Friday, August 31, 2012

The Search for X

Operation X-Sheva Apelbaum

Just a couple of weeks ago, I went abroad for a short vacation. The day before I left, I found out that one of my friends—and for the sake of this blog post I will refer to her as “X”—was also traveling to the same destination. I was excited! I texted and called her in an effort to find a way to meet up with her when we got there, but it was no use. She didn’t answer me. I could only assume that she had already left for her trip and wasn’t reachable.

When I got to my destination, I forgot about my friend…until one evening during dinner, my dad brought up the topic and suggested that it would be a good exercise in sleuthing to try to locate her. So I donned my detective’s hat, grabbed my virtual pipe, and got to work. At first, I didn’t know where to start. I mean, finding someone in a foreign country with neither information nor sources is not an easy task.

After some brainstorming, I decided to:
  1. Contact a few of our mutual friends to see if they knew where she was
  2. Locate her social media pages to see if she had posted any travel details
  3. Try to find her parent's information online and try contacting them
  4. Find out which community center she belonged to, locate the phone number, and find out if they have they have a tour group traveling to the country
I emailed about a dozen friends asking if they knew what X was doing this summer and if they knew to which community center she belonged.  From my internet research, I found no social media postings, but I did manage to discover that her mother worked at a local community center. Aha! I finally had my first lead.

Shortly after that, I received an email response from one of our fiends confirming that X was a member of the same community center where her mother worked.  “Perfect!” I thought. All I needed was the phone number and that wasn’t so hard to get thanks to Google.  I called the administrative office of the community center and asked them if they could give me X’s contact information.  No luck, they wouldn't release any details. After much pleading and a plausible explanation as to why I would be interested in the information, however, they did confirm that they had a group abroad but wouldn't give me the information as to where they were staying.

Armed with this much information, I decided to use a brute force attack approach. I called all the major hotels and asked if they had a tour group visiting from the city X is from. On the 6th such call, I struck gold.  The hotel receptionist confirmed that such a group had arrived several days earlier and they were indeed staying at that hotel. I gave her my friend's last name and I easily got her room’s phone number. I was on a roll and there was no stopping me now!

With my heart beating in my chest, I dialed the number, but the phone just rang and rang. No one picked it up.  I tried again the next morning and this time…she answered! Lo and behold!
“Hi, X” I said, this is Sheva!
Silence on the other side for 5 seconds.
Finally, she came back to life. “Sheva???” she said,  “What on earth? How in the world? Where are you…?” she asked in a clearly stunned voice.

“I’m here on vacation as well,” I said, “I’m a few towns away from you.”  X clearly had difficulty processing the fact that I managed to track her down thousands of miles away from home without having had her phone, email or itinerary.  We chatted for a few minutes and it was great. Unfortunately, we discovered that our schedules would not be able to align and we could not meet, but it was great being able to talk to her by phone nevertheless.

As we were about to hang up, she told me it was incredible that I was able to locate her..  “It’s elementary, my dear X!”, I replied.

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