On Nearly Losing a Phone in New York

October 27th, 2009 § 1 comment

Tonight had all the makings of a disastrous evening. It came arse-clenchingly close, but it did not come to pass.

I left work at 7:00 or so, and decided to take a longer route home, mostly to make a change from the West Side Greenway, which, while fast and convenient, can get a bit tedious after hammering back and forth for days on end. I headed up 8th Avenue, after dodging gaggles of pedestrians who had meandered off the sidewalk, and food vendors dragging hot-dog carts up the street. My plan was to follow the Central Park Drive counter-clockwise from Columbus Circle up to 110th Street.

I hit my stride somewhere around 89th street, near the Guggenheim Museum, cruising along just above 20mph. I had my iPhone in the pocket of my sweater, with the headphones stuffed in on top. Those headphones must have unraveled themselves, because I saw them get wrapped around my handlebars for a split second, before my right leg turned another revolution of the pedals, yanking the iPhone out of my pocket and down to the street.


I slammed on the brakes, and flipped the bike around as quickly as I could without rolling it over. I expected to see the phone on the street, fifty yards back, with the white headphones sprawled out across the asphalt. Maybe with a cracked screen or case. Instead, I found nothing. Not even any fragments of shattered glass or a torn-off earbud.

Double Shit.

OK, I thought. The phone must have bounced to the edge of the street. I zigzagged my bike up and down the street for a hundred yards in either direction, kicking up piles of leaves hoping that my phone was hiding under one of them. Still nothing. I began to think that one of the runners who had passed me had snapped up the phone in the few seconds it took me to stop and turn around.

It had been fifteen or twenty minutes at this point, and, at very least, I knew I would be home much later than antipated. As the ever-prepared computer nerd, I broke out my laptop and Sprint card, fired up Skype, and called Alex to tell her what was going on.

“Should I call your phone?” she asked.

“I don’t think there’s much point. One of the joggers could easily have picked it up and walked off with it. I’m going to keep looking for it here for a while.”

“OK”, she said. We hung up.

I un-clipped the headlamp from my bike and started walking up and down the same bit of roadway, looking for the phone. I was more or less resigned to the fact that my phone was long gone, and tomorrow I’d have to own up to my employer that I’d carelessly thrown their phone on the ground in Central Park and, worse, managed to let someone pinch it, too. I gave myself another ten minutes. If I hadn’t found it by then, I’d give up, then slink off home and begin the tedious process of changing the credentials for all the accounts that had anything stored on that iPhone.

I was in the middle of peering down into a storm drain with my headlight when someone called out to me:

“Are you Guy?”

A woman walked up to me, holding my phone. In perfect condition. I nearly passed out with relief.

It turns out that she was, indeed, one of the joggers, and had seen the phone on the ground. She had lost something in the park recently, too, and thought that she had better take the phone to the Central Park police precinct to turn in. On her way there, the phone rang. It was Alex, calling my phone anyway, just in case. Alex had described me to her (“He’s riding a bike, wears glasses, and speaks with a British accent. If someone says its their phone and doesn’t have an accent, it’s not him”), and the woman had gone back to where she found my phone, and caught up with me. Her name was Claire. I shook her hand, thanked her profusely, and she went on her way.

Anyone could have found that phone, walked off with it, and nobody would be any the wiser. Worse, they could have wreaked a little bit of havoc on my life with my stored data. If New York mythology is to be believed, the city is full of villains and miscreants, none of whom would even think twice about pocketing a valuable find. Rather, Claire bothered to pick it up and send it back to its owner. Whatever it was that she lost in Central Park, she deserves to find it. And I deserve a swift kick in the pants for being so bloody careless.

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