by missP on Mon Oct 31, 2005 1:42 am
At work today, an old American lady came to my colleague to ask for his help. She started telling him the story of her missing passport and ticket. My colleague passed the case to me, explaining that he couldn’t quite understand the old lady. Apparently, in between sobs, puffs and breaths and wiping her sweats, the lady was not making so much sense to him. So, I had to ask the lady again to repeat her story.

I tried to calm her down a bit, explaining that I could only understand her if she did so. After a minute or so, she started retelling step by step exactly what happened. Then suddenly, right in the middle of her explaining, arms waving and finger pointing, another airport employee came to my side and asked me what happened. The man in charge of the baggage carts started butting in. I ordered him firmly to be quite so that I could understand the passenger better. Well, anybody would, I guess, considering how it is at the airport. The noise coming from the other passengers and non-passengers bidding adieu plus the regular flight announcements and warnings, I can hardly hear my self talking. I feel like I am shouting all the time. I guess the noise is one of the reasons why I am so excited to go home and burrow myself in silence. I digress.

From a certain gate in hall A where the lady came in from Venice, she walked slowly towards the transfer check in counters to get her boarding pass, since the airline in Venice couldn’t issue her one for her connecting flight. Now, that’s about 7 to minutes walk, several boarding gates past and not to mention that the area is full of passengers all the time. When she got to the transfer check-in counter, she realized that her tickets and passport were missing. She said, she looked everywhere already but didn’t find the missing items. Her flight was leaving in 50 minutes and she was loosing hope.

When I finally found the time to translate to the baggage cart man what happened, he suddenly said, “ ahh, it’s yours!” while taking something out of his side pocket a passport and a ticket. Upon seeing this, the old lady, in tears said her rightful “thank you” and I could see that she almost wanted to give the man a hug for finding her missing items. As she slowly walked back to the transfer check-in counter, the man who found the items hurriedly asked me to tell the lady that “she should give him a reward”. It’s the law here in Germany, he said. I told him that I was not going to do such a thing. First of all, it was his job to make sure that whatever items he will find in his working area, he is supposed to surrender it to the proper personnel in charge. Second, I do believe it is immoral to do such a thing. Isn’t it enough that the lady said her heartfelt “thanks”? No, he said, it is the law. The lady has to give me money. So I told him that if he really insists, he should go and asked for the reward himself. To which, he did. From a distance, I could hear him saying: "give me money for finding your ticket. it's how it is done here in Germany". The nerve of that man! To me, a reward is something given, (may it be in cash or in kind) by the giver without asking for it.

In the English Oxford dictionary it says:

“Reward” – n. A thing in recognition of service, effort or achievement; a fair return for good or bad behaviour; a sum offered for the detection of a criminal, the restoration of lost property, etc.;

“Reward” – v. (give a reward to) to show one’s appreciation of (an action or quality) by making a gift.

Derivatives: adj. – reward less

Origin: ME: from Anglo-Norman French, variation of Original French “reguard” – “regard, heed”. Also an early sense of the English word.

I went back to my position and informed to my colleague what happened to the old lady and what the other employee said. He then told me that in Germany, it is indeed correct to ask for a “finder’s fee” and it has to be ten percent of the worth of the item found. Absurd! I tried to tell him. Then he continued, “But it is not obligatory to give the reward”. What??? Did I miss something? Isn’t that a bit contradicting? That would cause chaos. What’s the point in making those rules when they are contradicting each other anyway? Haay, until now, I admit I still don’t understand their logic.