I spent two hours on the phone to Switzerland on Saturday, speaking to a woman who, if she did have a personality, kept it exceedingly well hidden.
‘My name’s Mia. I should be on my lunch break, will this take long?’ was how she answered the phone and the conversation went downhill from there.
But first let me explain how this situation came about.
My dear mother – now 73 and becoming increasingly senile – has been to Canada to see her sister, who was celebrating her 80th birthday.
This was a big deal for my mum as she went on her own. Given that she has a handwritten sign on her fridge reminding her what day the binmen come, we were slightly worried about her ability to make it across the Atlantic in one piece but she surpassed herself, made it safely to Montreal, and enjoyed a very nice fortnight.
The holiday passed, my mum flew home, and my sisters and I picked her up from Manchester on Saturday morning and drove back to her bungalow.
We made some breakfast and she told us all the exciting gossip from her trip.
Then suddenly, mid-sentence, she stopped and turned a funny colour. ‘Oh my god’, she cried. ‘My iPad,’ she said, voice quivering, ‘I’ve left it in Switzerland’.
After a short period of general confusion, my mother – who had flown to Montreal via Zurich – told us she’d just realised that while going through airport security she had left her iPad (a not inexpensive iPad that we had bought for her birthday three days before she went away) in the tray.
And so it was that at 10am on Saturday I found myself googling phone numbers for Zurich airport.
After around 27 calls, and not speaking to one single human, I finally got through to a woman, who answered the phone in the manner of someone who had been relaxing in a hot tub with a pina colada and was absolutely furious to have been disturbed.
‘Do you speak English?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ she barked. ‘What do you want?’ She said this in a way which managed to be both threatening and aggressive.
‘Erm, well, my mum has left her ipad at the security and I wanted to report it to see if we could get it back.’
Instead of saying how sorry she was, she said, ‘you can’t ring this number, it’s a lost property matter,’ sighing.
‘Okay, can you give me the number for lost property then?’ I asked.
There was a slight pause, then she replied, ‘You can only contact lost property by using the online form’.
Now I knew what she meant by this because prior to calling I had made approximately two dozen attempts to fill in said online form but failed due to the fact that every time I completed it and pressed send, it crashed my computer.
To cut a long story short, the woman, finally, after I promised to send her half my life savings and include her in my mother’s will, put me through to another department where I was able to report the missing item.
I assumed someone at airport security had returned from their shift that evening with a shiny new iPad.
But, remarkably, despite the fact I held out absolutely no hope that they’d locate the item, we received an email later the same day telling us the item had been located.
I suddenly felt new respect, warmth and love towards Zurich airport.
The downside is that, after reading the email in more detail, they are unable to ship electronic items due to security reasons and so the item must be collected in person.
Which means if we want it back, I or my sisters now need to go to Switzerland to collect the damn thing.
Mothers, who’d have ‘em.