Secret Subject Swap - Who are your Friends and Helpers?

Welcome to November's Secret Subject Swap

Again 7 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts.  

Sit back, grab a cup and check them all out:

Baking In A Tornado

Wandering Web Designer
Spatulas on Parade  
Our Prime Years
Sarah Nolan
Part-Time Working Hockey Mom

My subject is

What negative thing that happened to you are you thankful for?

It was submitted by: Writer Sarah  - thank you, Sarah!

Wow, when I got my prompt, I said to Karen "I am going to have to think about this long and hard." 

I did, and I came up with nothing. 

Don't get me wrong, I am a positive person, and I try to do the best of every situation, here's a Yin to every Yang, yadda yada yadda, 

Still I wouldn't actually call being robbed, cheated on, dumped or fired a reason to "be thankful" for in hindsight. 

Bad things happen, and it may even be for a reason, life is no walk in the park. You deal with them and move on.

For the sake of this post, though, I can tell you about the positive aspects of having my wallet stolen out of my purse.

It happened during my coffee bean area. Every month the whole management team flew from Zurich, Switzerland to  Vienna, Austria and spent two days. 

At the time, Vienna was the only Austrian city that ran Starbucks stores, (today there is the Salzburg market too) and we would bond with our direct reports, check in at existing stores and visit locations for prospective stores. 

Juan, the Operations Director, and I usually interviewed internal candidates who were up for promotion or external applicants to cover positions for said upcoming stores.

One day in 2005 we were talking to Renate, an Assistant Store Manager, to find out if she was ready to take on the responsibility to manage her own store. It was around 5pm, the store at Mariahilfer Strasse which is located at the neighbor building of SBUX' little Austrian HQ, was packed, and it was loud. 

After about half an hour we congratulated the young lady to her new job and debriefed with Robert, her District Manager. Then the guys started discussing delayed delivery of frappuccino mix or something else that I wasn't expected to contribute to, so I said I was going to treat myself to something. "What can I get you guys?" 

It had been a full day, my head was going to explode soon, and Starbucks partners are the worst customers when it comes to ordering their beverage, because they can't just drink a regular cappuccino, or a doppio espresso.

They create their own beverage which contain lots of "extra hot", "additional shot", "hold the syrup", you get the picture. 

Photo Credit: Moe Daniels

While I was listening carefully, maintaining eye contact the whole time, I was rummaging in my purse for my wallet. I couldn't feel it out, so I dumped the whole content on the table. We had been working together long enough for them not to give me funny looks. So a girl carries a cell phone, three different hand lotions, a spare t-shirt, China Oil, a copy of Cosmopolitan, sunglasses, lip gloss, a miniature umbrella, gummy bears, tissues, pens and many other essential items! 

But no wallet! 


I had it an hour ago! 

I grabbed every single item and put it back into the purse, one after the other. That way, in the end, the wallet had to be the last item lying on the table. 

Just that it wasn't.

My forehead was getting sweaty. 

I checked the pockets of my jacket, looked underneath the table.


I didn't believe this!

I dashed to the register and asked if anybody had found a wallet and left it there?

"No, and I hate to tell you this, but if you are sure that you had it, and now it's gone, then it got stolen. It happens all the time. There are gangs working in this city, you wouldn't believe it. Kids even. They play on the floor in restaurants, but in fact they crawl and prey on ladies' purses. Let me call the police."

I didn't have time for this sh**!! 
I had to go to the airport and catch my flight home, along with the rest of the team. 

Wait, how was I going to check in at the airport? My picture ID was in the wallet!!

From then on, every single colleague present did something to help me. 
It was incredible.

Calling the police, calling the Swiss embassy, calling the credit card company, calling the Zurich office and had them fax a copy of my passport (in one of my absolute finest hours I thought it might be a good thing to have this in my personnel file, and it turned out to be a lifesaver) checking surveillance footage which actually revealed quite clearly how the guy sitting behind me, was casually leaning back and fumbling in my closed purse, which was fully covered by my jacket, btw,  and without ever looking at it, he removed my wallet and put it into his own jacket. 

Geez, it was that dude with the curly hair who smiled and waved at us when he left? What an a******!

It took a long time for two policemen to arrive, and as soon as I told them about my situation, they said they could take my statement (which I would need to give them at their precinct, cause there is a proper time and place for everything), they weren't hopeful to ever catch the guy, though, and they could do absolutely nothing to help me to travel without ID, I needed to consult the airport police.

See, here, in the city of Vienna, you are actually in the state of Vienna. The Vienna airport, however, is located in the state of Niederöstereich, so that's their jurisdiction.

Naturally. Just what I needed. They didn't even want the screenshot of the mugger's face. 

The five of us jumped into a taxi to the airport. 

As soon as we arrived, I ran towards the Airport Police office. 

I was about to experience a cultural shock. 

Imagine a usually cheerful and energetic 30-something business woman working for an American company who had her wallet stolen and needed to catch a flight - having to deal with a slow of comprehension, imperial-royal civil servant with no typing skills, no sense of humor and absolutely no sense of urgency. Why do they allow people like this to work at the airport of all places? Also, don't they deal with undocumented passengers every day and have a speedy process to get them home?

It felt like an eternity, but eventually he handed me the document I needed, not before taking a copy of my faxed copy of my passport (do you know how long it takes for a copy machine to get ready to do its job when it hasn't been used all day? When all was done, I  quickly made my way to Check-in where a lady beckoned me over "are you Mrs Gerber from the Starbucks party? Your colleague told me you'd be late. Here's your boarding pass. Run!" 


Conclusion: who are your real friends and helpers? Your coworkers and ground service employees. I have another example from JFK Airport here.

St. Stephen's Cathedral aka Stephansdom

So I lost about the equivalent of USD 300 cash, all my credit and debit cards, picture ID, driver's license (two different pieces of identity in Switzerland), store loyalty cards and a pretty wallet that I got refunded for by the insurance company, that sadly wasn't sold anymore. I had to go to my local Swiss police station (which was maybe a 10 minutes' kind of transaction - see? It can be done!) and the DMV, also a reasonably efficient experience, but still. As a more than full time working person you have to take a day off to run these errands, because opening hours.

All in all, though, I have to say, almost 15 years later, what I remember from that day I had my wallet stolen, is the matchless camaraderie and cooperation among my coworkers and colleagues. I am truly thankful for their friendship and support, not only that day of course, but especially that day! 

Any negative thing happening to you turned out to be a somewhat good thing? Let me know down below, and don't forget to visit my fellow blogger's posts!


  1. Although this was a horrible experience (just thinking about how much had to be replaced makes me sweat), it was also, as you said, a great lesson in how much it means when you're down and others pitch in to help.

  2. Wonderful to have such helpful colleagues, especially under those stressful conditions!

    The only example I can think of is losing my corporate job during the recession of the early 90s. Yes, we suffered financially, but, it was otherwise a new lease on life. I started the pet care business and rediscovered the real me. No more burnt-out workaholic! ☺

  3. That would terrifying! I've never been out of the country but I am this summer for the first time. I plan on putting copies of my passport everywhere! (Rena)

  4. Wow! I would have been a basket case...I'm glad you ended up with the assistance you needed. I have had my wallet stolen and know that sense of panic but at least I wasn't traveling!

  5. Wow! What an adventure, you certainly did learn that you have great friends.


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