WHILE I usually have little positive to say about our rail transport system I was surprised, nay delighted, with the helpfulness and efficiency of the lost property staff at Huddersfield Railway Station.
It’s Tuesday morning and I jump off the train loaded with my usual work gear and some shoes for the cobbler to repair.
As soon as my feet hit the platform I reach into my pocket to pull out my company mobile phone.
It’s not there.
The train from which I’ve alighted is still standing at the station.
“Should I jump back on?” I think.
“No,” I think. “I’m going to look like an almighty idiot if I’m whisked away to Leeds and have to buy an unnecessary ticket when the phone was in my bag all along.”
I rummage through my bags on the platform as the train pulls away.
It’s not there and I swear loudly.
Three of my work phones have conked out and the loss of a fourth is going to look mighty suspicious to the folks at Vodafone.
I suspect my employers too will not be sympathetic to my incompetence.
I ring my work phone from my personal mobile.
I think: “No one’s going to answer it” – and sure enough no one answers it.
As the self-loathing at my sheer stupidity builds I make my way to the station concourse.
I explain my schoolboy error to a chap in a First TransPennine Express uniform and he points me to a similarly dressed lady in the corner.
The speed, punctuality and cost of rail travel in Britain is improving – but it has a long way to go and on that basis I’m not hopeful.
I repeat my predicament to the lady sat in the corner. She probably hears the same foolish story every day.
She’s friendly and sounds helpful. “It’s a good start,” I think.
She asks me where I left it and what model of phone it is.
“It’s a Nokia N96. It has a distinctive picture of a loris as the desktop background,” I explain.
I’m a bit of a nature nerd and have short periods of learning compulsively about a certain animal before moving onto another animal, in case you’re questioning my choice of mobile phone desktop backgrounds.
She probably doesn’t know what a loris is (it’s a nocturnal primate with large eyes, non-nature nerds).
“It’s kind of like a monkey but not,” I elaborate ineptly.
It passes her by as she radios the conductor on the Scarborough-bound train I’ve just left.
But her phone isn’t working and she disappears.
“Great,” I think. “It’s TransPennine Express’ non-functioning equipment versus time to save my phone from an unscrupulous passenger who may well have swiped it.”
But no, the lady is back.
“We’ve found it,” she beams.
She jokes about not being able to operate her new phone and tells me when and where to collect it.
“You’re lucky you told me straight away,” she says. “If it had got to Scarborough you wouldn’t be able to get it until next Tuesday.”
That sounds more like the kind of inefficiency we’re used to on British public transport.
But today it isn’t inefficient and I’m impressed.
“You’re a star,” I say. It’s a bit of cliched thing to say but the lost property lady looks genuinely flattered.
I return eight hours later to the lost property office before catching the train home.
My phone is there in one piece and thankfully free of missed calls, desperate sounding voice mails and agitated text messages.
So it’s a big thank you to the lost property lady at Huddersfield Railway Station.
And a smaller but nonetheless substantial thank you to my fellow passengers for not taking advantage of my absent-mindedness and pocketing my phone – or sending obscene messages to my contact list.