St. Anthony and the Lost Wallet

As an American Catholic I rely on St. Anthony to help me find things. Incidentally, Spanish Catholics don’t rely on St. Anthony to find lost stuff, rather to find a boyfriend or girlfriend–go team! But on rare occasion it happens, and I will lose something, and in this instance it was my wallet.

Trying to get things put back together and get some excercise, I sheepishly walked up to the front desk of the gym and I explained to her that I needed to get a new card, because I had lost my wallet. She said she would give me a temporary card, and asked if I wanted to wait a few days before she made me a new one. I was reluctant because I really just wanted the problem to be solved, but I gave in. It had been only 48 hours since my wallet had gone missing, but I was still a bit stressed from not having it. However, something in her voice told me that things would probably be okay.

Another day passed, and by then I had asked for new cards from my banks, health cards but I was still stressed that I would have to return to the Spanish department of foreigners, the “extranjería.” If you thought it was hard to go to the DMV to get a drivers’ license replaced, imagine going to a soviet bunker where the haircuts are as bad as the service. Questions are answered awkwardly, and the amount of paperwork is staggering. Everything must be in triplicate, your entire passport must be scanned, and you will walk out likely trembling because of the adrenal rush and stress hormones flowing through your system. I was not looking forward to returning to that diabolical place.

I called the office for lost articles for the city bus, the police station that handled lost items, and nothing was found. They both took my name and number in case a wallet with that documentation showed up, but, as I have come to learn, I never expect calls back. Another day passed, and I learned that there would be another hoop to go through if I were to go to the extranjería, I would have to first go to the Police and make an official report that I lost my wallet. As if my own humiliation wasn’t enough, I would have to tell the police “uhh…yeah…so it fell out of my pocket…” and receive an official piece of paper, called a “denuncio” clarifying the full extent of my stupidity so that I could go back to the extranjería.

Something must be added to the extranjería horror. You don´t go just once, you always go twice. The first time, you ask for information, and you get a report that details all of the documentation that you need, whether it needs to be original or a copy, and how many copies that you will need (only the original, original and copy, original and two copies). But wait, it gets worse. Then you have to come back after you have all the information and documents, and your information is excruciatingly reviewed by a functionary (government worker) who delights in making sure every single bit of information is filled out. They will probably go check with their boss to confirm that all is in order. Then you are required to pay a fee. But you cannot use a card or cash. Instead you must go to a bank (the closest being about 8 blocks away) and ask them to give you an official receipt and copy after they take some of your cash–it’s kind of like a money order…kind of. If you don´t have an account with that particular bank, then you are welcome to pay a €6 fee for each item. You scurry back to the office, and walk up to the functionary’s desk, awkwardly interrupting the person they are currently helping. Then you are told to wait for four weeks and (I’m not making this up), then call ahead to be sure that your card is ready. Oh, and you can only come in the afternoons from Monday – Wednesday or Friday (so not Thursday), to pick it up. When you come to pick it up, you will be finger printed again, and finally have your ID.

If you complain about going to the DMV, may I suggest that you have comparatively nothing to complain about.

Back to the police station. I show up and realize there is a queue of people waiting to do the same, so I felt slightly less embarrassed. I sat down with the nice police officer and I said I was here to do a denuncio because I lost my wallet. She looked at me and said to wait, because she thought that they might have it! She zipped to a back office and brought it back me, saying “Alan Nelson, verdad?” I had never been so grateful. Not only that, all the documents were there, and everything was in its right place.

It’s amazing how it got there. The officer said that it probably just arrived that morning, but that it had passed through two other busses, an office at the transit department, one other police office and finally there.

I immediately started giving thanks to St. Anthony, and remained grateful for the little city of Pamplona and Spain in general. Even though the extranjería is a small taste of purgatory, the fact is that Pamplona is such a rarity in that all of my information and wallet was returned to me. The people were honest, and did the right thing. It is a society that is built on trust, and even if the paperwork can be infuriating at times, the hearts of the people make it a truly marvelous place to be, making miracles like the return of my wallet actually happen regularly. The woman at the front desk of the gym was right, it did turn up! And she could comfortably trust that enough people would do the right thing enough times that it was probable that my wallet would turn up.

There are no small miracles. It’s just that when we are no longer in control, we start to look for them.









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