That’s right folks, I left my %*^&%$& PHONE in a ^%^&$%$ CAB.
Now, I won’t go into all the events that preceded me realizing that my life, as I knew it, was about to end. But suffice it to say that bottles of wine were involved, as were multiple rounds of drunk bowling, a tall stack of diner pancakes, and a 20-minute taxi ride where the driver and my wife Jen discussed the pros and cons of the Eagles newest head coach hire, while I cursed the old Gods and the new for making me have to work the next morning (MLK day) even though the rest of the free world had the day off.
Mere seconds after the cabbie had driven away, the realization hit me like an anvil to the face. My iPhone 4S, aka my connection to the outside world, aka my lifeblood, aka The Precious had not made it home from our journey.
Now, I should note that normally this would never happen.
On a typical night, when things go as they should, there’s basically a zero-percent chance that I’ll leave any of my treasured possessions behind. Because like every young adult male in America, before/during/after our trips to the bar, we religiously employ the pants-pocket-pat-down. You know, the two-second ceremony whereby we confirm that our three most vital appendages (keys-wallet-phone) are still safely on board the S.S. Ladykiller. We do this because a) being turned away at a bar because you don’t have your I.D. is worse than getting flogged in the town square, b) getting locked out of one’s house when it’s cold and one is drunk is CUH-RAZYYY, and c) having to attempt a night out on the town without a cell phone is like trying to navigate a Vietnam jungle with a sundial and a butter knife.
Which brings me back to the predicament at hand.
On this occasion, I completely forgot to do the pat-down, and for that I completely and 100% blame the cabbie.
See, it’s 2013 people. Six-year-olds have iPads. People in Nevada are riding around in cars that drive themselves. You would think that every goddamn taxi-cab would have a credit card swiper by now.
But no. Not this one. This was a four-door checker-cab minivan with handicapped headrests, ralph stains on the floor, and all the accounts-receivable functionality of a Renaissance Fair change-purse.
So instead of swiping my card, deciding whether to hit the 20% gratuity button or “accidentally” “forget”, and conducting a final inventory sweep of my pockets, I was forced to jog inside to scavenge for cash. Meanwhile, my lady sat there desperately trying to stall the driver with more Eagles talk and variations of “SO UMMM WERE YOU BUSY TONIGHTTT?”
It took me several minutes with my face in our change bucket (sifting through mountains of pennies in the hope of finding some bills or quarters or even a goddamn sleeve of nickels....basically anything that would be halfway presentable), but I eventually emerged with enough cash for the fare and a tip. By this time I was sweating, my wine hangover had already set in, and I was pretty convinced my wife had been kidnapped.
Little did I know, the situation was far worse than that.
When I realized what I’d done, that my blood-brother/roaddawg/soulmate was gone forever, I immediately experienced the textbook range of emotions that anyone who’s lost a phone inevitably goes through...
Stage 1 - Shock - Life stops, as if someone hit a massive pause button. Your eyes glaze over, your mind races back to the last moment you felt its steely warmth in your palm, and all you can do is stare at the nearest wall and possibly let out a long “fuckkkkkkkkkkkkk.”
Accompanying Soundtrack: Deafening silence.
Stage 2 - Denial - YOU CAN BEAT THIS. YOU’VE BEATEN THIS BEFORE. Immediately, you’re a crackhead. You frantically retrace the same four places your phone could possibly be (pockets, wife’s purse, under the couch pillow) seven times before moving elsewhere. And after combing through the magazine rack/lifting the toilet tank/cleaning out the freezer, you find yourself on your hands and knees in the backyard searching the Universe for answers. Hope emerges for a nanosecond when you realize there MUST be an app for this, but then the irony of that idea slaps you directly in the face and you move to Stage 3.
Accompanying Soundtrack: “Sandstorm”, Darude
Stage 3 - Rage - For some, it’s the punching of walls and the creative stringing together of expletives like the dad on A Christmas Story. For me, it’s a silent, steely brood. Everyone is to blame. The cab driver, for keeping his vehicle as well-equipped as an 18th century turnip cart. My wife, for not using her feminine intuition to sense/thwart my future anguish. President Obama, for his goddamned health care plan which I’m sure has to be involved somehow. For a good 7-10 minutes I stalk our tiny rowhome in a murderer’s fury, stripping off layers of clothing and leaving them in random places, mentally preparing myself to spend the next day or two HATING. EVERYTHING.
Accompanying Soundtrack: “Killing in the Name”, Rage Against the Machine
Stage 4 - Depression - The world turns to darkness. All is lost. It’s like a chunk of your soul has been snatched away, leaving you empty and bleeding and confused. Jen tries her best to call and text my number. She reaches out to contact the cab company. Seeing me curled into a ball in my flannel sheets like a giant, drunk fetus, she even puts in a call to the National Guard. But it’s too late. That damned phone is long gone by now, vibrating away in some long-lost taxi crevice, leaving me with bitter memories and a stomach full of bile.
Accompanying Soundtrack: “Nothing Compares ”, Sinead O’Connor
As Jen lay next to me, assuring me that it would be OK, that we’d find me a new phone (I don’t WANT A NEW PHONE. I WANT MYYYYY PHOOOONE!!!), I slipped into a pain-induced sleep.
And so it was that my day without a phone began.
2:30am - As it loves to do these days, my body reminds me that I’m no longer a young person by waking me up to pee. I’ve grown used to this over the last couple years, so after stumbling back from the bathroom, my hand instinctively reaches for the bedside table to see if anyone texted me or emailed me or nudged me to finally make my move in Words With Friends. I’m shocked and deeply saddened to see my charger sitting there unused. Immediately, I’m bombarded with flashbacks of Stages 3 and 4. Eventually, I return to bed feeling like a horse that’s about to be shot.
5:03am - The same exact thing happens, except this time I lie awake for awhile wishing the Mayans would have been right.
6:13am, 6:27am, and 6:41am - Thanks to the eight fluid tons of alcohol the night before, I get up to pee three more times. (Note: At this point I’m fully aware that I have no phone. This update is just here to emphasize how freaking old I’ve gotten. These days I can barely remember being able to sit through a whole movie, let alone being able to sleep through the night after getting shwasted. Am I alone here?? Please tell me I’m not alone.)
6:43am - My alarm goes off. Luckily for me, I haven’t yet transitioned to the phone alarm wake-up system and still use one of those alarm clocks from the 70’s that uses the AHHHNN! AHHHNN! AHHHNN! sound to jolt you into consciousness. UNLUCKILY for me, I’ve gotten to the point where the only way I can NOT hit snooze 18 times is if I grab my phone and flip around aimlessly until my eyes start to focus and I can manage to think actual human thoughts. With no phone, I proceed to waste 40 minutes flitting in and out of consciousness, until Wife makes me get out of bed because I’m the only one in the family that has to work and she’ll be damned if she’s going to listen to the screaming banshee a thirteenth time in a row.
8:03am - I kiss the sleeping lady goodbye, tell her that if she needs me to use email, and then proceed to figuratively throw-up all over the place.
8:05am - As I approach my truck, I notice that some good samaritan has keyed the word “DICK” into my driver’s side door, because WHY NOT. So, similar to most 21st-century young adults, my first impulse is to take a picture and post that shit to Facebook. People love hilarious crime stories as much as they love laughing at other people’s misfortune, so it seemed like the right thing to do. But (you guessed it), I’d already forgotten about my newfound handicap. So not only am I unable to put my stalker on Internet blast, I also am unable to follow through with my second impulse (call Jen and tell her) or even my third (Google “how to fix a keyed car DIY philadelphia pa”). So, as it’s the only thing left to do, I hop in my truck like the dick that I apparently am and head out.
8:09am - As I drive to work, all I can think about is all the crazy stuff that could/probably will happen now that I don’t have a way of calling 911. I can’t help but feel like the astronauts on Armageddon when they get into the spaceship and blast off into space, completely unconvinced that they’ll ever return. By the time I arrive at my place of work, I’m breathing heavily and trying to pick up trucker CB frequencies on AM radio. And with no way of contacting the authorities should I need to (and seeing as there are literally no cars in the parking lot except a truck with DICK on the side) I say F it and sprint to the entrance.
8:25am - The next hour or so feels like an Anchorman sex montage. Having been marooned on desert island No Phone for what’s seemed like two years, sitting down at my desk and flipping on my computer makes me just want to do everyone on a rainbow. And being that no one else is in the office, I feel completely justified “doing work” all morning, which definitely does not include refreshing ESPN every four seconds, seeing what’s for sale on Trulia, looking at Facebook pics of my second cousin’s Caribbean cruise (The ship had THREE POOLS!) and/or fashioning a George Costanza napping station under my desk.
10:04am - A sudden panic sets in when it occurs to me that someone, ANYONE, could be trying to text me right now. Maybe it’s Jen, with an important message from the homefront. She always forgets HER phone so is it so crazy to think she’d forget that I forgot mine? (Note: The answer is no, it is not crazy. Throughout this adventure, Jen forgot I’d lost my phone at least four different times.) Or maybe it’s an important message from Bank of America or AAA, with time-sensitive account details. I NEED THOSE DETAILS. Or, perhaps today is the day that Matt Damon finally decides he can no longer star in action movies and it’s time for me to strap up. I’ve always known that call was coming but why today? WHY TODAY??? Thanks Matt, because of you I have recommenced with the sweating and am in serious need of a clean shirt. And I can’t even go to Marshalls at lunch like I usually do because some DICK managed to lose their phone and let’s face it, it’s a freaking war zone out there.
10:30am - As is the custom, after a couple hours of furious WORK, I take a moment to decompress at my desk, aka crush people in Words With Friends. I love these intimate moments; just a man, his phone, and about 75 attempts at making the game accept words like “Cu” and “Xaa” and “Qi” (Oh wait, “Qi” actually IS acceptable, and happens to be the word everyone uses when they want to seem clever/don’t have a U.) Alas, today I don’t have that option. And while I’ve heard whispers of Facebook having WWF capabilities, I don’t even attempt to figure that out because what do I look like, a GENIUS? Instead, I move to my backup decompression strategy, which is to sit, stare straight ahead, and listen to Mumford and Sons. I find that their dulcet tones, coupled with the way every song sounds SO different make for a relaxing experience. I typically pretend I’m in a semi-crowded-but-not-suffocating back-alley pub in London, and Winston and Marcus and the other two are singing TO me, not for me. Unfortunately, this daydream lasts only as long as it takes for them to get to the I WILL WAIT I WILL WAIT part which, seeing as that is my go-to “finish this run strong” song at the gym, shoots me into another murky funk. I will obviously not be going to the gym today, because all my songs are on my phone and because, to me, working out without music is as difficult as solving a Rubik’s Cube with your elbow or understanding what the hell Darius Rucker is mumbling about.
10:47am - After several hours of deliberation, I decide I need to do something about the terroristic threat on the side of my truck. Not that I’m running for Congress anytime soon, but there’s only so long an adult person can drive around with profanity on the side of their vehicle before people start taking them off invite lists. Thanking the Gods again for work Internet, I look up the nearest Maaco, print out Google Maps directions (facepalm.) and voyage out into the wild blue yonder. Luckily for me, Maaco was empty, so within minutes of arrival I am leading the technician outside to show him the damage. (Note: I stupidly parked near the only other car in the lot, a shiny new Volvo. As we approached the cars, the Maaco guy (I guess because I was in a suit/tie) instinctively walked toward the Volvo, and not toward my 1993 Toyota Poopstain. More embarrassed, I’ve seldom been.) After a few seconds of him inspecting and a few more of awkward silence after I may or may not have made a reverse-racist joke, Mr. Maaco informs me that repairs would cost $260 and would take two hours. In most auto-repair situations, when a mechanic tells me something I nod stupidly, ask several questions that make it seem like I know what’s going on (“So you’re SURE the carburetor doesn’t need to be rotated?”), and then hand him the deed to my house. This time, however, survival instincts kicked in. I would prefer the rack to a two-hour wait without a Smartphone, so I tell the guy I need to consult with my attorney and get the hell out of there.
12:26pm - My daily lunchtime stroll to the men’s room literally feels a walk to the gallows. No one takes poops without playing on their phone these days...and I mean no one. On a normal day, I cue up several articles right when I feel the rumbling, because the two-foot cinder block walls at my office make surfing the web in the bathroom nearly impossible. The worst days are the ones where I sit down, prepare myself, and then accidentally hit the back button and am forced to read something I’ve already read (cue Stage 3). Today though, even that wasn’t an option. It’s either print out an article and stroll down the hall with it, or sit there on the pot with nothing to read like an asshole. And as much as I hate being an asshole, there’s no way I can carry reading material with me on that walk. I might as well just tape a sign to my back that says “Hold my calls and open a window.” So sit there I do, making a mental grocery list, counting sheep, and wishing I hadn’t eaten vindaloo the night before.
1:07pm - I receive the email I’ve been waiting for. Walid the cabbie, bless his Muslim heart, had called Jen and informed her that he had my phone. Immediately, I begin pondering Indecent Proposal scenarios, whereby in exchange for my electronic best friend I would offer the cab man some type of Prima Noctis situation. Thankfully, such a sacrifice wasn’t needed. The driver agreed to meet at the 7-11 near our house in an hour, free of charge. I was stunned. All day, I’d been reluctantly picturing my little guy lost in some taxi warehouse in South Philly, where stern-looking Russians bark orders and no one ever smiles. I’d just assumed that little Troy (yes, I grief-named my phone) would be lost forever, stripped down and sold for parts like a droid on Tatooine. But today was my day, ladies and gentlemen. The day of Reed. Yes, I was damn near incoherent from boredom, and yes I was driving around in a dick car, but fate had finally decided to smile on me.
1:54pm - Throwing caution to the wind, I leave work early and set out to meet my destiny. Flying down the highway at a cool 75mph, I turn on the radio and am greeted by the Rocky theme song. Perfect. As I approach the exit for 7-11, I feel as if I’ve been reborn. The air tastes a little sweeter as it rushes in my open window. The traffic that backs up the exit seems instead like a gathering of close friends, and I find myself smiling like a retard and waving to people as they pass me on the right. The end of this holocaust is near, and I can taste it.
* * *
In the moments that led up to my exchange with Walid, I decided I needed to make some changes in my life. No more would I go hours at a time without consulting my phone. No more would I allow the battery life to get to the dreaded 10%. NO MORE would I curse my 3G as it struggled to refresh a baseball score. These times with Troy are fleeting, I told myself, and should never be taken for granted.
When I finally touched down at 7-11 and saw Walid come around the bend, a calm came over me. I knew any fears I may have had about him and what he possibly could have done to my phone were for naught. I had imagined Troy in a vice on a table, Walid crushing the life out of him while simultaneously stealing my music and posting my Boyz II Men concert videos to Youtube.
But as he rolled up in his van, I knew Walid would be alright. I could just sense it. So I finished my buffalo taquito, met his eyes with mine and shook his hand hard. Like a relieved father after a firefighter rescues his child from a burning building. For that brief moment we were brothers, and it felt like everyone in the 7-11 parking lot was watching, just waiting for us to part ways so they could applaud. He didn’t ask for money, but I handed him a 20-dollar bill anyway, making me feel that much more triumphant. The deal was done, and we both were winners.
Even today, two days later, I sit and wonder what Walid is doing. I assume that he and I are now close friends. That he’ll call soon and we’ll go to Coffee Bean and talk about all those hilarious times where we met up in parking lots. Then I look down at Troy. I admire the crack in his black case and flip through the dozens of apps that I never ended up having to re-download. I can’t help but smile at the chic little bastard and imagine what he must have gone through. Out there on his own, in the elements.
These days, phones will come and go. Technology improves and needs shift and hell, sometimes screens even crack. Believe me, though, when I say that Troy is different. Just as he stared into the face of certain defeat and said NOT TODAY, I promise to resist the urge to leave him behind. Not in a cab, not for another phone years from now, not ever.
Anything else would make me less of a friend than he deserves. Anything else would make me just like the rest of them.
Anything else would make me a dick.
JOURNEYMEN Lead Writer and iPhone Amber Alert Engineer