Writing 101: Serially Lost, Part 1…


Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

This doesn’t need to be a depressing exercise; you can write about that time you lost the three-legged race at a picnic. What’s important is reflecting on this experience and what it meant for you — how it felt, why it happened, and what changed because of it.

It was the summer of 2012, a hot, humid Friday. To cut down on travelling expenses the Mrs. and I had gone to work in one car and I needed to walk a certain distance to get to the store where she did her weekly shopping after work.

I finished my English class and was about to leave the company where I was teaching when a heavy thunderstorm hit. “I’ll wait a few minutes and it’ll finish,” I thought. I waited 10 – 15 minutes and it looked like it was starting to let up so off I went. I made it far enough to be in an area where I was out in the open with no place for cover and the heavy rain came back with a vengeance.

I kept running till I made it to the store but I was soaked. I was going to start trying to find the Mrs., she never hears her phone in the store with all that background noise, when I put my hand in my jacket pocket for some reason and realized that my small document holder with my driver’s licence, the car registration and my French resident’s permit was not there.

A moment of PANIC! swept over me. Had it fallen out of my pocket when I was running through the rain or had my pocket been picked??? If my pocket had been picked, there was nothing to do. But if it had fallen out of my pocket maybe I could find it.
I left the store immediately and began backtracking. Fortunately the rain had stopped but my feet were still squishing around in my wet shoes and socks. I went all the way back to where I had started running and saw nothing.

I couldn’t believe it. Just thinking about the time, effort and money necessary to replace those three documents left me furious, depressed and wanting to break something. But after a few deep breaths I tried getting a grip on myself. As Forrest Gump helped the T-shirt guy understand, “S*** happens.” It’s best to just accept the situation and deal with bureaucratic after-effects one step at a time.

The next day I went to the police station and declared the loss of my driver’s licence. They immediately gave me an official paper that replaced my driver’s licence for a certain period of time during which I had to get a new one. That was the most important thing to be done so I could keep driving. I then went on internet and downloaded the forms for replacing all three documents, got some ID photos at a booth in the train station and started preparing the necessary documents.

About a week later when everything was in order I went to the sous-prefecture about 25 kms away to get my car registration and driver’s licence done. I was there at 9 am as it opened, just like a lot of other people. I was about number 30 somewhere near the middle of a long line which moved forward ever-so slowly. I finally made it to the first desk, where the unsmiling lady checked that I had all of the necessary documents, which I did. She gave me a number and I sat down to wait. I came prepared and had my Economist to read. My number was finally called and I went to the Plexiglas window and found a surprisingly pleasant woman behind it. I gave her my papers, she double-checked that I had everything in order, which I did. She then got up and walked out of sight.

She returned and told me, “I have some good news and I have some bad news.” This can be a very disconcerting thing to hear in this kind of situation. I, of course, asked for the good news. “Your document holder was found and your driver’s licence is in it,” she said before adding, “The bad news is that you have already declared it lost so it has been cancelled and I can’t give it back to you.” I suppressed the scream that wanted to burst forth from the depth of my soul and we continued the process to get my new one.

She explained it’s always best to wait a week or two, if possible, before declaring documents lost as they can be found. Pickpockets don’t want to be caught with someone else’s documents on them so they throw them on the ground or in a trash can. Sometimes good Samaritans find them and turn them in to the police.

“Well, that is a good thing to know,” I thought, as I finished getting my paperwork approved. I got the car registration the same day but for the driver’s licence and the resident’s card I had to make two different trips to the prefecture where the lines are much longer.

So I  learned an important lesson about being careful with my documents and if they are lost, not declaring them lost right away.


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