04/07/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Lost and Found: A New York Story

Life's rough. We all know this. But once in a great while something happens that breaks through the everyday grind and makes one realize that, hey, wow, it's not just a world of hurt. There are angels walking among us.

I had set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 27th. It was my last day at the Sundance Film Festival, where I was working as a publicist on two films. I had been there six days and was looking very much forward to sleeping in my own bed that night. We had an early live radio interview for one of the filmmakers that morning and had to be at the studio by 5:30. Afterwards I came back to the condo we had rented and finished packing and got to the airport in plenty of time for my 1 p.m. flight.

The plane left Salt Lake City late and by the time we landed in Chicago, half the passengers were panicked about making their next connection. As it turned out the weather in Chicago was bad (quel surprise) and many of the connecting flights were pushed back. I made the connection to LaGuardia, but we sat on the tarmac for another good chunk of time while they de-iced the plane and fixed one of the commodes.

Suffice it to say that when I finally landed in New York that night it was about two hours later than scheduled. I'm sure you know this feeling. I was pretty much running on empty at this point from my early start in the day, the cumulative effect of several long days in a row without enough sleep, and the sucker punch to the equilibrium that modern day air travel seems to deliver handily.

And of course my suitcase did not rumble down the baggage carousel. Because, well, it had missed the flight somehow. I blearily punched in my name and address to a kiosk to have it delivered to my apartment when it turned up (I didn't dare entertain the conjunctive if). The bag, as it turned out, arrived later that night and was delivered to my building early the next morning.

I stumbled out to the sidewalk and threw myself into the back of a cab, directing the driver to my apartment on the Upper West Side. When we arrived, I pulled my purse out of my carry on bag, carefully placed my housekeys in my pocket, took out my credit card to pay the driver, and pocketed my card and receipt and went upstairs. A few minutes later I discovered to my great horror that my purse was gone. Instead of putting it back in my bag I had dropped it on the floor of the cab.

It's the worst feeling in the world. I kept retracing my steps. I went down to the lobby of my building and even checked the sidewalk in case I had dropped it there and not in the cab. I couldn't conceive that I had not put the purse back in my bag. I felt violated, punched, shaken and stirred. Of course I called 311. They unhelpfully told me that the TLC was closed for the day and all they could do was make a report, but until they opened at 8 a.m. the next morning I had no other option. Later I found out this was not entirely true, that the cab could still have been traced with the medallion number at 11 p.m.

I tried to go to sleep but by now I had passed the point of exhaustion. I felt off-kilter, off balance, severely and totally freaked out. The next morning I called the TLC; they gave me the phone number of the cab company, where a nice woman took my name and number and said once the driver woke up she'd see if he found anything in the cab. Dead end, there was nothing.

One of the items in the purse (along with my eclectically populated iPod Nano and some cash and receipts from my trip) was my out of state driver's license, which I hadn't yet changed to New York State. I got in touch with my friends who lived at the address on the license just to let them know it had been lost and tell them I was applying for a duplicate so I could finally change it to a New York license. And that, I thought, was that.

Not so.

A couple of days later my friends emailed me that they had received a package addressed to me at their address. No one in the world would associate that address with me -- unless they found my license. I told them to open the package, and they did. The purse was in there, with everything -- even the cash -- intact. There was a lovely note from a woman who got into the cab at 11 p.m. that Wednesday night. She felt terrible, she wrote me, and hoped the purse reached me. And she hoped that I had a good time on my visit, assuming of course from my license that I lived in southern California.

The purse made its way back to me via the magic of FedEx. I was truly, truly blessed with the great good luck that the person who got into the cab that night after me was a human being with a conscience who found that purse and went the extra mile to return it. And it happened in New York City, a place that I think somewhat undeservedly has a very bad rap for being unfriendly and cold.

The moral of the story? Be awake and aware and don't drop important things even when you're tired, of course. But the bigger moral is that there are angels of mercy walking among us and you may be lucky enough to find one, as I did.