The formal season for reflection and atonement is now over, but I have a piece of unfinished business and a story to tell.
A reservation mix-up in Montreal caused me to change hotels after my first night there, and when I got to my new hotel, I realized I wasn’t wearing my rather new and expensive Apple Watch. A thorough ransacking of my luggage confirmed that I had left it in the last hotel room. I went to the device finder app and for some reason it said my watch was still at home in Victoria (nope), so that was no help. I called the hotel to ask them to look out for it, and they said it had not been found.
I was still hopeful, and I went about my day trying not to let self-recrimination ruin it. That was hard to do. I have been careless so much in the last year or two, losing more than one phone, and walking away from jackets, bags, etc.. I am not careful about checking spaces I have vacated, and I can’t seem to break the habit. Yes, I check hotel rooms pretty thoroughly but obviously not carefully enough. I am a failure at protecting my possessions, I am getting senile, I can’t justify buying expensive things, I am just not anywhere near the responsible person I want to be—all this was going through my mind.
Then, for some reason, in the afternoon the app updated and said the watch was indeed still at the address of the hotel. At that point I was out of town, and when I returned I headed straight there. To my surprise, just before I got there, the app said the watch was somewhere else, about a kilometer away.
I went back to my new hotel and called to tell the other one that they indeed did have the watch and now it was gone. The clerk and I agreed that it was quite suspicious. The housekeeping staff would have been on site until roughly the time the watch left the premises. The most logical conclusion was that someone had found it and taken it home.
The manager got involved and it was starting to look ugly, because I said that for something that valuable, with the appearance of theft, I felt I had to file a police report. It also was starting to look as if they might have to deal with a thief in a position of trust. Everyone was very unhappy. I was thinking at that point that I would rather have lost the watch than be getting into the spiral of accusations and mistrust I sensed was coming.
Then the manager stopped returning my calls. Were they circling the wagons? Were they on the verge of resolving this with an employee and just not ready to say anything yet? I didn’t know. In my new hotel I found my experience of the housekeepers colored by the belief that the last one had not been honest. Ugly, indeed.
It stood that way for another day, when I called again and was told that the watch had been found in a pile of dirty sheets. Of course, I thought, the person who took it brought it back and ditched it. Maybe they showed it to someone who told her these watches have tracking devices and to get rid of it fast. Anyway, I could come pick it up. I was relieved not just to have it back but because I wasn’t going to be responsible for doing harm to whoever had taken it. Even if it had been stolen, life is hard, and I didn’t want to get anyone fired who was already struggling to survive.
So that is the story as experienced by Laurel. Now I will tell you the true story of the watch. Apparently it was caught up in the bedding when I left the room. The housekeeper had not seen it when she collected the sheets and had thrown it in the laundry. In the afternoon, coincidentally, right at the time the shift ended, it was headed to the laundry service. That was where Its location changed to, not at someone’s home.
But it gets better. Apparently the watch got associated with the laundry of another hotel, and it had taken the better part of a day’s dogged search for my old hotel, the laundry company and the misidentified hotel to all come together and realize where the watch needed to go. While I am thinking terrible thoughts, all those people were coming together to help a total stranger get her property back.
All this was happening in the last few days of the High Holidays, meant to be a time of reflection about our shortcomings and resolutions to be a better person in the coming year. I am still processing the story of the watch in these terms. In Hebrew the word Teshuvah is often translated as repentance, but its more literal meaning is return. Return to a time before we went astray. Return to a simpler understanding of the connection between behavior and principles. Regrounding. A chance to be new again.
I don’t think I was a bad person to think my watch was stolen. I think it was reasonable to draw that conclusion. But I was wrong when I said to the hotel manager that there really didn’t seem to be any other way it added up. There indeed was, and it is a reminder that we can choose between thoughts that reaffirm our faith in humankind, or that undermine it. I chose the latter and for a few days I suffered needlessly and could not be my best self.
I could say that what happened reaffirmed my faith in humankind, but that makes it about other people and in the spirit of Teshuvah, I want it to be about me. Where is my opportunity for return in this experience?
I can return to compassion by remembering that every person I meet has a story, and try harder to have their story be better as a result of crossing paths with me. i can do better at this. I can return to greater confidence that most people are trying to live their best lives, and thus are doing their best to be trustworthy and honest. I can do better at this too So what if I daily see exceptions? I daily see proof as well. It’s there in every one of the people who got my watch back, including—and here I can return to assuming the best in people—the housekeeper who never stole it in the first place.