Monday, April 12, 2010

R.I.P., Fury family iPhone

Well, that didn't last long.

Our visit to the 21st century lasted 11 days. That's how long we owned an iPhone. But what a glorious week and a half. Between March 30 and April 9 we finally understood what all the hype was about. We were part of the cult. We were cool, even though we took advantage of 1 percent of the new phone's capabilities. I checked the Lakers score during Easter dinner and it felt vaguely sinful. We sent a text or two. Louise read her email.

Then, on Friday night, someone stole the phone out of Louise's handbag at a restaurant on the Upper West Side. The joint's manager suspects one of his employees, owing to some overwhelming circumstantial evidence. The restaurant didn't have any cameras, at least according to the manager (seems suspicious in retrospect).

After it happened - and after Louise told me about it while I was on a pay phone outside the restaurant, retreating back to the 20th century - I went back into the place to look around. I stared at each employee, hoping I might guilt someone into breaking down, like the killer at the end of a Perry Mason episode. There'd be tears and pleas for leniency, which I might have granted since I didn't have time to wait around for the police. Instead all of the workers - who, yes, are technically innocent until proven guilty, and I suppose it could have been a customer - glanced back with boredom or disdain. I didn't read anything into those looks because it's the same ones they give every customer.

The iPhone's gone - to be used by the thief as an iPod or a phone or sold for parts or whatever the young thieves do with stolen property these days. Tomorrow we'll venture back to an AT&T store to buy a replacement. Maybe this time we'll get the Mobile Me feature, which would apparently allow us to track the phone and see where it ended up after leaving the restaurant. Not that I have any desire to confront anyone.

The loss devastated Louise. She's been pickpocketed before, about three years ago. That time we didn't realize what had happened for a few hours, giving the thief time to buy a new Metrocard and some groceries.

I've never had anything stolen from me. When I lose something important, it's usually my own fault.

When I went to Ellendale, North Dakota, to research my book, I took a Greyhound to Minnesota, then drove the rest of the way to the small town that's home to Trinity Bible College. It was my first time on a Greyhound. I didn't know the rules. They aren't complicated. Every broke college kid and various societal misfits have understood them for decades. I had a briefcase that I carried on the bus and a large bag filled with everything I'd need during my two-month stay. Clothes, notebooks, pens, books, jackets, shoes. That bag went underneath the bus for the day-long trip. At the Port Authority, the worker asked me for my "destination." The correct answer would have been Mankato, Minnesota. Unfortunately, the simple question threw me and I blurted out Buffalo, since that was the first stop on the ride from hell. The guy told me that since I was just going to Buffalo, I wouldn't need a baggage claim ticket or identification on the bag. Great.

I crammed my 6-3 frame into the tiny seat and settled in. We eventually arrived in Buffalo, after what seemed like 36 hours on the road. The confinement and bumpy road had already beaten me down. Staggering off, I found the vending machine, bought some snacks and a soda and walked back onto the bus, oblivious to the fact workers were dragging each piece of luggage out from underneath the gray beast. I figured it was for the people getting off in Buffalo.

Our bus driver - a cranky, short, muscular woman in her late 40s - announced, "Anyone with a bag underneath the bus must have a proper tag on it. It must have your name and destination on the tag. If it does not have this, your bag will be removed. Your bag will be removed. Does everyone understand this?"

She repeated the announcement two or three more times during our stop. It never clicked that she was talking about someone Someone who had a giant bag underneath the bus that sat there without any identification. No one knew who it belonged to or who had placed it there. She made this announcement at about 6:30 in the morning. I never think properly at that time, much less after a drive through the night.

Hours and hours later, we pulled into Cleveland and changed buses. I trudged off and stood with my fellow lonely, desperate passengers. Everyone grabbed their bag as a worker threw it off. Mine never came out. As I stared into the empty luggage space, the driver's words came back to me. Tag. Destination. Removal. Oh, god.

My next bus was leaving within 20 minutes so I didn't have time to call anyone (damn it, I wish I had a cell phone). I didn't get to a payphone until Chicago. I called Louise and told her what happened. It took her several minutes to figure out I had screwed up at Port Authority, when I gave the wrong destination. So she knew what had happened. Six years later, she's still not sure how it happened.

"Why did you say Buffalo?"

"That's where we were going."

"But that's not where you were going. You were going to Mankato."

Yes, I was. And without my clothes. Louise called the Buffalo station. A bored worker told her they didn't have any bag in the lost and found box. The guy added that if they found a bag that didn't have any identification with it, "We probably called the bomb squad to have it destroyed. They don't take any chances." Ah.

The remainder of the trip, I sat next to an Army veteran, who kept giving me tips on how to travel on a Greyhound, helpful hints that came a day late. He sympathized with my plight, although the whole time he was probably thinking, "This is the type of person I risk my life for? A dummy like this?"

I bought some new clothes before going to Ellendale, enough to last throughout my stay. It was a humbling, expensive mistake. And, according to a bus station employee, probably an explosive mistake.

I felt like I'd been robbed of something, sort of like how Louise must have felt when someone stole her wallet and now her iPhone. Except the only thing I'd been robbed of was my dignity.

1 comment:

Dad said...

Talk about stunned, Mom heard about the phone at work today from a co-worker!!! It truly is a much smaller world.