Costa RicaCosta Rica

Taxi Tale: Lost & Found

alexander and his cameraIt all started on our way to the farmers' market. Every Thursday and Friday, the long street near Liberia's stadium hosts la feria, a place where farmers from all over the region assemble to sell mouthwatering fruits and vegetables at affordable prices. My two best friends and I have made it a weekly ritual to visit on Friday evenings -- when vendors lower their rates even further to sell off any remaining produce.

My friend, Simon, had decided to make some memories at the market with his pricey Canon SLR camera. Normally we stroll for 15 minutes to get to this side of town, but we were lazy and hailed a taxi. It wasn't until Simon went to take a picture that he realized his camera was missing. In a moment of forgetfulness, he had left it in the car -- and we hadn't a clue as to the vehicle's make, model or license plate number.

Simon reported the camera missing with the police, and I began some detective work in the meantime. In my experience, Costa Rican taxi drivers are generally kind and trustworthy people. During the day, they'll often help you carry your groceries to the house. At night, especially if you are a woman, they will wait until you are safely inside your apartment before driving away. I wasn't terribly concerned that the driver would steal Simon's camera -- but the passengers who followed us might take advantage of the opportunity.

liberia taxi

The police sent out a dispatch to all of the taxi companies in town, but it had not turned up a single lead. The car seemed to have vanished into thin air. I flagged as many taxis as I possibly could, and we organized a citywide quest to find the camera. Over and over, I explained what had happened, describing the few details I could remember about the vehicle in question. One hour and twenty conversations later, I finally found someone who could help solve the mystery -- a sympathetic man willing to take time off of his work shift to accompany me to a house a few neighborhoods away.

la feria, the fresh food market

I knocked at the front entrance, but no one answered. By now it was nearly 9:00 p.m., and all of the lights were off. I waited and waited, and just as I turned to leave, a man in a bathrobe opened the door a crack -- it was our guy.

Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, he took me around the building to the garage. We rustled around its interior, but the camera was nowhere to be found. My spirits sank. "Let me just check under the seat one more time,' he said with a disheartened voice.

I must have roused the entire street block when I screamed, "jackpot!' at the top of my lungs. The camera had become lodged under the front seat. After giving this honest -- albeit drowsy -- man a monetary award and an enormous bear hug, I found my friends and called off the search party.

During my two years in Costa Rica, the kindness of strangers has never ceased to amaze me -- and I try to return the favor by doing the same for others when such opportunities arise.

With two pounds of juicy tomatoes in tow, I hired another taxi to take me back to my apartment. I thanked the young driver with a warm smile, and he asked if I had a boyfriend.

I answered politely, "I'm flattered, but yes I do.' He responded with my favorite pickup line of all time: "No worries, I am not a jealous person.' As if it would be his feelings and not my boyfriend's that should concern me if I were to date them both at once. On that cheerful note, I paid the fare and went inside.

Taxi Tale: Lost & Found in Pictures

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