Lost wallets and karma

Back in April I submitted this story (see below) for CBC’s Hyperlocal contest. It was about losing my wallet in a very busy section of downtown Montreal and how grateful I felt that someone not only safeguarded my wallet’s contents but made an effort to get in touch with me and return what she’d found

I feel very lucky to have met my Good Samaritan and we’re keeping in touch.

In an interesting twist, she says her wallet was stolen the day after she returned my stuff.

It had everything in it! My life! That was about two weeks ago and someone just mailed it back to my parents’ house in Hamilton.

It must be some sort of karmic, paying it forward situation. It just goes to show there are plenty of good people, even in the concrete jungle.

The wallet was with me when I swiped a pass card at a metro station in my home neighbourhood of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

Changing lines at Lionel-Groulx, I joined a crowd on the platform before taking a train two stops to Guy-Concordia, Montreal’s third-busiest metro station. Heading for street level I negotiated steps, turnstiles, and escalators, walking past hundreds of students, downtown workers and visitors, and the station’s resident homeless folks.

I was having dinner with my boyfriend at one of the trendy vegetarian restaurants that have sprouted up near Concordia’s Hall Building when my son phoned. The bank had just called our home, he said. Something about a client card and lost items. I checked my jacket pockets. No wallet. But the woman had left a number with a Winnipeg area code.

Why Winnipeg? After dinner I rushed to call the bank’s customer service number. No note on my file about lost cards. A rep asked about the phone number my son had recorded. “That’s not one of our numbers.” he said. “Ignore the call,” staff at the bank’s credit card security division told me. “We don’t call you if someone finds your wallet. If someone tells us that, we advise them to toss the cards.”

Ordering new bank card and credit cards was easy. Replacing ID and membership cards not so much. Gone too were $25, grocery gift cards, business cards with cherished contact info and my OPUS transport card. I figured if a homeless person found the wallet at least they could use the bus and metro tickets, buy groceries.

Dense city blocks surrounding the Guy-Concordia metro feature university buildings, pizza joints, cafes and restaurants. Thousands of people cycle the De Maisonneuve  bike path, take a bus on Guy, or head for the pubs and bars on Bishop and Crescent streets.

Retracing my steps, we searched for the wallet, scanning garbage and recycling bins and metro platform floors. I asked metro staff if they’d seen it. No dice.

At my mother’s urging, I left a voice mail at the strange Winnipeg phone number. Esther sounded puzzled when she called back. She works for the bank’s call centre but didn’t leave any message. She’d make enquiries. A few hours later Esther phoned. A Montrealer had found my stuff and left a contact number.

It took days to reach my Good Samaritan. I was about to give up when she called. She’d been out of town. She hadn’t found my wallet but rather a stack of cards. “I saw these young guys on De Maisonneuve kicking something inside a newspaper. Then your cards exploded all over the sidewalk,” she said. “I yelled at the guys to stop. I thought ‘that’s shitty.’ I gathered everything I could.”She wasn’t kidding. When we met she handed me a plain white envelope. Inside, wrapped neatly with an elastic band, were the entire contents of my wallet. Even the money was there. And with it, my restored faith in humanity.


More cool Montreal tech happenings

écoHACK MTL Launch 5 à 7

Am I dreaming? A new project called écoHACK MTL marries two things I’m passionate about, environmentalism and open data. écoHACK MTL is a partnership between an interesting mix of eco-conscious Montreal non-profit and community organizations. On the open data front, there’s Montréal Ouvert and OpenNorth; on the NGO side, Alternatives and Santropol Roulant. Also involved: RuePublique, an organization devoted to improving the health and safety of Montreal neighbourhoods and ECTO, a cooperative co-working space. This fall they’re holding Montreal’s  first-ever “green” hackathon. So if you’re involved with or care about urban agriculture, greening of public spaces, cycling, renewable energy or environmentally sustainable buildings, check out next week’s launch party. Ditto if you have expertise in computer software, Python or open data. When: May 23, 2013, 5-8 p.m. Where: ECTO, 880 Roy St. E. (Sherbrooke metro) Register here

Données ouvertes (Open Data) 5 à 7

Expect to discover some “top-secret” news about an open data project related to Montreal’s upcoming November election at this first monthly get-together Montréal Ouvert is organizing on behalf of Québec Ouvert (according to Québec Ouvert’s e-newsletter)  for people interested in open data. When: June 5, 2013, 5 -8 p.m. Where: Benelux, 245 Sherbrooke St. W. Register here.

Ladies Learning Code is coming to Montreal

While I have to put this in the “I’d be there if I weren’t broke” category, I think this is great news. The Toronto-based non-profit group “runs workshops for women (and men) who want to learn beginner-friendly computer programming and other technical skills in a social and collaborative way.” Ladies Learning Code has chapters in Vancouver, Ottawa, Halifax, London, Calgary and Edmonton. This June they’re launching a new Montreal chapter with an all-day workshop intro course on HTML and CSS. When: Saturday, June 8, 2013, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Where: Notman House, 51 Sherbrooke St. W. Cost: $50.00, includes a catered lunch Info available here.

Some interesting Montreal tech events & news

Saturday May 11

Montréal Python’s Debian Release Party

Update May 23, 2013: Further to a comment from a reader, I’ve clarified some of what I posted about Debian and Python.

Also: the Debian release party  celebrated the birth of a new group, called Debian Quebec, whose aim is to make it easier for Quebec’s Debian users to meet, exchange information and contribute to the Debian project. 

If you use Linux Debian, want to learn more about free, open source software or are curious about using Python in Linux, you may want to check out Montréal Python’s Debian release party tomorrow. If you don’t know what I’m talking about and your eyes are glazing over, this event is probably not your cup of tea!

On the agenda: you get to treat yourself to a new Debian release (Debian 7  “Wheezy,” released May 4, 2013) , learn about other Linux releases and configure your computer so Python works in Linux how to set up a Python development environment. Then you can attend Montréal-Python workshops and hack with the best of them (at hackathons, of course!)

When: 12:30 p.m., Saturday, May 11, 2013

Where: UQAM’s Coeur des Sciences, 175, avenue du Président-Kennedy, Place des Arts metro. Look for the Chaufferie room.

Cost: Free

Tuesday May 14

Montreal All-Girl Hack Night Meetup

This group is geared to women only, though you don’t have to be a developer to attend. The idea is to provide a social outlet for women developers and opportunities to hack on cool projects together.

Next Tuesday’s event is all about data visualization and sounds incredibly interesting. Here’s how organizers are describing it:

Trina Chiasson will give a talk about the intersection of code and art in data visualizations. She will show a few examples of gorgeous data visualizations, and then talk about how you can make them using a Javascript library called D3.

When: Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 6:30-9 p.m.

Where: Notman House, 51 Sherbrooke St. W.

Cost: Free

Register here.

Hack Journalisme Conference

A two-day conference (June 15-16), Hack Journalisme offers an opportunity for journalists, statisticians, designers and developers to team up on open data projects, and ideally, win a prize for having the best team project. The inspiration comes from hackathons. Speaking of data visualization, open data offers tons of opportunities to present complex information in useful and beautiful new ways that make it easy for viewers and readers to understand complicated topics.

While I am certain there will be plenty of bilingual folks at this event, the event’s  Web site is in French only.

When: June 15-16, 2013, 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. both days

Where: Notman House, 51 Sherbrooke St. W.

Cost: $15

Register here.

WordCamp Montreal

If you blog with WordPress, are curious about it or you’re a WordPress designer or developer, this event is for you. Workshops run the gamut and there’s something for every skill level. It’s also a fun way to meet people.

The fifth edition of WordCamp Montreal happens June 29-30, Canada Day weekend. To add to the fun, you can come to a picnic on Mount Royal on Canada Day Monday, a day after the conference wraps up.

When: June 29-30, 2013.

The schedule has not been posted yet. It will probably be 9 a.m.-5 p.m. both days and there’s a fun get-together event on the Saturday night.

Where: UQAM’s Coeur des Sciences, 175, avenue du Président-Kennedy, Place des Arts metro.

Cost: $45 for a regular ticket (includes lunch for both days and some “fun swag”)

Buy your ticket here.

Montreal Girl Geek YouTube Channel

This isn’t an event, but it’s exciting news.

Montreal Girl Geeks has jumped on the YouTube bandwagon and now has its own channel.  This is certainly a cool way to get more women involved with technology!

A rape survivor speaks out

There’s a terrific story in today’s Montreal Gazette about McGill social work student Sarelle Sheldon and her decision to find closure and help other sexual assault survivors by doing an interview with TVMcGill . She says Rehtaeh Parsons inspired her to speak out.

As you can tell from Sarelle’s interview, rape victims are not always treated kindly when they report the crime to police. It seems Montreal police lack  proper funding and resources to investigate sexual assault cases (police said it would take years to get results from her rape kit) and the whole investigation process re-traumatizes the victim.

It takes a lot of guts to relive a painful and violating experience. Very few women report their rapes to the police. Many rape survivors keep silent. Brava Sarelle, for going public and telling your story.