Subscribe to SLJ
Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Nancy loses her purse

Driving home from ALA my friend Nancy suddenly realized she had left her purse behind us 160 miles into Virginia at a Subway restaurant. Then begins the panic. Where were we when we stopped? These are the facts the group of 5 of us could remember:

  • possibly exit 150
  • the Subway was 1.4 or 1.5 miles from the exit
  • we turned right at the light and then left before the next intersection
  • it was in a strip, not a stand-alone
  • we think there was an office bldg, possibly insurance office next to it
  • two women were working there
  • Breast Cancer support ribbon posters were on the wall by the bathroom
  • there wasn’t a Papa John’s right there or a Pilot gas station
  • we were either in Roanoke or we were just north of it
  • we had been there at 1:45 p.m. EST
  • we were a distinct party with my son easily recallable (5’11" Chinese boy with long black hair longer than mine – they notice)

You would think we’d be able to easily locate this particular Subway. My son had bought my sandwich and no one had maintained a receipt. I had a napkin so I called the national phone number for customer care and we began the search for the specific Subway. Fortunately the gas station attendants where we stopped pointed out that Arby’s right next door offered free wi-fi (See the importance of access everywhere) so while I spent time on the phone, Nancy pulled out her laptop and we began the multi-pronged search. Allison rubbed Nancy’s back while she typed and kept encouraging her to hang in there. Michael and Tim made plans for us to turn around and go back the 160 plus miles to pinpoint the exact restaurant and took care of notifying people of our change in plans. I was bossy. 

When trouble in a call would hit and Nancy would be upset, I’d take the phone away and deal with it. Sometimes you need a bull-dog or a terrier on the trail. When everyone was ready to quit, we’d come up with a new way to search. We used the combination of the internet, the Subway website, Google Maps (which really need to put interstate exit numbers on them), and the people network to trace this specific place. You see, not all Subways are connected to each other, not all are listed in the phone book, and not all are listed online. When it came down to it, we had to describe on the cell phone over and over the facts that we knew and once we determined this wasn’t the correct place, we would ask for a suggestion and a phone number of a different possible place.  We called and left messages at the regional office and called the national corporate office twice even afterhours for their help. They responded to us immediately. 

Nancy was finally ready to quit an hour later, but I wasn’t budging until we had absolutely determined the exact Subway and whether they had found the purse or not. Finally! Success! We found the right restaurant. They found her purse. They are shipping it overnight and all will be well. This morning the regional office returned my calls and followed up to be sure Nancy and her purse were re-united. The folks at Arby’s were pleased and we could drive on the next 5 hours.

What did we learn from this incident?

  • Never give up.
  • Pay attention to where you are always. (Patricia Cornwell writes about criminals being so much more aware)
  • Keep the receipts of your restaurants.
  • When traveling in groups, somebody needs to do the final check before departure (Is everyone here? Purses? Coats? Keys? Laptops?)
  • Make sure you include an encourager in your group to keep everyone emotionally together.
  • Know who is the tough one to call on when you aren’t getting through to others.

Maybe there’s a thought for a children’s book here. People are always losing things.


  1. Very good, Diane — didn’t make me sound tooooooo flaky! I did discover today that if you get at exactly the right zoom on the google map that the exit number is there, but not on all zoom levels. Can’t be too far out or too far in. And very good lessons about how a group works together. I was thinking a few minutes ago how all five of us put our thoughts together. For instance, the breast cancer ribbons were important clues to the correct store, and I would never, never have thought of it by myself. Most importantly, this is about the power of friends. Y’all kept me from panicking! I love you all!

  2. I just want to let everyone know that I have my purse! Thank God for the dependable, honest people at the Hollins Subway in Roanoke, VA! And for good friends who care!

  3. Nancy 2 says:

    There must be something about ALA and leaving something behind, but with good results. I laid my digital camera down in the booth last year in the ALA exhibits after getting a photo with author Linda Sue Park and 30 minutes later realized I did not have my camera! Did I remember where my camera was? NO! But my friend Erin was cool, calm, and collected and quieted figured out that was the last place we had used the camera. A beautiful person, Linda Sue Park, was almost as excited to see me come back to claim my camera, as I was to find it. Missed seeing you girls this year at ALA.

  4. Michael T says:

    Nancy and Diane, as we began trying to identify the Subway location, as an artist, I am glad that I had paid attention and observed, as an artist is to do. The breast cancer ribbon clue came easily. Our collective putting together the clues and ideas was a welcome break to the several hours we traveled to get home. The road trip with members of ALA this summer will always be a good memory. It was good to read that Nancy has already received her purse. Finally, I have some wonderful images from the trip and hope to share them soon. Thanks again, Michael