When (lost) in Rome . . .

Losing her phone in Italy would have been a disaster, Sloane Smith found help surprisingly close to home

By Manor Park Chronicle

Thanks to the Manor Park listserve, Christine and Paul MacMillan helped Sloane Smith (centre) recover the mobile phone she lost in Italy. Photo: Doug Banks

Leaving my phone behind in Italy was not something I had on my 2023 bingo card, especially after almost everything else had gone perfectly for the past two weeks.

Days spent lounging in the sun at a lido on the Cilento Coast, or relaxing after a nice dinner out under the shaded canopy of grape vines at our Airbnb. Exploring Italy with my parents was the experience of a lifetime, especially Rome.

When we stuffed our luggage into the back of a taxi on the last morning of our trip with the help of the driver, Marcello, and crammed ourselves into the back of the cab, it was all a little bittersweet. But we were ready to go home.

Somewhere in the 45 minutes it took for us to get to the airport, I had taken out my phone from the purse I was carrying and scrolled through the photos of our spectacular trip. I had placed my phone back in the bag without a second thought, and seeing as the purse had been stuffed with things that couldn’t fit anywhere else, my best guess is that my precious, precious phone fell right back out and slipped somewhere I couldn’t see.

‘Nowhere to be found’

We got out of the taxi, immersing ourselves in the blazing heat once again and walked into the airport. Not one of us bothered to quickly check the backseat, a small action that could’ve saved so much time, energy and the ensuing awkward conversations over the phone.

It took me all the way until we were halfway through customs for me to notice what was missing. We searched every corner of my purse, my suitcase, our backpack, everywhere. Nope, my phone was nowhere to be found.

This was followed by a long, slightly tense wait in the customs line as my parents figured out what to do. When we sat at our gate, my mom pulled out her phone to execute the plan they had come up with.

Despite a language barrier, Marcello, the taxi driver in Rome, ensured the phone was safe and found. Photo supplied

Luckily for us, most taxis in Rome are connected to an app, which allowed my mom to call a number that was routed to Marcello’s phone. Marcello, unfortunately, does not speak English, and my mom only took Duolingo for a month or two (it seems impressive, but really didn’t turn out to be that effective when all she could really do was order a red sweater at a pizzeria).

After a very difficult, mostly one-sided conversation where Marcello repeated himself three times because he thought my mom didn’t understand him, she got his WhatsApp (most Italians use it instead of iMessage) so they could communicate easier with the help of Google Translate. He agreed to mail my phone on the following Monday, two days later, when the post office would be open. It was going to cost us about CAN$120. Not ideal and was going to involve a lot of hassle to wire him money, but at least it was coming home safely.

Three hundred and ninety-two missed messages

The morning after we got back, my mom woke up with an idea. The Manor Park listserve is often useful, and she was sure that someone out there was in Italy or knew someone who was. And she was right! We got a couple responses within the next few hours, and learned that our neighbours, Paul and Christine MacMillan, who live just a few doors down from us on Kilbarry Cres., were in Tuscany and would be flying home from Rome in a week’s time.

Things fell right into place after that: my mom contacted Marcello to inform him of the change of plans and we got in touch with Paul and Christine. They needed a ride to the airport, so arrangements were made to have Marcello drive them and, in the process, give them my long-lost phone.

Alas, I was not to be reunited with my phone right away–the day they flew home was the same day I was leaving for a sleep-away camp for two weeks! So, three weeks after leaving my phone in a taxi in Rome, we were reunited.

The phone, once so familiar, now felt foreign in my hands–and I had 392 missed messages.

It took me a while to get caught up, but I was glad for my three-week detox from my device. There are two lessons to be learned from this experience:

  1. Always check the backseat of the taxi as you leave.
  2. When you find yourself in the jam it might be worth going to the Manor Park listserve!

Many thanks to Paul and Christina.