Thanks to the startling generosity of complete strangers, I have my mandolin back! Here’s the story. It’s a story well worth telling, if you ask me. Which you didn’t, but I’m telling it anyway. I have to, because this chain of miracles needs to be celebrated by more than Bob and me.

On October 17th we flew into Málaga with a year’s worth of luggage — one large suitcase, a smaller suitcase, and a backpack each. Plus my mandolin.

At the taxi rank we got a driver whose car could carry everything, and we loaded up. I showed the driver the address of our AirBnB apartment, and off we went. In the flurry of paying the driver (in cash at his insistence) I didn’t check to make sure we had everything. My mandolin was still in the taxi, and he was gone before I realized it.

So we were met by JD, our host’s friend, who let us into the apartment. He spoke almost no English, and I spoke almost no Spanish. But through Google Translate I explained what had happened. In a completely unnecessary display of generosity and kindness, he tracked down the two taxi companies serving the airport. He called them and explained in Spanish what the problem was. He was relentless. He wrote a script in Spanish for me to use when I called the taxi people back, which I did several times after he left.

The next day, JD texted me to ask how my search was going, and I told him it had so far been fruitless. He suggested we go to the airport lost and found. I didn’t see the point, since we hadn’t lost the mandolin on airport property. But by Wednesday the 19th, I realized I had to give it a try. We took the train to the airport, and made it to the lost and found, where we met Maribel. She spoke excellent English, and although I explained that I’d lost the mandolin in the taxi, she spent half an hour calling the cab companies, narrowing it down to one of them, discovering that the driver had reported a musical instrument left behind. But they couldn’t provide more information, as the driver no longer worked for them — all they could do was provide his license number. 

In another completely unnecessary display of generosity and kindness, Maribel said she would call the licensing bureau and get a telephone number for the driver. After we returned home, Maribel called, saying that she wasn’t able to get the phone number, as the licensing agency closed at 2:00. She would try again on the 20th. 

On a hunch that I should, I took the train back out to the airport in the morning (20th), and went to the lost and found. Maribel wasn’t there, but working at another location. I explained my situation to the lady who was there, and she offered to call Maribel for me, giving me her phone so I could talk to her. Maribel reported that she hadn’t heard back from the licensing agency, and until then had nothing more to offer. I thanked her profusely, and with a heavy heart headed back to take the train home. As I was going down the escalator to the platform, Maribel called. She had just heard from the licensing agency, and did I have a pen so I could write down the number for Juanjo, who could speak enough English for us to converse.

I always travel with at least two pens — after all, I’m a writer! But at that moment I had a scrap of paper, but no pen. I asked a man on the platform if he had a pen. No, sorry. Neither did his friends. I confess I was feeling frantic, but Maribel insisted I take my time. I asked a woman on the platform if she had a pen. She did. She held my scrap of paper steady while I wrote down Juanjo’s number. The lady spoke very good English, and asked what had happened. I explained.

In another completely unnecessary display of generosity and kindness, the lady offered to call Juanjo on my behalf while we waited for our train. She got through to him right away, speaking Spanish, and Juanjo still had my mandolin. She arranged that he would drive to where he let us off, near our apartment, and hand over the mandolin. Our train arrived, and my good Samaritan lady disappeared into the crowd.

Equipped with Juanjo’s phone number, I sent a WhatsApp message to him, confirming the street corner where I would meet him, and the time. He confirmed. And at the agreed time, he showed up with my mandolin. I made my way back to our apartment, glowing with the magic of it all. Glowing and floating.

The following Tuesday, when Maribel was working at the airport lost and found again, I was there with flowers and a bottle of good Rioja as thanks.

May the kindness and generosity I was shown during those stressful first four days in Spain be multiplied in the lives of all who read this. The world is starving for it, I think.