Former city councillor goes to great lengths to return lost phone

Former city councillor goes to great lengths to return lost phone

Charlayne Thornton-Joe makes sure she asks where the visitors come from.

“All day we just welcome guests from all over the world,” she says from behind the desk at the Chinese Canadian Museum in Fan Tan Alley. “We do ask every person that comes in where they’re from.”

Last Friday, a woman visited the museum and signed the guest book on her way out.

“I could tell English was not her first language,” said the former Victoria city councillor-turned Visitor Experience and Facilities coordinator for the museum.

Later that afternoon Thornton-Joe noticed a cell phone had been left on the table next to the guest book. She thought whoever left it would retrace their steps and return to pick it up, but when it went unclaimed, she got resourceful.

The phone’s home screen was French, so she flipped through the guest book and found a French visitor from that day named Frederique. Piecing together what information she could from partial emails visible on the phone’s home screen, she began sending messages via email and Facebook. The next day a message came back from a French woman confirming her mother had lost her phone while visiting Canada.

Thornton-Joe says the woman had left Victoria for Courtenay and was travelling to Vancouver the following day to fly home.

Air Canada Cargo could not ship the phone on time. Thornton Joe’s husband Phil offered to drive the phone to the Vancouver airport, but being a long weekend, boarding a ferry was difficult. “It was the wrong weekend for that,” she said.

Destination Greater Victoria CEO Paul Nursey told her his team could ship the phone to the woman’s home in France the next day, but Thornton-Joe took one last shot.

She went to Harbour Air and they told her putting it on the 1 p.m. flight would get it to a terminal close to the airport in time for Frederique’s flight.

The French tourist had to leave the airport and take a taxi to the Harbour Air terminal near YVR. “It was very stressful for her leaving the airport and we coached her through it,” her daughter said by email.

The phone was back in Frederique’s hands, and she returned to YVR in time for her flight home.

Thornton-Joe received a picture of her, joyfully holding her found phone, and a final email response from Frederique’s daughter, reading:

“Thank you very much for your help. You showed great kindness and patience when you didn’t have to. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

It also came with an invitation. “Next time you are in France you are welcome in our homes for sure.”

It’s easy to leave a piece of yourself behind after visiting Victoria. It’s nice to know there are people around who’ll make sure you get it back.

Jordan CunninghamJordan Cunningham

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