The Wrong Trousers: A Travel Story

Monday, 3 April 2006

I decided it was time to wear those moleskin trousers I’d been avoiding. I had paid a lot for them at a Mole3 trendy shop several months earlier. Slightly dressier than jeans, but still not “dressy”, they might be just the thing for the trip I was about to take.

My wife Catherine and I were going to Frankfurt to attend a huge music trade show called the Musikmesse. We would be taking an evening flight from Glasgow on Ryan Air.

If you’ve flown Ryan Air to Frankfurt before, you know that it doesn’t take you to Frankfurt at all, but rather to a place in the middle of nowhere called Hahn, after which you get on a bus for a two-hour ride to Frankfurt. When the bus finally arrives in Frankfurt it stops on a side street at the back of the central train station. At 1:40am it doesn’t feel like a terribly safe place to hang around.

The contact who was supposed to pick us up wasn’t there. We tried calling him and his phone was switched off.

We tried the hotel he had booked us into but there was no answer.

We decided to get a taxi to the hotel.

A taxi pulled up driven by a young, Middle-Eastern-looking driver. His English was not good and he didn’t know the hotel, but it came up when he punched it into his GPS.

It was several miles outside the city center in a residential neighborhood.

When we arrived the hotel sign was dark and the reception office was closed for the night. There was no one waiting for us, no night staff around, and no emergency number to call.

Our contact was still not answering his phone.

Catherine suggested we take the taxi back into town to the Marriott hotel — a towering Frankfurt landmark. If our contact was out looking for us, this would be an easy place for him to find. There would also be night staff available to help us.

We got back into the taxi and I told the driver to take us to the Marriott.

When we pulled up to front of the hotel, I grabbed my wallet, paid the driver, got a reciept, and got out of the cab. We said goodbye and he drove off.

We stood beside the entrance of the hotel with our bags, feeling tired and shaken about the closed hotel and our no-show contact. A hotel room would be impossible to come by at this hour of the night, unless by some miracle the Marriott had a room available, which, if they did, would be exhorbitantly priced.

Still, it might be our only option.

We made a contingency plan: while continuing to try to reach our contact, we would see if they had any rooms.

I checked for my wallet before heading inside. It was gone.

Panicking, I checked all my pockets. No wallet anywhere.

It was not on the ground where I had exited the taxi.

I must have missed the slippery back pocket of my trousers while putting it back after paying the driver. It was now sitting on the back seat of the cab.

No wallet. No cash. No credit card to pay for a room. No contact to help us.

Fuck. I hate these trousers.

I went into the the hotel and asked the concierge for help. His name was  Gidde. He asked questions and made calls. He never asked me if I was a guest, which I appreciate.

Did I know the name of the cab company?

No.

Did I get a reciept with their name on it?

Yeah. It’s in the wallet.

Was it a Mercedes? (This would determine whether it was one of the two main cab companies)

I think so.

Did I remember anything else?

I had noticed a metal plaque on the dashboard as I was leaving the cab. I thought it read “Munawar Anwar”.

There was no driver named Munawar Anwar at either of the two main cab companies.

All that was left to do was to call the cab companies back in the morning and see if someone had turned in a wallet. And report it to the police if that didn’t work.

I went back outside to give Catherine the update.

She had just gotten through to our contact. He had left his phone charging in his room while coming to pick us up at the train station. He had just gotten back to the hotel after driving all over town looking for us (without his phone).

He would be there shortly to pick us up.

There was a measured feeling of relief. I would deal with the missing wallet in the morning after getting some sleep.

I went back in and gave the concierge our mobile number in case the driver brought the wallet back to the Marriott. He took down the info. I went back outside.

Catherine was pointing and smiling.

“I think it’s him.”

It was our cab driver. He pulled to a stop at the front door. I rushed up to the him.

“Do you have my wallet?” I said.

He smiled, reached beside him, stepped out of the cab, and handed me my wallet.

I hugged him. He didn’t seem to mind.

He said in broken English that he had noticed it on the back seat after dropping us off and kept it safe. He had brought it back as soon as he could.

I handed him a twenty euro note, which he did not refuse. We thanked him over and over and he drove off, smiling and waving.

A closer inspection revealed that everything was there. I pulled out the receipt I had gotten earlier.

His name was actually Munawar Ahmed. I had been close.

I went back in and told Gidde that the driver had returned the wallet. I shook his hand and thanked him for his help.

Our contact picked us up a minute later and took us to our hotel.

If you are ever in Frankfurt and need a cab with an honest driver, contact:

Munawar Ahmed Taxibetrieb, Breitenbachstrasse 1, 60487 Frankfurt am
Main, Germany, Tel. 01625089308.

I will be avoiding moleskin trousers in the future. They’re not worth it.

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