Sunday, November 15, 2009

41.5 hours of isolation

Oh, if only it were as good as that title sounds. In reality, I was without a cell phone for a day and a half, which feels rather isolating compared to my usual level of connectedness.

I've temporarily misplaced my phone before. Haven't we all? Usually I find it within a couple of minutes of noticing its absence by retracing my steps and of course the simple call-your-phone-and-listen-for-the-ringtone trick. Most often the phone has been left on the passenger seat of the car when I gathered up my stuff, or set unwittingly on a shelf in my closet when I removed it from my pocket to change.

Do you know what turns 'misplacing your phone' into 'losing your phone?' I'll tell you. If you don't realize that you've misplaced your cell phone until the battery has expired, and it is not in any visible location, then you have lost your cell phone.  Since my phone's battery was nearly dead before it disappeared, I was left to super-sleuth this mystery.

Here are the known facts:

  • My husband called me at 3:46pm when I was driving away from a gas station 20 miles from home. This was the last call I made or received on the missing phone.
  • From there, I drove directly to my house and parked the car in the garage.
  • I carried my sleeping daughter to her crib, brought all my stuff inside the house, made a sandwich in the kitchen, and started working in my office.
  • At 5:17pm the phone's absence was discovered.
Based on those facts it is clear that my phone had to be somewhere in my house, car, or garage. Normally, that incontrovertible evidence would be reassuring, because it would offer the relief that the phone was not stolen or left behind at one of any number of errand-running locations.  However, as my search grew longer and more intense without success, the indisputable fact that it had to be here somewhere became inconceivable.

Sometimes my cell phone slides under the seat of the car or between the seat and console. I checked there. Gary checked there. Gary checked again with a flashlight. I checked with a flashlight again from every possible angle and in every possible crevice.  I looked under the cars and in corners of the garage where the phone might have been inadvertently kicked after dropping. Nothing.

Of course I checked all of the obvious places in my house too, again and again, anywhere that the phone might possibly be.  Then I found myself looking in places that the phone could not possibly be. The shower. Cupboards I haven't opened all week that are too high for Madelyn to reach. Pockets of clothes I had not been wearing.

It was garbage collection night. I put on my flip flops and jacket, then went out to the curb in the rain with a flashlight and searched through our garbage and recycling bins.  How easily my phone could have been knocked off my desk into one of those receptacles and then gathered up unknowingly with the rest of our refuse. No amount of digging revealed my phone, and I was cold, wet, and grossed out.

It had to be somewhere, but it was nowhere.  I envisioned seemingly impossible ways that the mystery could eventually be solved:

Gary, on some future moving day: "What do you know your phone got in the bottom of this file cabinet drawer!"

Me, searching for a bag of peas: "Oh here it is, at the bottom of the freezer!"

The vet: "Here's the reason Kezia's been vomitting all day."

The plumber: "I've seen a lot of things stuck in a P-trap before, but I don't think you're going to want to use this phone again."

We have a land line, but it is set up as a fax line on which we can also make outgoing calls. So thankfully I was able to use the handset to call the people who depend on communicating with me and tell them I wouldn't be receiving calls and I didn't know for how long. I'm on my computer most of the day anyway, so I explained that they could email and ask me to call them if they needed to. But it made me nervous for my husband to be unable to call me during his work day.  And to think that others might leave an urgent message and not realize that I did not intend to ignore them.  Then Saturday morning, while Madelyn and I prepared to leave the house to run several errands in various corners of the city, I grew increasingly anxious about not having any way to contact someone were the need to arise. I even packed up my laptop and Clear mobile modem so that I could access the internet if I needed directions or information or needed to contact someone for help.  I can even send text messages right from my beloved Gmail.  Many great ideas come to me when I'm driving, or I remember people I've been meaning to call back, etc., so the thought of spending a day in the car without my phone was unnerving for a variety of reasons.

As I was buckling Madelyn into her carseat, these concerns were making me apprehensive. Like I had so many other times during the past 40 hours, I began searching in my vicinity again. I knew I had looked under these car seats half a dozen times, but I also knew that the phone could not have simply immaterialized.  So back down to the floorboards I went, and noticed this time a piece of plastic casing beside the seat that was slightly open, making me wonder if the phone could have slid off the seat into this little pocket.  I could not see it in there, but while peering intensely into the dark, I did notice a tiny corner of silver plastic hiding behind a black metal bracket. Could it be?

Yep, it was. My phone was there under the car seat as I originally guessed, only it was somehow nestled in a little cranny-nook that was nearly impossible to see--even with a flashlight--from all the vantage points we attempted. I even scratched up my hand a bit trying to jimmy it out of its hidey-hole. Now, had the battery not been dead, I could have heard that the phone was indeed in the car, and would have been able to see the light from its screen to easily locate it.

They say you don't know how much you use something until it's gone. What a bunch of bull.  I know exactly how much I use my phone, and the moment I realized it wouldn't be easily found, I was distraught.  I am truly grateful to live in a time where communication is so easy and prevalent.  Some folks wistfully yearn for the "simpler times," but to them I say, "How simple was it to call a tow-truck from the side of the freeway?" "How simple was it to ensure that you were never running behind for fear you might miss an important meeting because you couldn't call to say you'd be there in ten?" "How simple was it to stop at a gas station and use the grimy yellow pages to look up the phone number for the store you couldn't find?"  "How simple was it to gather up the kids for an urgent trip to pick up the last dinner ingredient before your husband got home, even though he drives right by the grocery store on his way?"

The mystery of the disappearing phone is solved. And what a relief.  Because I like my "complicated" days of mobile communication.


Bridget said...

I am so glad you found it! What a pain. I totally agree with you about the good old days. How did we ever meet up with anyone? I grew up in that age and I really can't remember how we used to do things.

Anita said...

I found a pair of reading glasses (one of many, thankfully) in the same nook and cranny of my car. :)

While I seldom use my cell phone, I'm with you - don't take it away! I love technology and convenience!

Bridget said...

Did we ever find out what level of award you got at the banquet? I read your blog but I don't recall hearing that bit of info. Perhaps it was omitted on purpose...?


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