Monday, March 15, 2010

The Japanese art of returning lost property

When we left the Dorling Kindersley Science Encyclopedia -- an enormous tome that Dylan had borrowed from the school library -- in a Tokyo taxi, it set off a chain of events that says a lot about how things are done here.

I assume that, first off, when he didn't receive a call from me, the cab driver turned the book over to the police, declaring it lost property. Had I noticed we had left the book behind, I could've called the phone number printed on the receipt and had the driver bring it back to me -- that's why you always take your receipt after paying cab fare, because it is time stamped and has all the info you need to get back in touch with the driver and schedule a rendezvous to recover your laptop or purse or mobile phone or whatever. We once retrieved Conor's backpack by calling the driver and arranging to meet him at the Korean bbq joint down the street, where he had dropped us just a couple of hours earlier. It was amazing. The driver was very gracious about it.

But in this case I didn't notice we had left the book behind, and so it became a police matter. That is, someone from the police station phoned the school to report that it had the book in custody.

Mr. Richie Steven, BST Librarian, returned the call, identified himself and confirmed that the book did in fact belong in his library.

The police then mailed some forms for Richie to fill out, papers that requested proof of his identity and his professional training.

So Mr. Steven photocopied his passport, alien registration card and master's degree certificate and mailed the forms and photocopies back to the police in a prepaid return envelope.

He then received a follow up call from a policeman who wanted to know how it happened that a Swede, trained in Australia, ended up working for the British School in Tokyo. Apparently he convinced them that all was on the up and up. Mr. Steven speaks Japanese, by the way.

The police also wanted to know if Mr. Steven cared to go to the lost property depot, which was somewhere outside the city, to pick up the book in person, or if he preferred to have the book shipped.

Mr. Steven opted for the latter, of course. He paid the postman 600 yen cash on delivery. He then checked his computer to find out which student was responsible, and then approached said student's parent (me) to request reimbursement. With a smile, I might add.

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