Zacharie et sac a main

I had quite the strange little adventure today.

I only wanted to go for a quick coffee with my friend from French course. When I walked up the street, I found a bag on the road. It was right behind a parked car. I picked it up to see if there was anything in it and saw a couple of papers. I looked around but there was nobody on the street at all. I live in a quiet area.

I thought maybe whoever parked the car dropped it when unloading the trunk, so I rang the doorbell of the house right next to the parked car, but nobody opened. So I carried the bag into town, thinking I’ll have to go to the police with this.

I took a closer look at the bag once I sat down with my friend and found a phone, and keys, but no wallet. The phone wasn’t locked, so I checked out the contacts, trying to figure out who to call and what to say. I ended up talking to the last person the phone’s owner talked to, her colleague. She had no other means of contacting her either but promised to send her an email.

Then I called the second person on her list of recently called contacts. But he didn’t pick up. So I hung up. At least that’s what I thought I did. Instead I left the phone running while my friend and I talked: “Did you check the bag for bombs?” “What?!” “Well, this is Paris, you never know.” “It’s too small for a bomb.”

That’s when I noticed that I had been recording the conversation on a complete stranger’s voicemail. I sent a text message to him saying something like “sorry, just found this phone, can’t get in touch with the owner.” Luckily he called back and after some initial confusion followed by worry (“I hope she isn’t sick or hurt!”) he promised to let her know I’d taken the bag and phone to the police in Palaiseau.

My friend and I trekked to the other end of Palaiseau, to where Google claimed the police station was. There was a police sign on a building, but nobody was there except for three kids with a little dog. They had just found the dog and baptised him Zacharie. They hadn’t had any luck with ringing the door bell and didn’t know what to do about the dog.  The dog was small, dirty white and very friendly.

If our new landlords hadn’t expressedly said “no animals”, I would have immediately adopted him then and there.

We rang the bell to talk to the police but all we could understand was what sounded like angry insects. Three kids, my friend and I took turns to tell the white noise “Sorry, we really can’t understand a thing”. Finally my friend called a phone number on a piece of paper next to the door bell.

I hadn’t even realised that the door bell was in fact a connection to the police’s patrol car and not to the office. My friend explained our situation and they said we need to take the bag to the city hall front desk. She also told them about the dog the boys had found, figuring that the city hall might take in the bag, but certainly not a dog, not even a small friendly one.

So they promised to come by. While we waited, the kids started making jokes about them finding Zacharie and us finding a sac a main and I was pretty proud I got the joke/pun.

The police showed up a few minutes later, opened the door and took charge of the little dog. I wanted to leave, but as usual, couldn’t figure out how to open the door. I have my moments of paranoia, and carrying somebody else’s bag and phone (“my fingerprints all over her things!!” went my inner monologue) and having two police men shout helpfully at me in French….wasn’t helping with the paranoia. They only said “No, the blue button!!” while I hovered over two other buttons at eye height, ignoring the blue button with a little key on it 10 centimetres higher up.

We made it out there alive. My friend is Portuguese, and didn’t even hesitate when she crossed the red light, right outside the police station. She found it pretty funny that I’d have qualms about crossing a red light on a crossing maybe two metres wide. But we’ve discussed this before.

We headed back in the direction of the city hall, while I was texting updates to the bag owner’s colleague. I received another call by the guy I had talked to earlier with good news: The phone’s owner was doing fine. There had not been an accident. The car’s window had been smashed in and the bag stolen from within. He had tried to reach her son, but couldn’t, but he told me her son’s and daughter in law’s name and asked me to call them. They’d have her home phone number and / or would be able to let her know where I took the bag.

When I told my friend she made the connection to the little blue bits of plastic we saw in her bag – they weren’t plastic. It was in fact glass from the smashed in car window.

So I talked to the daughter in law about my plans to leave the bag at the city hall. All the time I wanted to get rid of the bag, figuring surely, they’d want the bag to be with the authorities not with some random stranger. In fact she asked me to hold off with that – the city hall closes at 5 or 6 and this would be too early for the owner to get the bag back. Turns out finding a phone and subsequently calling people trying to find the phone’s owner makes you trustworthy enough to keep the bag a just little longer.

In the end the owner called and we talked. She was relived to hear that her keys were still in the bag, and not surprised that I hadn’t found a wallet. I told her I lived in Palaiseau and she could come collect it. I offered to text the address, until I realised … I have her phone. I emailed my address instead. Luckily I remembered arobas, the french word for @.

She showed up an hour ago, very relieved to get her keys back and really grateful. She told me that the bag was stolen from her car while she was in it. At first she didn’t even realise what was going on. And she was quite relieved that the person who did this doesn’t have her papers and keys on top of her money.

I feel like reuniting somebody with their phone and ID is my civic duty, but I couldn’t express that in French, so I just said, “de rien!” and that I understand, I’d be completely lost without my phone. She was sorry she couldn’t offer me any recompense, but well, her wallet had just been stolen. She wanted to send chocolate but I couldn’t even accept that, since we’ll only be here for a few more days.

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