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Running round in circles because of my lost ring

 A tale of terror for travelers

It was my first vacation on the island of Rhodes. Idyllic weather, clear skies, warm enough to swim and sunbathe, but not hot enough to shvitz; five days of tranquility with no jarring news of rockets, missiles or nuclear bombs; traipsing along the cobbled streets of the enchanting, medieval old city, shopping, bargaining and buying; courteous, smiling and friendly locals wherever we went; and sightseeing around the ambling coastline hugged by stunning aquamarine waters that beggared belief. A perfect recipe for an exquisite holiday.

Except …

Ensconced in the departures hall for our return flight home to Israel, duty free shopping done, security and passport control behind us, my friend commented nonchalantly, "We have one and a half hours until the flight, what are we going to do?" By way of response, I checked my wristwatch, and in so doing, noticed that my gold name-ring that I regularly wore on my left pinky finger wasn't there. Terror gripped me as I glared at my bare finger, willing the ring to be there. Beyond the actual value of the gold was the priceless sentimental value, where no value was value enough, for its acquisition was tied to a family simcha, its design reminiscent of the Kotel in Jerusalem, and the name, well, intimately mine.

I broke out in a cold sweat while acknowledging that I must have left it in the hotel room. What to do? The one-and-a-half hour wait suddenly seemed like a godsend with a ray of hope. I blurted out, "I must call the hotel at once, but I don't have the number. Where is a public phone? I need a phone card. How am I going to buy one? I only have five euros left. Why, oh why, did I not accede to Pelephone's astronomical demand of NIS 149 for five days service abroad?"

Dropping everything with my friend (who brilliantly produced a card with the hotel's phone number), I rushed off hoping that five euros would be sufficient to buy a phone card. But the cafeteria on the floor did not have one and suggested I try the kiosk downstairs in the check-in hall. Running back to Passport Control where I had to leave my passport after breathlessly explaining my predicament, I reversed through security, down the stairs and to the kiosk. Phone card? Nope, try the one in the arrivals hall building next door. Off I trotted, my mind already in panic mode.

Reaching the shop next door, I checked my watch: 20 minutes gone, 70 minutes left to take-off. Once again my enquiry was met with a negative nod. Gevalt! What now? Running back to the departures hall, I reviewed my options and decided to appeal to the good heart of the local police manning passport control. Up the stairs, panting impatiently through security, I planted myself back at the window. By this time I was hyperventilating and on the verge of tears. "Please, please, please let me use your phone!" I begged him while telling my story of woe. And suddenly I was sobbing and spluttering, unable to withhold the flow of tears that fed my rising hysteria.

"Sorry, this phone is only for police business and is not an outside line," I heard the man say. "Which airline are you flying?"

El Al, I slobbered.

"I suggest you go ask them for help", said he, indicating that he would continue to hold my passport.

Back through security, down the stairs, another 15 minutes gone, 55 minutes to take-off. I approached El Al security, ever thankful that I was flying with an Israeli carrier. Through tears and red eyes ineffectively covered by sunglasses, I explained about the ring and the lack of a phone card and would they be willing to call the hotel? "Wait a minute until I finish this," I was told.

Tick, tick, tick, the minutes and seconds passed. Rooted to the spot, I was entirely in their hands and at their mercy. I paced back and forth. I stared at their every move. Finally, a young man ambled over, asked for the phone number and called the hotel. He explained to them that my ring had been left next to my bed and asked if they could check and he would call back in a short while.

More pacing, deep breathing sighing, praying that they would find the ring. Ten minutes passed - another call, and I heard Mr El Al say, "Oh, you didn't find it". Not able to listen further, I turned my back, and burst into tears anew, berating myself for forgetting such a precious item in the hotel.

A gentle hand touched my arm. Mr. El Al said: "They are going now to check the safe in the room. They said their records showed you used the safe while you were there." Totally numbed, all I could do was nod wordlessly and swallow.

More pacing, more deep breathing, more waiting - 35 minutes to take-off. I mentally calculated that if they found the ring and sent it in a taxi, I would barely make the flight. Another call. Mr El Al: "Oh, you found it! Could you rush it by taxi to the departure gate?" I wanted to hug Mr. El Al, but rachmones. Relief washed over me and I was galvanized into action again, for now I had to produce euros to pay for the cab. Where? "There is an ATM in the building next door," said Mr El Al.

Off I went again in search of the ATM. Punching in my number I realized that my visa was not an international credit card. Ok, I would use my other credit card. Pin? Couldn't remember. Despair seized me again. I tried a third credit card. Couldn't remember the pin either. No euros in hand, but I had shekels, and this was El Al, right? Grabbing my three credit cards, I rushed back to Mr El Al and wouldn't you know, burst into distressful sobs yet again at my apparent useless brain and ineptitude at procuring euros.

"Don't worry," said savior El Al, "I will pay!" I offered him shekels against the euros, but he graciously declined. By now it was 15 minutes before the flight's departure time and to say I was standing on shpilkes would be an understatement. Ten minutes to the flight - still no taxi. I start to discuss with Mr El Al how the ring could be sent to me in Modiin. Another passenger on a later flight overhears, and offers to take the ring for me. "I live in Rishon LeZion. I will bring it and you can come and collect it from me."

I am about to give her my card and take down her details, when the taxi comes screeching to a halt, with a hand outstretched through the open passenger window holding The Ring! Running up to the car, I grabbed the ring, put it on my pinky, blessed the driver from the bottom of my heart, turned to Mr El Al, learnt his name, Naveh Arieli, commented that my grandson's name was Arieli too, blessed him with all the goodies in the world, and rushed off with literally 5 minutes to spare before take-off.

I must have looked like a mad woman bounding up the stairs two at a time, through security, through passport control arriving at the gate with zero minutes in hand. But lady luck was still on my side. An unidentified bag had caused a 10-minute delay in boarding. Thank heavens for El Al security!

I don't remember the flight home. I do remember my utter sense of relief and my heaving chest.

My story could happen to anyone, and undoubtedly does. But this time, my tale of terror had a happy ending, thanks in great part to Naveh, El Al, the hotel staff and my guardian angel. Each day since, I enjoy my ring anew. Now it has dual sentimentality. 



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Sunday, 21 July 2024

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