Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fernando found my phone!

On Sunday, October 3, I lost my cell phone. The last time I remembered having it was on the ferry returning to Manhattan from Governors Island.  Hoping that it wasn't on the bottom of the New York Harbor, I called it several times but no one answered.  Being an incurable optimist, though, I thought I'd wait a while before canceling the service.  Well, sometimes optimism is rewarded.  Later that evening someone named Fernando actually did call to say he had my phone! 

Fernando and I planned to meet the next day in Battery Park. When I asked how to find him, he said, "just ask anyone for Fernando."  He claimed he was well known to the park regulars since he works there every day as a Statue of Liberty impersonator. Tourists pay him to pose with them for pictures. If you're not familiar with this custom, check out the picture below.

Photo compliments of The Bowery Boys, used with permission,
from their 2008 blog post entitled Spawn of the Statue of Liberty

After talking to Fernando, I did remember passing several green Statue people near the Battery Park subway entrance on our trip home. I guess he was one of them.  Who knew?

It was raining when I arrived in Battery Park to meet Fernando.  I looked all around, but I didn't see even one green Statue person.  Actually, the entire park was pretty deserted.  Fernando had emphatically stated that he was there every day, so I decided to ask around for him as instructed. First I asked the guys selling tour bus tickets if they knew Fernando. No luck. Next I asked a vendor near Castle Clinton.  Again, no luck. Finally I asked a few Haitian guys selling purses. One of them pointed to a particular area just ahead and said Fernando might be selling umbrellas over there. Indeed, I saw two men standing there, but they didn't appear to be selling anything.  They were just talking to each other.  By this time, however, I was getting used to asking strangers about this mysterious Fernando, so I marched on over and approached them. "Excuse me," I said, "but do you know someone named Fernando?" "I am Fernando!" exclaimed the older of the two men. I introduced myself, and Fernando introduced me to his son, explaining that they would be selling umbrellas to tourists when the next Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island ferry landed. Then I noticed the box of umbrellas at their feet.  Success at last!

I asked Fernando how he came to find my phone. He said after he had gotten into costume, he happened to look at the ground in front of him and saw a phone lying there.   He picked it up, intending to deal with it later. After work that evening he called at least 5 people before finding someone who could tell him whose phone he had found and how to contact me.

Fernando seemed very happy to be able to return my phone. He wouldn't take any money as a token of my gratitude.  His explanation for everything -- returning the phone and not accepting a reward -- was "God is watching." I wanted to do something to acknowledge his thoughtfulness, so I took his picture with my Blackberry (my work phone) and told him I'd post it on my blog.

Little did I know that on January 2, 2007, the Tribeca Tribune had written a delightful and informative piece on Fernando and the other Liberty lookalikes. The Tribune article says that Fernando Riano, formerly a lawyer, is part of a community of Battery Park performance artists.  The article quotes him as he describes the pleasure he derives from his playful interaction with tourists, illustrated in the last two pictures of the article where we see Fernando in action.  Indeed, engaging tourists in a mutually enjoyable way is what makes his work financially as well as personally rewarding.  Please take a moment to read the Tribeca Tribune's fascinating article.

So there you have it -- the story of how an honest, hardworking man took the trouble to find me and return my phone. Just because it was the right thing to do. 


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's so nice to know that honest people are still in the world! Way to go Fernando!