Archive for the ‘Fun’ Category

How LinkedIn, Airbnb and Seattle Metro reunited $1,100 cash with its Saudi owner

July 28, 2021

Imagine visiting a foreign country by yourself and losing your wallet. ID card – gone. Credit cards – gone. $1,100 in cash – gone.

That’s what happened to a visitor from Riyadh who joined me last week on one of my Airbnb experiences. We enjoyed a nice little hike together on a Monday morning. He paid me a very generous tip, wrote a positive review and we said so long. As with most of my Airbnb experience guests, I assumed I’d never hear from him again.

That’s how it played out until the next evening. While relaxing in front of the TV around 9 p.m. I received a message from him – first through the Airbnb app, then via text, then on WhatsApp. “Hi Cynthia, how are you doing? I need your help if you can.”

I responded: “What’s up?”

I had no idea those two words would lead me on a three-day quest to help out this foreign traveler, who informed me that he had left his wallet on a Metro bus in Seattle. Luckily, he still had his Saudi passport with him. He called the University of Washington Police Department to see if anyone had found the wallet (he was staying at an Airbnb in the U District). The police offered no advice. He was scheduled to take the train to Portland and decided to cancel his credit cards and head south with $50 in cash.

In an amazing stroke of luck, someone messaged him via LinkedIn to say they had found his wallet and turned it into Lost and Found at King County Metro. Since I was the only person who he had contact information for in the Seattle area, he reached out to ask if I could retrieve the wallet for him. He asked that I mail the wallet via UPS and wire the cash to him via Western Union to Portland  – or to his next destination – San Francisco. He even sent me a photo of his passport with all his personal information.

I put myself in his shoes and agreed to help out.

He thanked me “Seriously I do appreciate what you will do for me. I will not forget it whole my life,” he texted.

Are you thinking that something must be up with this? Could this be a scam? I wondered the same thing. But I thought it through and couldn’t figure out what the scam would be.

He then texted me the lost and found report he filed with Metro and gave me their address and phone number. The next morning I headed to the Metro office in Pioneer Square. They e-mailed my new Saudi friend to get permission to release the wallet to me and I was able to retrieve it – and the full $1,100. I noticed on the log that I signed that it was the most amount of cash anyone had retrieved. My new friend was incredibly lucky. Not only did someone find his wallet, they found him on LinkedIn, reached out to him, he responded, and they didn’t steal a dime. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised about this. But the cynic in me can’t help but be amazed.

I took the wallet to UPS to send to Portland. And I took the $1,100 cash to the Western Union at my local Safeway to wire it to my new friend. He told me to take any fees out of the $1,100 and to send him whatever was left over. And he told me to keep $100 for myself. By 12:15 p.m. I was done.

Or so I thought. I messaged him the receipts for UPS and Western Union and kept waiting to get a notice that he had retrieved his money.

At 8:04 p.m., I got a text message from him telling me to look at WhatsApp. He was unable to retrieve the money from Western Union in Portland. After spending nearly two yours working with him, the Western Union rep in Portland and a Western Union rep I connected with through corporate, it was determined that Western Union had messed up.

The transaction wouldn’t work. I’d have to cancel it in person back at the Safeway where I made the original transaction and would have to try again. It was too late to deal with it that evening, so I’d have to go back in the morning. Meanwhile, my friend had no cash. So I wired him $200 out of my own account to hold him over.

You’re thinking – why would you give him money? I did it because I was confident I’d get a refund from Western Union the next day and I could take the $200 out of the $950 I wired him (the amount left over after paying all the fees to send his wallet and to wire him the funds).

I got up early the next morning to get to Western Union at Safeway before I started my workday. The same clerk who helped me the day before was there but said she couldn’t open the Western Union computer until 9. So I returned around noon to try again. This time I was able to get the $950 refund. But Western Union failed to refund the $90 fee! The Safeway clerk patiently worked with them and even continued to work with Western Union after I left for a previously scheduled appointment. At this point, I heard from my friend that his wallet had arrived – completely intact with all his cancelled credit cards and two forms of ID in it.

I went back a few hours later and got the $90 fee, which Western Union finally reimbursed to for. I deposited all the money in my own bank account, believing it would be easier to make the transfer from my own bank account by calling Western Union, rather than trying to make a cash transfer like I did at the Western Union at Safeway. The previous night I was able to send $200 from my own account over the phone. Ultimately, after another 45 minutes on the phone, which included three debit card and one credit card rejections, that method worked. My friend was able to retrieve his money at a Western Union kiosk at a Safeway in Portland and he was on his way! He sent me a photo of the cash in hand at 6:47 p.m.

Why am I writing about this? First off, it’s a pretty crazy story. Secondly, it proves that sometimes people do the right thing. Many people did the right thing to help out this foreign traveler – everyone from the person who found the wallet and contacted him via LinkedIn to all the clerks along the way to the nice Airbnb experience host (that’s me).

That said, I will never use Western Union again. It so saddened me to see the unbanked who were behind me in line who had to waste so much time and spend so much in exorbitant fees to transfer money.

Ironically, during the midst of this, a memory popped up on my Facebook page from July 22, 2014, where I wrote a post about a stranger in New Jersey who found my son’s cell phone at the airport and turned it in to Verizon. Verizon checked the serial number, called me, and mailed it back.

It’s true. Humans can be … well, human! I told my new friend that the next time I’m in Riyadh he’d owe me dinner. He told me to call. And he left me with this message with a photo of a Starbucks drink he bought with a gift card I tucked into his wallet: “I am heading home, I just want to say thank you again for what you did for me. U safe my trip and make it great. Thank you for the last coffee in state.”


The inside secret of how to get out of jury duty

May 13, 2020

Several years ago, my elderly father was called to jury duty. We decided to write this letter on his behalf.

King County Superior Court
516 3rd Ave.
Juror Assembly Room, 1st Floor
Seattle, WA 98104

July 29, 2014

Dear Jury Clerk.

Thank you for not automatically discriminating against me because of my age or address. I’m sure you checked the voter registration rolls before sending the jury summons to me and know that since I was born on Sept. 19, 1918, that I am nearly 96 years old. In fact, I will be 11 days away from my 96th birthday when my jury service is set to begin. I’m sure you also checked the address and noted that I live in a nursing home. Of course, to qualify to live in a nursing home I need help with my ADLs – those are Activities of Daily Living, which include at least some of the following: Dressing, Bathing, Eating, Toileting, Transferring (walking) and Continence. I need help with some of those, but I don’t feel that I need to tell you which ones ;-).

Although I have honed my opinion and happily and vocally shared it over the course of my 95 years of life, I have now reached the point in my life where I believe I should be allowed to step aside and let someone younger serve jury duty. However, if you do not think that is a good enough reason to excuse me from jury duty, I hope you will provide the following accommodations so that I can properly serve:

1) I assume you’ll be sending an escort and car. I can no longer get anywhere on my own and the nursing home requires that I have 24-hour care.
2) Please wait for me. I walk very slowly with my walker and am usually late. In fact, can we start after 11 a.m.? Getting anywhere before then is really hard for me.
3) Please make sure an ADA-approved bathroom is no more than a 2-minute shuffle from the courtroom. It must be accessible at all times because for someone my age, when you gotta go, you really gotta go. I would hate for an accident in the juror’s box to be grounds for an appeal.
4) The court shall assume all risk of injury. Old people like me are affected by gravity more that the rest of you youngins.
5) Will the court mind if I ask questions? After all these years, I have a lot of questions to ask and time is running out for me to get the answers.
6) It will be best if all the parties speaking would be male. No women or high talkers, as they are out of my limited hearing range. Males must speak very loudly, slowly and distinctly.
7) Can I give a closing remark? I love to make speeches and usually volunteer to speak at all weddings and funerals. Why should court be any different?
8) Don’t let the scraggly beard scare you off. It’s part of my old guy image – along with the hearing aids and glasses (that I sometimes forget to wear). Along those same lines, can I have a really big Juror badge? I have to be able to read it and I don’t want anyone to mistake me for a homeless person.
9) Is napping a problem? How about drooling, burping, farting or coughing?
10) Can you guarantee that someone in the courtroom will be in his or her 90s? After all, aren’t they supposed to have a “jury of their peers?”
11) Will it be a problem if we issue a news release to let the media know that there is going to be a 95-year-old juror? I think I’m pretty newsworthy. Google me to confirm that.

If you are unable to make appropriate accommodations then I respectfully request to be excused from jury duty at this time. If you think I need more explanation to be excused then maybe I should appear in court because there is obviously a lack of common sense there and I still have plenty to spare.


Philip N. Flash

P.S. Have a super, super, super wonderful wonderful day. Good things all the time. I hope something good happens today that makes you smile.

Buy Nothing. Really.

July 20, 2015

lightbulbsOver the past several weeks I’ve received – for free – a used cooler, new hair ties and gummy licorice candy. I’ve also given away to my neighbors all the extra stuff that’s been sitting around my kitchen for years, including a bread machine, light bulbs that I no longer need, a power drill, vases, and an opened bottle of root beer extract, in addition to a bunch of other stuff.

I did this without attending or holding any garage sales. In fact, I never even met the people I gave to or received from. Instead, I did it all through the Buy Nothing Project, a Facebook group that creates hyper-local communities for people to give away items and services. It was started in 2013 by two Bainbridge Island women – Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller.

My group is “Buy Nothing Bellevue (South)” and includes 448 members within roughly a four-mile radius. Anyone interested in joining must ask to be included in the closed group. Once in, members can offer items and services for free and post requests for items or services they’re hoping to find. Again, it’s all for free.

I’ve seen everything posted from a full office’s worth of furniture to a half-eaten pizza. Some of the more common items are children’s clothing and kitchen things. Some items receive a ton of interest, such as the Seattle Sounders women’s jersey. Others receive comments, but no takers – like my 1979 Harvest Gold range. I find Buy Nothing a fun and rewarding way to dispose of unwanted items. I know they’re going to someone who cares enough about them to respond to a Facebook post and to pick them up from outside my bands

Here is more information from the Buy Nothing website about the project.

Our Buy Nothing Project Mission:

We offer people a way to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude through a worldwide network of hyper-local gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors.


  • We believe our hyper-local groups strengthen the social fabric of their communities, and ensure the health and vitality of each member.
  • We come from a place of abundance ~ not scarcity.
  • We believe in abundance, we give, we ask, we share, we lend and we express gratitude.
  • We are a gift economy, not a charity. We see no difference between want and need, waste and treasure.
  • We measure wealth by the personal connections made and trust between people.
  • We value people and their stories and narratives above the ‘stuff.’
  • We are inclusive and civil at our core.
  • We value transparency and honesty in all our interactions.
  • We view all gifts as equal; the human connection is the value.
  • We believe every community has the same wealth of generosity and abundance.

I really love Buy Nothing and highly recommend joining one in your neighborhood.

Marshawn Lynch’s exclusive cake recipe

January 28, 2015

lemon cake photoOnce the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC championship game against Green Bay I immediately sent an e-mail to my clients titled “All Seahawks All The Time.” I knew the media would go crazy with Seahawks stories between then and the Super Bowl. Non-Seahawks news would get buried while anything – anything – related to the Seahawks would rise to the top.

We immediately started brainstorming Seahawks-related stories, including this one, which ran on  KING-TV in Seattle.

In this blog post, I’ve decided to take my own advice and write my own “All Seahawks All The Time” story.

It’s about Marshawn Lynch’s favorite cake, lovingly made for him by his grandfather “Papa” Leron Lynch and featured in this report by USA Today reporter Josh Peter. Like everyone else, I’m fascinated by the people stories coming out in the days before the Super Bowl. And of course, Lynch – and his “difficulties” talking to the media – offers one of the most interesting people stories around. Hence, I was drawn to the USA Today headline declaring “‘Papa’ knows way to Marshawn Lynch’s stomach and head.”

What’s “Papa’s” secret? Lemon cake! As I watched the video of Papa making the cake, I immediately recognized it as the cake my mother used to make when we were kids. It was probably developed by the JELL-O kitchen, using a very popular ingredient of the day. Just like my mother, Papa mixed the lemon juice with the sugar, poked holes in the cake, and lovingly spooned on the glaze. Like Marshawn, I too love this cake. In fact, I loved it so much as a kid that I now often make it for my own family.

So, in honor of “All Seahawks All The Time,” I’m going to take this opportunity to share Marshawn Lynch’s favorite cake from Papa! I’m going to make it for the Super Bowl party that I’ll be attending. I’ll now call it “Marshawn’s cake.” Feel free to do the same. Enjoy!

Marshawn Lynch’s Lemon Cake (AKA Mommy’s Lemon Cake Dessert, from Claire Barkey Flash, cir. mid-1960s)

1 small pkg lemon JELL-O     1 C boiling water     Mix and set aside to cool

1 pkg yellow cake mix. Put in large mixer bowl and add 3/4 C veg. oil. Mix. Then add 4 eggs – one at a time and beat after each. Add 1 1/2 tsp lemon extract and the cooled JELL-O mixture. Pour into greased and floured 13 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 2 pan. Bake at 325 for glass pan; 350 for other pan for 30 to 35 minutes. While cake is baking, mix 1/2 C granulated and 1/2 C powdered sugars together with juice of 1 1/2 lemons (I use fresh; Papa used bottled. I suggest you use fresh). As soon as cake is done, take from oven and prick top with fork all over cake. Then spoon sugar and lemon mixture over top. When cool, serve with whipped cream (or not).





About friendship and Facebook

January 7, 2015

IMG_0586I had fun on a recent evening FB messaging my friend Neta in Israel. I was asked by another friend to translate Hebrew lettering from his teenage daughter’s new tattoo (does it really say what she thinks it says?). I know several people who read Hebrew. As a native Israeli, Neta was one, so I asked her. We ended up messaging back and forth for quite a while, even after she revealed that the tattoo didn’t translate well.

I first met Neta when we were both in high school. She stayed with me for a weekend when her school concert band came to the Northwest. We both played clarinet. For some reason we hit it off. At the time we became “pen pals.” Does anyone even use that term any more? We continued to write letters to each other through high school, my time in college and her time in the Israeli Army. It continued through her time in college, the start of my career, the death of her father, the death of my mother, through my marriage, and eventually through her marriage, then careers for both of us, and children. It’s been a life-long friendship. She visited the states twice – one time she and I traveled to the San Juan Islands together; the other time I saw her briefly when she was here with her husband and kids. I visited her once in Israel – after my senior year in high school.

I still remember some of the conversations we had when we met in person. She’s one of those people who I will remain friends with forever, even if we only see each other fewer than a dozen times during our lives. We no longer write letters. We “like,” “comment” and occasionally send sentences to each other in the form of FB messages or e-mails.IMG_0498

My recent messaging with Neta has me thinking about friendships in the age of Facebook. Like others, I wonder:  Are FB friends really friends? Do I really have more than 500 friends? Have I even met them all?IMG_0605

The short answer to that last question is no. I haven’t. I’m “friends” with one guy who a real friend recommended I become friends with because he’s quite entertaining. She’s right. I enjoy having him as my “friend” because his posts are interesting. I’m “friends” with some people in high school that I wasn’t friends with then and I’m really not friends with now. But that’s okay, if they want to friend me I’m happy to friend them back. I’m “friends” with people I knew for three weeks at summer camp one summer. I’m “friends” with many former work colleagues (journalists like to stay in touch and keep up with all the gossip). I’m “friends” with family members – some who I talk to nearly every day and others who I’ve never met, including a gal from New Zealand! I’m friends with some of my kids’ friends and their parents – even though my oldest son de-friended me when he got sick of the lurking.

I’m also friends with some people who I am very good friends with – those I talk to at least once a week; those I see several times a year, those I tell my most secret secrets to. How can they all be part of the same ecosystem? That’s an interesting question that I wrestle with every time I post something. Who is my intended audience? Am I sending the right message? Is my goal to inform or to entertain or both?IMG_0821

Ah, good questions that I think about as a publicist as well. We’re always striving to send the right message to the right audience to have the biggest impact.

What do you think about your new “friends?” I welcome your responses. And to my “friends” – thanks for being part of my universe – whether you are a childhood friend like Neta, a work colleague,  or someone I’ve never met. I look forward to our continued friendship!

From mom to bag lady – One suburban mother’s entrepreneurial journey

November 28, 2014

Jayna Umeda photoWhen I first met Jayna Umeda she was doing the mommy thing – taking her two kids to school, watching them play sports, and helping them figure out what they needed to do to go to college.

But now that her kids are nearly launched (her son is in college; her daughter is a senior in high school), Jayna is in full fledged entrepreneur mode. Using her design talents, her interior design degree and many years of design experience, she has created “Jayna Bags,” a middle market bag with clean lines and an Asian aesthetic aimed at busy moms, professionals, mom athletes and crafters.

This is a story about how a suburban mom has used her creativity to develop an income stream by making something that never before existed. Clearly Jayna isn’t the only person to ever do this. But she’s a good example of how women can take time off to raise their kids, then use their professional background to create a job for themselves and re-enter the workforce. [For those wondering, Jayna is not a client I’m promoting through this blog; she’s a friend and neighbor.]

After graduating from the University of Washington with a fine arts degree in interior design in 1981, Jayna (maiden name Matsudaira), worked as an interior designer for 19 years, space planning corporate offices, lobbies and interiors.

When her son was born in 1994 she chose to stay home with him. Although she took on a few freelance projects, she never went back to work fulltime. She also realized she didn’t want to keep working as an interior designer.

Then she noticed a friend’s cute diaper bag. “She told me what the website was and I thought, `I’m not going to pay that much for a bag!'” Jayna recalls. “I went to the fabric store and got material to make my own. I still have it.”

She tried to make another one. Jayna is particularly good at color and materials. She kept buying fabric and making different bags. “One led to another to another. Pretty soon I had all these bags.”

She sold some at a neighborhood bazaar. Friends and neighbors suggested she make and sell more. Around the same time she started playing tennis and determined that selling bags could fund her tennis habit. She brought bags to book group, did a trunk show, held open houses, and applied for her business license. She also started selling bags on Etsy. Word spread. People called. “One person said she was looking for a tennis bag online, but hadn’t found anything she liked. Could I make something? I said I think so.”

This was the beginning of the current version of the Jayna Bag – a large tote with pockets for tennis racquets, balls and a water bottle. It could sit up. Jayna quickly learned that it wasn’t only attractive to tennis players. Others bought it for knitting, yoga and travel. The more she sold, the more input she got for improvements in design and material. Jayna bag 1

Jayna has made more than 1,400 bags! But like most business stories, Jayna’s hasn’t followed a straight, positive trajectory. “I had so many events last fall, I had no inventory. I was making bags until midnight, and took on a job for the holidays working 20-30 hours a week. I was worn out,” she says.

Then her father got sick and fell. He died in February. “After my dad passed away I said I think I’m done,” Jayna says.

But she couldn’t quit. A friend who had been encouraging her through the process suggested this spring that she start outsourcing production of the bags. She started calling sewing contractors and after many misses she landed with a local one she’s now using.

“They do products and they do good work,” says Jayna, who picked up the first 50 outsourced bags at the end of September. They’re selling quickly through direct sales and Jayna’s new website. She ordered another 175 and is signed up to sell through Amazon (a steep learning curve she’s still working to scale). Because she’s now outsourcing the sewing work instead of making the bags herself, she’s had to start over with her promotions and websites.

Now she’s focusing on marketing, settling on which channels to sell through, and promoting her bags through social media. And like many people who go into business because they’re good at something, Jayna is realizing that that alone is not enough. She has to become a good businesswoman. It’s a lesson I learned with my business as well – and one that I pass on to others who are excited to strike out on their own.

But Jayna is happy with this new direction. “It’s like what I did as an interior designer, the project management, the design. I feel like more of a designer v. a sewing contractor. It’s more fulfilling and it’s less work because I’m using my mind and creativity versus my labor.”

She’s meeting with as many people as she can to learn about promotions. She encouraging people to write reviews and she’s trying to spread her brand. In the future she plans to make a travel bag, letting a flight attendant friend try a prototype on the road.

And now that she’s committed, Jayna knows one thing. She’s no longer satisfied selling the bags to earn “fun money.” She’s ready to earn real money – enough to pay the mortgage!Jayna bag 2




[Do you have an entrepreneurial journey story to tell? If so, please tell your story in the comments section of this post.]

Mother Nature decorates CenturyLink Field

November 10, 2014

IMG_0653I took this photo at a Seattle Sounders game this summer. iPhone 5. No filters. Enjoy.

My `Google problem’ and how I got my name back

November 5, 2014

Google photoAfter meeting with a large public relations firm for a project two years ago, one of the principals – a former Associated Press reporter – politely pulled me aside to ask me about my “Google problem.”

“Huh?” I thought as I pretended to know what he was talking about. It quickly became evident that he had Googled me before the meeting and instead of focusing on my  Flash Media Services business website that highlighted my business capabilities, he was drawn to the other website that boldly carried my name,

My name has served me well as a professional journalist and publicist. It even set off bells around the world when I started working for United Press International.

But a few years ago, I discovered that a female escort in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., had grabbed it for her business. Yikes! She was beautiful and buxomy and nearly naked. Not bad to look at – if you are a guy! But this was not the image I hoped to portray for my very above-board public relations company.

When I found that someone was using my name to sell sex I immediately called my high school friend, who is a local police chief. She suggested I call the Fort Lauderdale police to see if there was anything they could do. I called. They couldn’t help.

So the nefarious continued to prominently populate the Internet. It usually popped up as no. 1 through 3 when I searched my name. My business website,, was there as well. But for some reason I feared it wasn’t getting as much attention.

Occasionally I would share this little tidbit about my name with friends. The women groaned in sympathy. The men – including my husband – snickered. They offered no attempt to conceal their interest. I’m sure many of them went straight to the site after meeting me.

And some, including the former AP guy, probably were a bit disappointed when they met me in person after stumbling across this other website.

Over the years several writer friends suggested that I write about it. But I couldn’t. While some believe “any publicity is good publicity,” I couldn’t go there in this case. I just couldn’t see how a Fort Lauderdale escort would help my PR business.

I even convinced my brother, who shares the same last name, to buy domain names with his name and his children’s names so this couldn’t happen to them.

But I wished there was something I could do about it. I stepped it up a notch after the conversation with the former AP guy. He offered his company’s services to try to bury the site to the second page of a Google search. I asked my own web designer if there was anything he could do. While he doubted he could bury it, he checked to see when the domain name registration on the site would expire. It was expiring shortly, it turned out. So he tried to buy it. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. The current owner paid up.

That was two years ago. I continued to try to ignore it.

Then, out of the blue, I received an e-mail from my web guy back in June. “Good news!” he said. He had placed a backorder on the domain and when it expired and was not renewed, it went up for auction. The service we paid to keep an eye on it automatically bid for it and I won my name back for $50! What a deal. And it all took place automatically.

Thank you, Reiner Perry and Web Studio Seattle for getting my name back for me. And to all of you who searched while reading this, you’ll know by now that it has been redirected to my Flash Media Services website.

As for the Fort Lauderdale escort? I have no idea where she is. I wish her the best of luck in her business dealings. Just don’t use my name!

a blog about living, cooking and caring in the Ladino tradition

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