Maintaining Faith in Humanity

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It took me a long while to decide to get a new headphone. I am not picky, and my old reliable Airpod still works well long after its Apple cousin, the Apple Watch, found itself decommissioned prematurely after cracking a rock during an office cleanup drive at Clovelly Beach in 2019.

Yet, even though sound quality remains superb, age has caught up, and its battery life significantly reduced. It had been my companion for my long walks, office commutes, and even when I am preparing my dinner in the kitchen, listening to my favorite podcasts and Spotify playlists.

But after seven months of pondering, asking referrals from friends and colleagues, reading reviews, and comparing prices, I finally decided to get the Marshall Monitor Over-ear Headphone. The choice of this product might reflect my personality; the design, sound quality, and price point seemed to fit my requirements. I ordered one in Amazon, only to cancel it after I didn’t notice any progress in the supply chain from its US warehouse. I then accidentally ordered a wrong model from a local Australian dealer gracious enough to offer a refund.

Now my final order has been placed at JB-HIFI for pickup. I was excited. Seven months of wait is over, and I’ll finally experience that delayed gratification.

Why did I tell this buying journey? That’s because I wanted to share an experience that buying shouldn’t be an exercise of impulse but a careful, deliberate consideration.

Now, on to the next chapter of my story.

After an appointment with my tax agent, I headed home to continue working from home. I took the train from Town Hall to Chatswood and transfer to Sydney Metro’s Macquarie University. I should be home by 1:30 pm and have my lunch by then. While passing through the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I did what I usually do inside public transport during commute — take a nap.

Just as the train arrived in Artarmon, I was still dazed and half asleep. But I am already prepared to descend to the following station. I forgot to set something on my office laptop, so I took it off my bag and started to attempt connecting it with my iPhone hotspot; it failed. Soon as I gave up in my attempt, I noticed something was missing. I only brought with me my bag as I left the train. The yellow JB-HIFI bag was not in sight. So instead of boarding the metro heading to Tallawong, I took the train on the same platform I left the previous train, hoping to catch the one I took and recover that forgotten item. I remembered that the train terminates at Lindfield, so it only stopped at two stations after I left, hoping that nobody took it and I can pick it up.

The headphone I left on the train.

Alas, when I arrived in Lindfield, the train I boarded previously, a Waratah class designated as 145K, just left another platform and headed to Central. Upset at me for leaving that item and inconvenienced the rest of my afternoon, I instead approached the station master about my predicament. He promptly called the next station that the train would stop: Chatswood station. Over their internal communication lines, I heard him describe the item as I told him: I took the second carriage upstairs and sat on the third row from the front, at the seat closest to the window.

He said that since Chatswood station is a hub, the train stops for two minutes and allow someone from ground staff to check the carriage described at the specific location relayed over to them. After two minutes, the station master returned with a piece of negative news — the box of headphones couldn’t be found. He offered me a glimmer of hope that lost items typically show up a few days after they are separated from their owners 95% of the time, even wallets with wads of dollar bills.

“I hope I am part of that statistic,” I responded before taking the train back to Chatswood and then go home. Along the way, I filled out Sydney Train’s lost item with as much detail as I could. Travel time. Carriage location. People near me. I hope the amount of information I provided will not only give them as much know-how to recover my item. But also pay more attention to the case and realise my desperation to claim back a thing I waited for so long to take ownership finally.

Lost property card handed to me by the station master at Lindfield station — annotated with the train’s identification 145K.

The station master led me to the other platform back towards Chatswood and gestured to wait for him while he picks up a card with a number to call for the status of my lost item.

But I was ready to let go. September 3 is not a lucky day for me.

I did what I could do and exerted all efforts I could think of. Suppose if I’ll get it back, great. But if not, it wasn’t meant to be for me, and I was prepared to let it go.

So I went home, took a nap, and started to work back again. Though I couldn’t resist the idea of taking another order and pick it up later, I resigned to the fact that it’ll be a while before I consider repurchasing this item.

Three hours later, I received an email from Ms. Mcmahon from the Sydney Trains Lost Property Office — yes, they have an office that handles that multitude of lost and found items.

“Hi Elmer, your lost item was handed over to Riverstone station,” the email read.

Whoah, my faith in humanity remains strong and steady, and someone resisted the temptation to play the “finders, keepers” card. But wait, where is Riverstone station? I looked it up, and it’s a whopping 38 kilometers away in Sydney’s northwest at the eponymous suburb. If I take the public transport, it will take me 48 minutes to get there via the Sydney metro to the northern end at Tallawong and a connecting bus trip to Marsden Park.

But no matter how far the item ended up being dropped off, I am happy to get there and pick it up.

Once I arrived at Riverstone station, I got to meet the female station master I called earlier. Jasmeet was seated behind a desk in the station office when I called her attention and introduced myself.

“This is your lucky day,” she quipped as she let me inside the office, whose interiors were adorned with historical photos of the station, established in 1991. On the far end of the table was the yellow plastic bag I forgot to bring out with me as I alighted at Chatswood station some four hours ago.

But before I would show proof of ownership, pick it up and go, I was interested in the logistical journey of the headphone. Jasmeet then logged on to the train system’s database and showed me the screen. It was a list of recorded items either lost and reported by passengers or items found by train station staff.

She said that someone who boarded Strathfield station saw the item — with my name and address in the accompanying receipt from JB-HIFI. The passenger’s destination was Riverstone, and promptly dropped it off in a hush. Then Jasmeet logged in the information in the system, hoping a similar inquiry — the entry I filled out in the Transport NSW page — would match.

She saw the receipt and saw the owner’s name and home address, but she wanted to reach out to me through a phone call. My mobile number was not listed in the receipt, so she called JB-HIFI’s hotline number to enquire about a customer’s contact details. Someone from the electronics shop answered the call but was less cooperative, as Jasmeet claimed though I thought it was due to privacy reasons. When Jasmeet checked the details on the system again, a match was found, and she communicated the news to the Lost Properties office at Sydney Trains office in the city.

And that was how Ms. Mcmahon reached out to me by email and led me to Riverstone. After I showed my photo ID (my Hong Kong ID) to Jasmeet and confirmed that, indeed, I am the rightful owner, she happily handed over the headphone to me.

It was already sunset, and the station was quiet the entire time I was there. I guess trains visit this remote sleepy suburb a few times in an hour.

As I took the bus back to Rouse Hill with a group of workers going home from their jobs, I said to myself September 3 is my lucky day after all.

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