filed the complaint on their website and she asked for an order ID or some sort of that info. I told her that I did not have anything except the acknowledgement for the payment which I have received through email. Then she told me that it must be a fake site since they do not charge anything for this service. Then she took all the information and filed a complaint and asked me for my contact information. She even gave me the numbers of few precincts to see if anyone has turned down the backpack. I even checked with them.But they turned out to be in vain.
10 minutes after I made the complaint, I received a call from the NYC Yellow cab services. He started the conversation by saying under the given circumstances, it was impossible to track the cab as we did not have any information about the cab – no receipt, meter was turned off on the way, etc,, NOTHING !
Then while he was conversing with me, he started to track with their GPS tracking system. I even asked him whether he could track the cab from LGA with the time we got in the cab (I called my nephew immediately after we started off, so I have the exact time when we left LGA) and he said there would be hundreds and hundreds of cabs leaving LGA at any point of time. Since I am not very familiar with the makes and models of the cars, my brother told me the make and model and I passed on that info to the person with whom I was on the phone. The cab driver told me that he was going to take Grand Central Parkway East just before we left the airport, so I could provide that information with the approximate time (th etime I called my nephew from the airport), so he satrted tracking the cabs that took that highway at that point of time and I could recollect bits and pieces of information as I was talking to myself. I told him that he was heading towards Long Island and I even saw the exit for Glen Oaks (I guess) and little after that the driver realized that he lost his way. And he tried to take sort of U-turn (not exactly U-turn as you can not do that on highways) – he took an exit and took the opposite direction again. Around that time, I gave my Iphone to Madhu to check the GPS. So I could also provide that info that he took sort of U-turn and by the time we were back on to the opposite direction we were crossing the raod signs with exits 34 and 33 and we were looking for 35, but the numbers were going down. And some time before this, he turned off the meter and I noticed that too and the meter was stopped somewhere between $30 and $40. I could provide that info also. With all the bits and pieces of information (which I have seen, noticed, and all the timings – the time we took the cab, and also the time we got off the cab, as I called my sister just few minutes before we reached her place, and also the routes we took once we entered into Flushing) I have provided, the guy who started the conversation by saying it is impossible to track the cab ended up saying “Sarada, this is your day, we could track the cab and he was filling up all the missing pieces and he even said the meter was switched off at $33 and some cents and yes he changed his direction after the exit 35 etc and he finally provided the telephone number and address of the garage the cab belongs to and the taxi number and all the relevant info. So I called the garage and they provided me with the telephone number of the driver. But the drivers change the shifts, they have called different drivers and provided them with my cell number. And finally one cab driver called me and he found the bag as it was kept underneath the seat, it was not noticed by the drivers either.
My main reasoning is no one sit in the front seat (normally we do not sit in the front seats in the cabs here unless there are more people. Since this is an SUV, unless there are more than 5 or 6 passengers, nobody would sit in the front seat. Even if someone sits in the front seat and notices the bag, he/she wouldn’t dare to touch it as he feels that it may be the driver’s. I thought the driver who drove us owns this cab and I thought if he sees it, he would try to return it to a precinct or someplace as he would appear to be very sincere.
With the amazing development in the technology – using the GPS system and whatever the information I was able to provide them on which highway we were, the time we took the cab at La Guardia, at what point the meter was turned off (the money) etc, they were able to track down the cab and the garage which it belongs to and within few hours we were able to get our backpack with all the stuff.
I may not be as bad as I seem to be (with not knowing the routes, nor the driving), still they could trace the vehicle with all the bits and pieces of information I provided and of course with the incredible technological developments…
WOW, what a technology !!!
Bottomline is my brother’s backpack got a free ride of New York City – the city that never sleeps (this cab is mainly driven in New York City – came to know from the drivers).
kosamerupu (the tail piece) – I even got credit for the $47 from my credit card company which I paid to the fake website.