Trust at O’Hare Airport

I flew Friday night from DC to Kansas City, by way of O’Hare.  That’s redundant, everything is by way of O’Hare.

We left from Gate B8.  I got to my seat, put my MacBook Air in the seatpocket ahead of me, and settled in.  After a few minutes, the pilot announced the equipment had a problem, and would we all please deplane to board another aircraft at Gate B7.

We grumbled but got up to go.  As it happened, I was last out of the plane.  I talked with another passenger for 20 minutes until we boarded the new plane.  I reached into my briefcase to put my computer in the seatpocket and—heart-drop.  I had left it in the other plane at B8.

Why You Can’t Trust Strangers

I ran out the door, back to B8.  The gate agent said the cleaning crew had not been in the plane, and it was empty, but he couldn’t allow me in—he would go look for me.   He did, and after a bit too long, returned—empty-handed.

I ran back to the plane at 7B, whereupon the pilot—same pilot, same crew—came back with me and went in himself.  No computer.

We had to leave for KC .  I filed a baggage report when I got there.  I was cautiously optimistic.  I was 98% confident I had left it in the plane, and 100% sure the only other possibility was the gate area.  I gave it 50% odds I’d see it again.

By end of Saturday, I dropped the odds to 25%.  I emailed O’Hare baggage too.  By Sunday evening, I made plans to replace the computer.  Monday afternoon, 10 minutes before walking into the computer store, I got a phone call. 

It was from Francisco Q., of West Shakespeare Street, Chicago.  He asked for me by name, and told me he had found a computer.  He said he was an employee not of United, but of an O’Hare catering service. 

He hadn’t found it in the plane or the gate area.  It was in an O’Hare parking lot, in a plastic bag.  He said a friend bought a charger (the battery was depleted), and knew how to find my name from the Mac Address Book function. 

Francisco wanted to know how I wanted him to send it to me. I said “fast,” and he agreed to do so.  I was beside myself with relief, and offered him several hundred dollars as a reward.  He said little about that.  I planned to send a check by FedEx to him the next day.

The next day he called to ask, apologetically, if I could send the money before he sent the computer, as it was going to cost him a lot to ship, and he was out the cost of the power cord too.  He asked if he could pick up the money at Western Union–the same day.

Once Burned–Do You Give Up Trusting Strangers?

I can hear what you’re thinking.  But I could hear his voice, and I had no trouble believing him.   I sent him the reward, plus reimbursement for the power cord, and gave him my FedEx account number.  (Do you know how much poor people pay in fees to use Western Union?  No wonder they stay poor).

You can draw your own conclusions about United Airlines ground employees (myself, I still don’t know)–and about Francisco Q.  In fact, you probably already have. 

So tomorrow morning, when FedEx arrives, we’ll know whether or not I was right to trust Francisco.  If I was wrong, I’m not out of pocket just a computer, but a few hundred dollars as well, and will publicly feel stupid.

If I was right, I’ll have my computer a bit faster, and feel better about the human race.  And so will Francisco.  And I think you will too.

I’ll let you know. 

Meanwhile—place your bets in the comments section below.  I’m giving heavy odds on Francisco.

16 replies
  1. barbara garabedian
    barbara garabedian says:

    Charlie: I’m betting you get your computer. If not, at least you gotta give ’em credit for the best scam I’ve heard about since Madoff!  I agree w/ Susan. I can’t tell you how many "kindness of strangers" stories I’ve heard about…and that’s in NYC!!!!!!

  2. Brooks C. Sackett
    Brooks C. Sackett says:

    There are people in the world who make it a better place simply by being themselves. You’re one, Charlie, and my money (yours, really) is on Francisco to be another! Drum roll….

  3. Stewart Hirsch
    Stewart Hirsch says:

    My bet is with  yours on this one Charlie.  I think he’ll live up to the trust you showed and acted on. 

  4. Laurie
    Laurie says:

    Charlie I’m hoping for the best and am on the edge of my seat waiting to hear the (hopefully) good news.

  5. Doug Cornelius
    Doug Cornelius says:

    This is a tough one. On one hand, I have a hard time with his story. He found the computer in a trash bag in the parking lot? That does not sound right to me.  On the other, he gave you his address.

    I wish you the best. But I am going to bet on a fake address and a new computer for you.

  6. Kerry Krambeer
    Kerry Krambeer says:

    Charlie I hope (being from Chicago) Francisco stays true to his word and proves people from Chicago can be trusted.  I hope he doesn’t let me down.  We will see! 

  7. Charlie (Green)
    Charlie (Green) says:

    Well, the results are in.  And I’m telling you about them from my own computer, seated at my own desk.  Francisco came through, as promised. 

    But first–I accidentally deleted a wonderful comment that was posted here, and I didn’t catch the name.  I feel terrible because it was quite insightful about how people impute good intentions, but lots of circumstances get in the way, particularly in corporate organizations, and so we end up not trusting others.  The suggestion was to look closely at the behavioral cues we provide.  It was from someone with a coaching-related email address.  Please please repost it, and my apologies for erasing it.

    Back to Francisco: let the interpretations begin!



  8. Sandy Styer
    Sandy Styer says:


    One of the coolest things about all this (even if it were an elaborate scheme to take your laptop and sell it back to you, which I don’t for one moment believe) is that you and we, your readers, all feel about the human race than we would  have if the whole thing had never happened in the first place.

  9. Dave Stein
    Dave Stein says:


    There’s an old saying: "What goes around, comes around."  Kind-of the Karma thing, but in Bronx-ese.  (At least that’s where I learned it.)  It’s usually delivered in a sarcastic way to someone who has done you wrong.

    For you and this situation?  Same saying, but obviously this time it’s your positive Karma paying triple dividends. 

    Bravo.  Bravissimo!

  10. Susan Kleiner
    Susan Kleiner says:

    I’m glad Francisco came through.  And, I still believe in the kindess of strangers.  Even those at O’Hare…  Chalk one up for the good guys!

  11. Jeffrey Harth
    Jeffrey Harth says:


    Bravo to Francisco!  Can’t help but wonder who absconded with the laptop to the parking lot to try to get to your data before the battery died.  Hmmm… that’s the cynic in me.


    Between the ages of 5 and 9 I lived with my grandparents in a small southern town.  One day I stole a candybar from the local drugstore.  We knew the owners, they were friends.  That event bothered me for years.  When I was 20 I walked back into the store, owned up to the crime, and laid my $10 on the counter (principle plus interest).  The owner looked at me and said, "I remember you stealing that candy bar.  I saw you but decided not to say anything."  He handed me back my $10 and said, "I think you’ve paid enough for that, no?"  That was a priceless lesson.


    In the last 2 months I’ve found a wallet (with a LARGE sum of cash) as well as a cell phone on the train.  I returned them both.  The thanks I got was well worth it.  The optimist in me smiled.  Then, I had my computer stolen from between my feet by a team of experienced thieves.  The cynic in me said, "See,  I told you."  That’s ok.  Mostly the optimist wins.

  12. Fred Wiersma
    Fred Wiersma says:

    I just read this post in my reader, and thought I would comment that I would root for you, Francisco and the human race. Turns out Francisco already came through :). Good for you!

    Thanks for posting this. I like being confirmed in my optimism on humanity.


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  1. […] to leave my MacBook Air computer on the plane – not just once, but twice.  The first was at O’Hare; the second, in […]

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