When he and his staff clean up the ferry boat at the end of the day, Capt. Mike Muia, a 15-year veteran of New York Waterways, usually finds things that people leave behind.
Generally, staff that work for NY Waterways set these things aside in the lost and found. For Muia, this is not enough – especially when it is something valuable.
“Sometimes people don’t even know where they lost it, and so wouldn’t know to check lost and found,” he said.
Where possible, Muia makes a point of reaching out to the people who lost something valuable. This was the case just prior to Christmas when he found a wallet.
CBS Evening News Director Eric Shapiro and his wife Anne, a retired stockbroker, had taken a late ferry home from Manhattan on Dec. 17 and walked to their Weehawken home from the terminal.
“I was watching the news when there was a knock at my door. It must have been 12:30,” Shapiro said. “The ferry captain asked, ‘Did you lose a wallet?’ It was my wife’s wallet. We didn’t even realize it was missing.”
Like a character out of classic heroic films, Muia left before the couple could even get his name or thank him. They realized that this person had gone out of their way to help them.
For Muia, who lives in Rutherford but was born and raised in Jersey City, returning lost items was nothing new – nor even the most dramatic of heroic events he had performed over the years.
He and his crew had helped rescue thousands of people from Lower Manhattan in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Two years later, during the regional power outage that left much of the Northeast in the dark, he and his crew did the same thing, ferrying people out of the dark of Manhattan to the relative safety on the Jersey side when nearly all of the crossings were snarled with traffic or closed.
He shrugged off this latest act of kindness as routine.
“I’ve done this a few times when I find a wallet or a cell phone,” Muia said. “Deckhand Nestor Martinez found the wallet. I looked at her driver’s license and saw the address and figured it was worth a shot. It’s more convenient than the customer coming in to lost and found.”
The crew usually checks the ferry before going off duty, and since he saw he could get to the Weehawken residents on his way home, he figured he would.
“I noticed they lived close. So I stopped there on my way home,” he said.
Although ferry service runs from various points from Weehawken, Jersey City, and Hoboken to landings in Manhattan, his ferry goes from Weehawken to Pier 79 on the West Side of Manhattan.
He said he delivers lost things as often as possible.
“If it’s a wallet, then I look for an address,” he said. “If I can’t deliver it, I mail it.”
Sometimes he finds no identification, but he can often figure out the owner of a lost cell phone by calling a number on the phone. Sometimes, he tracks down the owner when he finds a receipt from a store.
“Capt. Mike Muia performed once again in the highest traditions of customer service which we emphasize at NY Waterway,” said President & Founder Arthur E. Imperatore.
Muia said the credit goes to the company and its founder.
“Mr. Imperatore taught us well,” he said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.