I lost my phone in either Europe or Africa, but I don’t think it was in Asia.
My wife, Chris, and I were sightseeing on the European side of Istanbul, and took the ferry across the Strait of Bosporus to the Asian side where we joined half the population of Istanbul strolling along the Strait, people-watching. Then we returned to the European side to catch a flight to Uganda.
“Did you realize we’ll be on three continents in one day?” I asked as we sat at the boarding gate, looking through each other’s cellphone photos. We put our phones on airplane mode so we wouldn’t burn through expensive international data. When the boarding call came, I quickly stashed the phone and jumped into the boarding line. We were carrying a guitar for some friends and wanted early access to the overhead bins. I was thinking more about the guitar than the phone at that instant.
I got my first cellphone in 1989 and had never yet lost one. Temporarily misplaced, yes, but not lost. Lots of people lose phones, not only those of us with congenital forgetfulness. Some of my ADHD patients have lost 5 or 6. Now you know why insurance on a smartphone runs right about the cost of another smartphone. I attributed my spotless track record to being a bit OCD as well as a big cheapskate.
“Where was the last place you had the phone?” asked Chris patiently. She’s used to this drill and was helping me be methodical. We were standing near the front of the Ebola-screening line in Entebbe International Airport, so hadn’t officially been admitted to Uganda yet. It only took 45 minutes to search everywhere we had already been in Africa. All we had to do was empty 8 pieces of luggage and repack them, re-board the loaded-for-takeoff-back-to-Turkey plane that brought us, climb under and over rows 10, 11 and 12, then empty and repack the overhead bin. We were the last two people certified by the Ebola nurse that night.
“The phone’s not in Africa,” I announced. That narrowed it down a bit. We headed to our AirBnB rental home and planned the next steps. Those “next steps” lasted for months. “Find My Phone” doesn’t work when a lost phone is in airplane mode. Turkish Airlines took most of a week to check their lost and found and regretfully inform me that they could not locate the phone. I borrowed a phone and burned up way more international data than I had saved with ‘airplane mode’ changing passwords and shutting down access to every account I could think of.
Trying to figure out what happened to the phone is an exercise in story-telling or actually in “story-believing”. Which story do I want to believe? The I’m-the-victim story where the phone was pick-pocketed by someone who saw me using it in the airport? The I’m-clumsy story where I put it in my carry-on and it just fell out? The I’m-ADD-and forgetful story where I left it on my seat in the Turkish departure gate?
Kids often tell parents that a missing item was ‘stolen’, but rarely admit they lost it. It’s painful to lose a possession, harder still to be the one responsible for the loss.
“You were definitely rooting for ‘stolen’ not ‘lost’,” remembers Chris. She’s right. I always lean to the Not My Fault side of a story. “But I checked your seat in the waiting room, and you didn’t leave it there,” she added. She was being kind, relieving me of the notion that I was childishly forgetful.
The story I eventually decided to believe was the not-careful-enough story. It’s probably true. I hadn’t put the phone in the zippered chest pocket that would have precluded both pickpockets and clumsiness. I had a pretty good plan and failed to execute it in my rush for overhead bin space. It’s the kind of misfortune that befalls people who sometimes lapse in the vigilance that prevents misfortunes, not only those of us with ADHD, but us more than normal.
Two months later, I got an alert from “Find My Phone”. My lost-or-stolen phone was taken off airplane mode near a university in Istanbul. “Find My Phone” took the opportunity to wipe the data off it and lock it down.
It turns out that an airport cleaning lady found the phone I dropped. Her college-age son sold it on eBay and received enough for it to pay for a university class. A local hash dealer thought he got a good deal on a used phone, but was sorely disappointed to watch it turn into an expensive brick when he signed onto the WiFi network at a nearby hookah lounge.
Technically, I don’t know if a single word in that story is true, but I’m having fun believing it.