Someone stole my
You know those moments when a thought flashes through your mind that what you're doing isn't very smart — but you do it anyway?
I had that split-second thought, as I sat in front of my third grader's classroom, waiting for his teacher to finish meeting with another parent. The school is built in the typical California style, with classrooms opening directly to the outdoors, facing either a courtyard or the playground. After reading Bob Calhoun's post about his book being featured on NBC's Parenthood, I set my phone down on the bench and rummaged through the kids' backpacks. Thinking the teacher would be done with her conference soon, I had sent the boys to the playground on the other side of the building, where I couldn't see them. I'd better check on the kids, I thought, grabbing an armful of backpacks and heading for the benches across the courtyard. There, I could both see my kids and keep an eye on the classroom door.
As soon as I sat down near the playground, the teacher came out and locked her door. I ran over, asking, "Is our art lesson still on for tomorrow afternoon?" I had just spent an hour cutting a massive block of cold gray clay into thirty individual pieces.
Back on the playground bench, I reached for my phone. It wasn't in my purse pocket. Of course, because I left it on the bench!
I walked back to the bench, but it wasn't there. Some older boys in oversized baseball caps and hoodies were sitting nearby, watching others kids play basketball.
"Did you see a cell phone on that bench?" I asked.
I went around to different clusters of kids, asking the same question, getting the same answer. Finally, I went to the daycare staff, who were in charge of most of the kids still on campus after school. I went to the office and asked the staff if anyone had turned it in. Back at the playground, the child care workers had rounded up the students and made an announcement about the missing phone.
"I think I saw someone take it and go that way," a chubby fifth grade girl mumbled, pointing to the parking lot.
"Was it a kid? Or an adult?" the child care worker asked.
"Um, I don't know... a teenager?" The girl seemed nervous, evasive. She knows more than she's letting on, my instincts told me.
"Was it a man or a woman?" I asked. I was going to take over this investigation myself.
"A girl, I think."
"Where was the phone when you saw it?"
"Over there, by the tree," she said, pointing to the edge of field.
"If you see those people again, can you tell them to turn in the phone to the school office? It's really expensive, and I need it." I tried to sound serious, yet gentle, and sort of clueless.
Over the past few days, as I've been attempting to control the damage of my stolen iPhone, I've started to feel that the cluelessness is not just an act.
Why did I set the phone down on the bench?
Why, when I walked around the corner, did I gather up the backpacks full of smelly lunchboxes and crumpled worksheets, and forget my phone?
Why didn't I sign up for one of those services that can locate a lost phone and erase its memory remotely?
Why didn't I even password protect the darn thing?
As I spent hours shutting off the mobile service, cancelling credit cards, and changing passwords, I could only think: I am an idiot.
"You're too naive/trusting/nice," I've been told before. I am starting to believe that it's true.
The school principal made an announcement over the intercome, after the Pledge of Allegiance. "A parent at our school lost a cell phone near the benches. Perhaps you might have thought it was your phone and picked it up by mistake. If you did, please turn it in to the office. And if you do, we'll even have a reward for you."
Still nothing. As I helped third-graders form their lumps of clay into gargoyles later that day, I still held hope that some conscience-laden child would turn in the phone. Or that I would unzip my purse and find it hidden in some obscure pocket I hadn't checked.
While checking my emails (hours later, on my PC, at home) I noticed a draft that was unsent. Opening it up, I saw a jumble of characters, along with a passage of Bob Calhoun's article pasted into the message. The time stamp read 3:08 PM, just minutes after I had stepped away from the bench, and my phone. Gone were my hopes of finding the phone hidden in my purse.
I began researching options for a replacement phone, finding out that it would cost much, much more than the price I initially paid — and it's not even the newest model. Along with anger and embarassment, paranoia began to creep in.
While taking my kids to school, I looked for that chubby ten-year old girl. I could swear the boys in hoodies were laughing at the silly snapshots of me mugging with my kids. Or were they too busy snickering over my playlist, heavily weighted with Erasure and Lady Gaga?
I paced the edge of the playing field, hoping to find my phone discarded in the bushes. I called the police and filed a report, knowing full well that it would be buried in the dross of petty thefts that big city investigators don't have time to pursue.
It's common to feel this way after being victimized, my husband told me. The rundown Berkeley house he shared with three other college guys had been burglarized several times — the thieves stealing paint guns, stereos and bikes.
I, on the other hand, have received the kindness of strangers, perhaps more times than I deserved. When I lost my old flip phone at the mall, a store manager called my house to let me know she had saved it. Another time, I dropped that old phone on a downtown street. When I realized it was missing two days later, I called it. A hoarse voiced man answered."What took you so long to call?" he asked.
Jerk, my home number was programmed into the memory. You could have called me to tell me you found it.
He agreed to meet me in a busy parking lot to return the phone. A methamphetamine-skinny guy rode up on an old bike, fitting my mental image of the kind of person who would find a cell phone and rack up a bill on it. But he wore a baseball cap with my college logo, reminding me that I had been given a much better hand in life than he had.
Even my recently lost phone had been given to me free of charge by the Apple store, even though my old phone was past its warranty.
Maybe my luck has run out. But a little of my faith in humanity — and myself — has gone with it.