By Walter Sanders
It was an ideal day of touring in Naples. Via Tribunale was lively with shoppers and tourists taking selfies with the bronze Pulcinella. The funicular ride to Castel Sant’Elmo high above the bay delivered us to a breezy, fresh air mass much cooler than the busy streets of the centro. I shot pictures and videos with my phone.
We splurged on a late lunch overlooking the city, bay, and Mount Vesuvius in the distance. Plates of fresh seafood kept coming. I wandered the terrace and took group photos of families.
It was late afternoon by the time we took another funicular down toward the port. We got off, but we weren’t near the port. I G-mapped to try to figure out our location. At street level, it was hot and humid and we were tired and getting grumpy. We decided to grab a cab and return to the Hotel Palazzo Decumani.
I always like to sit in the front seat in a cab when the driver agrees. Ours did. The cab driver was a delight. We talked about his two sons…the oldest was a partner in the cab business. We stopped at an ATM for some cash. He took us at the hotel and we were glad to be back in air-conditioned comfort.
Salvatore, the spirited Neapolitan bar man at the hotel lounge, was on duty. I reached for my phone to share some of our videos of the city that Salvatore loves. The phone was not in my pocket.
I was devastated. I scrambled. “Sharon, do you have my phone? Have you seen it?”
How stupid to leave a phone in a cab. How dumb to leave a phone in a cab in Naples. I asked Sharon to call my number from her phone. No answer. I asked the hotel desk to call the cab stand where we had caught the cab. “No, we didn’t the driver’s name (but we knew about his family!), we didn’t know the cab company, we didn’t have the driver’s mobile phone.”
I got on-line via my lap top to chat with the phone service provider: Google’s Project Fi.
She asked me whether I wanted to deactivate the phone. “No, not yet,” I typed. “I want 60 minutes. The cab driver was such a good guy.”
We camped out in the hotel lounge on a sofa with a view of the front door. An hour went by. Then 90 minutes. I opened the lap top to chat with Project Fi again. The service person, Michael, pulled up the thread via my mobile number and asked whether I wanted to deactivate the phone.
“There he is!” called Sharon as she jumped up to run to the front door.
It was the taxi driver holding the phone up like a trophy. He saw me. I gave him a big hug and he kissed me on both cheeks. I thanked him, and thanked him again.
“May I offer you something…a glass of wine, a beer?”
“No thank you” he said.
I asked him where he found the phone. He said he had five more fares after us. When he was cleaning out the cab for the night, he noticed a black phone sticking out from under a black floor mat under the seat. He saw English language on the screen cleaning pad attached to the back of the phone. “This belongs to the simpatico Americano who I brought to the Hotel Decumani.”
I hugged and thanked him again. I gave him 50 Euro and waved goodbye as he drove off. When I got back to the lap top and the chat, there were a series of “Walter, are you still on line?” entries.
I typed “Yes! You won’t believe this but the driver just returned with the phone.”
I hogged a full page in the hotel guest book with a drawing of a beaming guy holding a mobile over his right shoulder, a cartoony drawing of a taxi cab with a smiling grill, and a recap of the phone story. That’s when I realized that I had neglected to get the driver’s name.
Sharon and I then traveled to some seaside towns for two weeks. Because we enjoyed Naples so much, we decided to return there earlier for our return flight on Meridiana back to JFK. Sharon booked an AirBandB on lively Via Tribunale and we stayed for a couple of nights.
One afternoon we enjoyed some time and wine at the port. We decided to grab a cab back to the room. There were a couple of cabs on our side of the street, but no drivers. So we crossed the street to a different cab stand with dozens of drivers at the ready. I acknowledged the nearest, told him where we wanted to go, and asked if I could sit in the front seat. He said yes.
Then we got a better look at each other. He said “I remember you! You left your phone in the cab.”
“And you found it and returned it!” We rubbed each other’s heads and had a mini celebration.
I asked for his name: Francesco Aragiusto. One of the many upright and honest citizens of Naples.