Hacked customer accounts at Facebook, LinkedIn, and other such social media firms along with 70 million stolen Target credit records (and multiple other national retailers) understandably raise concerns about so-called “cyber security.” Skepticism and caution are warranted when using social media.
However, Goletans Jennifer and John Birchim live on the positive edge of the new technology and have used it not only to help each other but also to reconnect another couple with a lost wedding band.
An inveterate beachcomber, Jenn first thought the small round object she spotted on a stretch of Ellwood Beach in April was a bottle cap. She and her children often collect trash as well as tidal treasures as they stroll the beaches below the residences at Santa Barbara Shores. When she picked it up, its weight told her this was no ordinary piece of trash.
As she brushed it off, she realized it was a white gold wedding band. Inside was an unusual inscription: “my love, my life, my lobster.” These sentiments would lead, through the power of Internet sharing and at least one more lucky human connection, to the owner who lost the ring nearly two years before. It had slipped from his finger about 250 feet from where Jenn plucked it from the sand.
“My first thoughts were ‘I wonder whose this is’ and ‘wouldn’t it be cool to find the owner,'” she recalled. Posting a photograph of the ring and an appeal to help find the owner on her Facebook page launched the search. She quoted the inscription and wondered if it might belong to a lobster fisherman. “Pass it along friends! Let’s stoke someone out and return it!” she urged.
Jenn, who works as a UC Santa Barbara community housing coordinator, estimated that within two days the post had around 1,000 shares, and that rose to more than 20,000 at two weeks. By then the band had returned to its original wearer, Greg Lindsay of Ojai.
Lindsay and his wife, Sarah, who were strangers to the Birchims, had almost missed the news that his ring, lost during a beach party in 2012, had been recovered in Goleta. Sarah teaches in Ventura and initially heard about the search at work from a substitute teacher. From the inscription Sarah knew it was Greg’s band, one that she had had engraved.
Four days after the original post, the two families met, and the band was restored to its owner. The Birchims were thanked with a bouquet of flowers. However, if that part-time school colleague had not been present to share the Facebook information with Sarah, this story might not have ended so happily or so quickly.
The ring’s speedy return after its discovery pales in comparison with the lightning recovery of John Birchim’s own misplaced wallet about a year before. As Jenn recounts it, she and two of her four children were on their way to see her parents in San Francisco when they stopped in Paso Robles for refreshments. John, who is a self-employed woodworker, had remained behind to fill some orders.
Jenn’s iPhone rang, and it was her husband with bad news: His wallet with all his cash and credit and identity cards was likely under the seat of her vehicle. “I checked, and it was there,” she recalled. “I thought it would be crazy to turn around at that point.”
She decided that with so many friends who regularly travel to and from the Bay area, she would try to reach one via Facebook who might serve as a courier. Even Jenn thought it was a long shot. Incredibly, “within half an hour we found friends driving back from San Jose to Santa Barbara” who agreed to meet her at a Starbucks in King City, she said. Texting nailed down the logistics.
“It was raining, so we didn’t even get out of our cars,” Jenn said, describing how the cars aligned in the parking lot to pass the precious cargo through their windows. After resuming their separate journeys, “The wallet was delivered to John within four hours. It was amazing,” she concluded with a big smile.
The Birchims’ happy social media experiences hinged on other people being in the right spot to aid a friend or, in the case of the wedding band, at least willing to share a message. “Those are positive uses of social media,” Jenn said, adding that her favorite reading is the Huffington Post‘s Good News section, where many such stories may be found.
Jenn’s personal high point, she told me, was when the wedding band story, which appeared on national television and in various print media, was carried in the HuffPost. “That was really exciting,” she said with a grin.
Vic Cox grew up in Santa Barbara and, with his wife, has lived in Goleta for the past 30 years.