I love cargo pants. I love cargo pants almost as much as I love ye olde sweater vests, but trousers receive decidedly less attention from my friends and family. Maybe it’s because they’re in neutral tones, or situated too far from my face, the area where people look when we’re conversing. Peripheral vision only extends so far. In any case, I have several pairs of cargo pants, and I’ve owned at least one pair since Banana Republic sold its wares out of a hand-drawn catalog. I like them not because I have some strange affection for marsupial pouches, but because I don’t like having stuff in regular pants pockets; it’s more comfortable to keep my wallet in a bigger pocket that pressed against my hip or ass cheek.
Until yesterday, cargo pants had always been good to me. Until yesterday.
Left pocket stores my iPhone, right pocket my wallet. Lanyard goes around my neck with my office pass key, and my keys are either in my ignition or on a table nearby. I only put keys in my pocket if I’m out somewhere, walking, and even then, I’ll try to find a spot for them off my person if I can (read: baby stroller drink cup holder). But as my pants have aged the kangaroo pockets have gotten more pliable, and when sitting in my car, a couple of times I’ve felt my phone slip out and fall to the floor. I hadn’t identified it as a general problem, and that is on me. Because when I was running from the office to home on my way to an HIV testing fair, it slipped out, only this time it found the pavement in the parking lot rather than the floor of my Honda. I drove away and didn’t notice it missing until I crossed the threshold at home, giggling at Emile in his high chair. I patted my pockets once, twice. Wallet in my right hand. Where was the phone?
Now then, I presumed I’d left it on my desk at work. When I’d run out the door to the car, I had a stack of folders for taking down testing and specimen information, a fist full of HIV tests, a few pens, a paper sack filled with condoms, lube, and dental dams, and a banana. It was more than likely that in all of my flusteredness I simply forgot the little white iPhone. As I bundled up the baby and took his diaper bag from Susanne, I reminded myself to log on to the computer in the student center (where I’d be doing the testing), and email my case manager to ask if he could find my phone back at work. Nope, not here, he said.
My next guess was that it would be in the car, hugging the dust bunnies under the driver’s seat, but as I was engaged in collecting epithelial cells from the students and demonstrating correct condom usage with my trusty banana, I couldn’t go hunting just then. (Note to self: bananas are significantly less appetizing when they have lubricant all over them.) I was waylaid for a bit because Susanne had come to get the baby during her lunch break, and without my mobile phone I couldn’t call her when I needed to remember where we were meeting up. (Note to self: when confused about where to meet Susanne, pick the most obvious place, and don’t second guess yourself.)
Finally I had the baby, was done testing, back in the car, motoring home. Searched the driveway, under the seats, despite Emile’s increasingly frustrated requests for “up.” No phone. Maybe it was at the post office, where I’d gone first thing. I found the phone number for the post office and fifteen attempts later, never managed more than a busy tone. How 1985 of them. Next was the handoff to the nanny, and then I was back at work, looking under my desk and again in the car, while the case manager called my number to see if we could hear the poor thing ringing. Quick post to Facebook about my phonelessness, and one of my friends—a lawyer, naturally—piped up that I should have installed the Find My iPhone app. Woulda shoulda coulda, people!
I called Verizon, the carrier, to see if any charges had been racked up on the phone since it went missing, but I couldn’t remember my passcode, so they wouldn’t give me any information about the usage that day. (Note to self: write down your infrequently used passcodes.)
It wasn’t until 7PM that night that I realized the iCloud settings from Apple would give me some information, and then I remembered that I had set that up. Go go my self from 2011! I grabbed my iPad, installed the Find My iPhone app, clicked locate, and …
THERE IT WAS, glowing green, pulsating a little, in the middle of a block where my person has never set foot. Edith and 9th Avenue. Two blocks from the Penitentiary. The maximum security Penitentiary, the one with death row, where the Green River Killer lives. I wasn’t going over there. Clearly someone had my phone. They hadn’t called me, even though I’d left a message with my land line on it. They hadn’t called any of my last calls. They also hadn’t added any photos, or made any calls with it, or downloaded reams of data off the Web. I remotely added a lock screen to the phone so they couldn’t use it. And I called the police.
Now then, here’s another difference between Walla Walla and Washington, DC police: the Walla Walla cops called me back after I spoke with dispatch. I explained to the officer that I’d lost the phone that morning and that I could see it on my iPad in a part of town I’ve never visited, and when I gave him the coordinates of the phone, he said he was very familiar with that area. Great. Or maybe not great. He told me he’d come by to see what I was seeing. I switched on the satellite view so we could see the green glowing dot with the actual street overlay. Technology was scary, and my heart rate was climbing.
Little by little the phone was roaming around. Either someone was walking between houses or in their house, or they’d taped the phone to a dog, who knew. The officer was in my driveway a scant five minutes later and we examined the glowing orb like it was a link to another universe. In a way it was, I suppose. I refreshed the Find button and the officer said he knew that house quite well. He told me he had a colleague who was much better about technology stuff than he was, so he would get that guy involved as soon as he was done with a traffic stop. This made me wonder because I think I’ve seen exactly two traffic stops in Walla Walla in my 4.5 years here, but apparently they happen with greater frequency than that.
Poor little land line hasn’t seen this many calls since the baby was born and the Canadian relatives wanted to check in with us. The next thing I knew I was on the phone with the tech savvy officer, handing over my Mac ID and password so he could see my iPhone with his iPhone. I wondered briefly if the Apple designers had thought of this scenario specifically when they created these features, then immediately clicked back in to the moment. He relayed that he could see my iPhone. They’d narrowed it down to two houses, because none of us could zoom in on the map very far before the satellite images gave out.
We hatched a plan: I would wait for the cops to give me a signal, and then I would push the “Play Sound” button on my iPad, causing the phone to make an annoying beeping sound that can’t be turned off unless the phone is shut down. I’d waited to use this option fearing that it would alert the holder that I was on to them, even though I’d gone ahead and set up the lock screen.
“Okay,” he said to me, “we’re just about ready. Are you ready?”
It was like a ride along with the police. It was like an episode of Leverage. Pound pound pound went my heart.
“Ready,” I said.
“Okay, hit it.”
I pushed the play sound button, and saw the visual representation of sound waves fluttering on my screen. I pushed it again. Again. Again. Through the cop’s microphone I could hear a dog barking.
“Did you make the dog bark or did I,” I asked.
“I think it was us,” he said, and then, “I gotta go. Will call you in a few minutes.”
HOO. STUFF WAS HAPPENING FOR REALS.
The green dot went to gray as the people with my phone shut it down, probably in an attempt to make the beeping stop. I couldn’t locate it anymore.
Two minutes later my land line rang. RoboCop was on the other end.
“We’ve recovered your phone,” he said.
“Is it white?”
“With a picture of a cute baby on the screen?”
“Yes. In an argyle sweater vest.”
“Right. Great. Okay, we’ll bring it to you in a minute.”
I alerted my friends on Facebook and Twitter to the good news. People on the east coast, approaching midnight, were relieved.
Ten minutes later I had the phone back in my hands, the non-tech officer telling me that the story from the holders went like this: A woman’s daughter had found it in the parking lot at the county building and not told her about it, and then she’d found it on her. They swore they were going to bring it back the next day. I guess we’ll never know if that was a true story or not, though certainly they didn’t run up any charges on the phone. He asked if I was interested in pressing charges. I said I thought it sounded like they had enough to deal with. Then I handed him a gallon bag of cookies from our party the previous day. It seemed . . . appropriate somehow.
And now the iPhone is back to its boring existence in my possession. And I am wearing jeans.