Sue lost her phone this morning. She was already at work trying desperately to find it, while I was still at home and knew exactly where it was because it rang and rang and rang, as she used someone else’s phone to call repeatedly and see if she could hear where she might have dropped it. Since I was standing on my head doing yoga, the ringing was a little disruptive to my experience of inner stillness and understanding of the unity of all existence. After trying to ignore what I thought to be the usual flurry of morning calls to her, I realized the truly desperate nature of this ringing and tried instead to psychically convey to Sue that her phone was safe. When this proved to be beyond my extrasensory abilities, or tolerance for her ringtone (“Hysteria” by Def Leppard), I finally answered to tell her what once was lost now was found.
Lost and stolen smartphones have become one of the leading causes of insanity, at least in my house. These phones are so valuable, containing as they do our entire lives, the phone numbers that we no longer bother to write down in little black books, access to everything in the world, all our music, hopes, dreams, dirty pictures, etc. Unfortunately, smartphones are worth 30 times their weight in silver, and can easily be turned into several hundred bucks worth of cash by unsavory elements who might spot them lying unattended on a desk or the sidewalk where they fell out of our pockets. What to do? Well, developers have created apps like Find My Phone that enable owners to locate their missing devices, a very convenient feature for any lost item. (I would love to have an app like that right now called Find My Glasses.) The problem is that the phone is often not in friendly territory – buried under a couch cushion, or stuck in the handbag from last night’s party – but instead is in the grasp of the criminal who has made off with it. When you call the police to tell them of your predicament, they plead that they are understaffed and can’t afford the time or manpower to go on a wild goose chase for your lost property. In an instance cited in a recent New York Times article, police told a woman, who had found her phone to be located at a strange address, to simply go to that location and ask for it back. “If there’s any trouble, you can always call 911,” said the officer on duty.
In this particular story, things ended well; the guilty party sheepishly gave her back her phone, but as these apps come increasingly into use, I see the possibility for many misunderstandings. For example, what if the person who has your phone really believes that it is theirs and that you are simply trying to scam them out of their own phone?
A young woman, heavily tattooed and slightly hungover-looking, comes to your door with this wild sob story and accuses you of taking her phone. But after you slam the door in her face and go to check your text messages, you realize that it really isn’t your phone. The woman was right. By the time you’ve gone back to the door to try to give her phone back, she’s vanished, and you have no way of contacting her. Now what?
And where is your phone? When you picked this phone up off the bar last night, you thought it was yours, but if it isn’t, it means that your phone is also lost. Damn! So you go to your computer and use Find My Phone only to discover that your beloved object is not at the bar where you last remember using it, just before chugging the remainder of a pitcher of margaritas near closing time. You call the police and they tell you the same thing they told the woman whose phone you have, “If you’re so sure you know where it is, why don’t you just go get it?”
Soon you find yourself knocking on the door of a fairly nice apartment near the beach and are stunned to see the woman who answers the door is the same one who you blew off a couple of hours ago. She gets a frightened look on her face and whips out a can of mace that she apparently keeps on a little table by her door, especially for occasions like this. Because she thinks you are some lunatic criminal who has stalked her back to her apartment, she sprays you in the face. You are blinded and in pain and she is screaming for help, screaming that you are a perverted thief, and then the neighbors all come out, and some big guy who looks and smells like Wolfman starts kicking you in the ribs. This is not how you imagined this saga would go, or maybe it is. This is what modern technology has wrought. Maybe it was better when things that were lost stayed lost, and we could just start over.
Soon it will be impossible to lose anything. Cameras will track us wherever we go; we’ll be wearing them ourselves in order to “help” us. We’ll ask our device where we left our glasses or phone and it will tell us, or probably it will tell us before we even get out of range of our precious possessions that we should put them back in our pockets. These all-seeing, all-knowing Mommies will be constantly babysitting us and making sure we don’t do anything stupid, or forgetful, or illegal, or immoral. Because if we do, it will all be recorded, available for the whole world to see, with the proper warrant, or the latest app to hack into our life streams and post onto YouBoob.
Things that are lost can be a pain in the butt, but they are also the mystery of life. Mystery is the pleasure that we may soon lose. I’d rather lose my phone.