Jeremy Bourne

On Saturday, we attended a community gathering at the youth center on campus. There were activities for the whole family - a climbing wall, make-your-own candy necklaces, flour-balloon friends (that had a cute British name but which I can't remember), Xbox, table tennis, etc. A friend of ours from the University of Arizona (who now lives in Oman) was up visiting us just for the day, and she came with us to the gathering to kill time before her flight back to Muscat later that afternoon.

Well, us adults ended up playing Guitar Hero for a few songs...or a few more...and by the time the game was over, our friend looked down and noticed that her purse was missing! A purse which, I should add, contained her passport and plane ticket for later that day.

Honestly, I didn't panic at first. Sharjah in general and campus specifically are not big on petty crime. Besides, Jeremy and I knew almost every single person in attendance at that gathering, and we figured that some kid (or adult, really) had accidentally walked off with the purse, mistaking it for their own. So we looked and asked around a bit. I got excited when I saw a completely unattended purse in the corner of another room, so I picked it up and brought it to our friend to ask if it was hers. It wasn't, which means I had just done to someone else what we thought someone else had just done to our friend.

(I put the purse back in its place, of course....and it sat there unstolen, unattended, for the next two hours. Like I said, this place is generally free of petty crime.) (And other types of crime, when I think about it.)

As we continued to look for the purse in every corner of the youth center, we found out from the youth center staff that the area where the purse was taken could be seen on a security camera. Awesome! - we would be able to see who had taken the purse, whether it had been on purpose or accidentally. The problem was, the youth center staff didn't have the authority (or ability) to rewind the tape to the time frame we needed. So our friend and I got to work trying to contact the security guy in Dubai on a Saturday afternoon to come rewind the tape so we could hopefully recover the purse before her flight left.

Jeremy, meanwhile, took the search up a notch. You see, since this gathering was held at an official center on campus that is usually only open to children and youth, there was a sign-in sheet by the entrance where we had all (or almost all) scrawled our names and house numbers to varying degrees of legibility. Jeremy took this sheet and immediately started working the room, asking anyone if they'd accidentally taken a purse and crossing off the names one by one.

But some of the people who had signed in had already left, so Jeremy found a phone in the corner of the room and started calling. And calling. And calling. It wasn't the easiest conversation to have with people - "did you or your children, uh, accidentally maybe steal someone's purse?" - but most people were very helpful even if they ultimately had not seen/taken the purse.

UNTIL. He called one lady who said something like, "oh yeah, I think my daughter's friend might have grabbed someone else's bag!" Jackpot!!!! We were so glad to have found the purse and our friend immediately stopped cancelling her credit cards. The lady brought the purse back and handed it over, but only after opening it to remove the miscellaneous toys her daughter's friend had put inside. In other words, exactly what we suspected had happened at the beginning, WAS what had happened - some little girl walked off with a bag that she thought was hers but wasn't.

The most impressive part of this story to me is how Jeremy had the idea to talk to everyone who had signed in. I don't know if I ever would have thought of that. On the walk home, our friend and I were kidding Jeremy about having learned that tactic on Law & Order or something, but it turns out he was thinking, "what would Jason Bourne do?" As it turned out, that was the right question to ask.

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