Monday, February 4, 2013

First-World Loss and Grief

We'll always have the memories.
And the phone bills.
I lost my phone the other day.

At the time, I assumed I would eventually find the thing. After all, I've lost-then-found just about everything I own, including:

    •    Assorted remote control devices
    •    My prescription sunglasses
    •    My regular glasses
    •    Notebooks of various sizes
    •    A terrible incomplete draft of a terrible incomplete novel
    •    Cables to connect the cell phone to other devices
    •    Socks
    •    My wallet
    •    Belts
    •    Keys
    •    Pens
    •    Pants
    •    The same cellphone that I eventually lost forever

And as soon as I realized it was missing, I knew it was lost. Like, forever. I was at work and completing my afternoon visit to the bathroom — the one on the other side of the building near where the vice presidents and their minions sit because it’s a little more private and the extra walk is good exercise or at least that’s what I tell myself even though the real reason is that it kills more time than using the facility just around the corner from the prison cell where I toil — and I’d placed it next to the sink as I washed my hands.

Because I’m usually staggering through a groggy post-lunch late-afternoon fog by 3pm, I didn't realize I’d left my phone in the bathroom until about 4:15, about 45 minutes later, which can be converted to an eternity and an eon in Leaving Things In A Relatively Public Place time.

I was packing up to leave and realized that I didn't have my phone at my desk. At first I didn't panic, because I never place anything important in the same place — today I put my keys in my top desk drawer and my wallet in a coat pocket, tomorrow I’ll slip them into different pockets of my backpack — and I never seem to remember where anything is.

But when I noticed that my phone was not in my pocket, and that it wasn't in the (typically) only other place it would reside, attached to charging USB cord connected to my desktop…I knew. I dialed my cell number from my office phone, and when I heard no muffled rings under stacks of papers or in my bag…suspicions were confirmed.

Applying the missing person theory to a missing phone — that the first 24 hours of a disappearance are most vital (probably 24 minutes in the case of a phone) — I returned to the bathroom as quickly as possible without looking like a lunatic running through the halls.

No phone on the sink, or anywhere else I could see, but there was a guy in the closed stall.

"Excuse me," I said in a tone that said, Hey, guy in toilet, I'm keeping a reasonable distance from whatever you're doing in there, but I'm addressing this query to you, "Is there a cell phone in there?"

"Sorry, buddy," came the voice from inside the stall. "Nothing in here."

I almost wanted to reply, Are you sure? Can you look around in there? but common sense took hold.

I went to the main reception area, hoping someone (someone honest) dropped it off, but no dice. No phone, either.
My entire life. Made in China.
[Image from here.]
I drove home, bitter, considering everything I lost on that microSD card, a sliver of plastic and wire the size of a fingernail, including dozens of photos and videos from the past year, most of sentimental value but fortunately nothing of blackmail value, along with the music files that sustain my depleted soul throughout my 50-to-90-minute vehicular slog along the Long Island Expressway.

I think there's a Run-D.M.C. song on this one...maybe?
Though I was worried during the ride home that I would need the phone for use as, you know, an actual phone, the loss of my music files felt like the worst punishment for my carelessness, as I had to sift through the old CDs scattered in my car, wondering what tracks were contained on discs I’d burned during the era between my iPod breaking and buying my first smartphone, on which I Sharpie-scrawled unambiguous titles like "3/28/2008" and "MP3 Stuff."

Because I try to live a think-positive lifestyle, despite all evidence to the contrary, I started conjuring scenarios that put my horrible loss in perspective, mostly along the lines of it could have been worse:
  • I could have lost my wallet
  • The reason I was having trouble starting the car the other day could have been the alternator, and not just the battery
  • I could have contracted a horrific venereal disease 
You know, things like that, as if it were my turn to have a bird-of-bad-luck will shit on my head, and I should be thrilled it wasn't one that just ate a bigger meal.

As if when the Wheel of Fortune (the Boethius wheel, not the Vanna White wheel) doesn't roll your way, Fortuna spinning a separate Loser Bonus Round Wheel with options including Leaves phone in bathroom and Contracts chlamydia from a toilet seat. But sometimes you have to do what it takes to keep yourself from going crazy.

I was still under cellphone contract for another year, meaning I was going to have to shell out 800 bucks for a replacement — despite buying "insurance" that ensured I wouldn't be covered for theft — but my brother-in-law had a spare phone to which I was able to transfer my account, so things actually didn't turn out as bad (or as expensive) as it could have.

And I'm trying to be more careful. Because, after all, the fate of this phone is (mostly) in my own hands. And so far, I've been doing well — I haven't lost the current phone yet!

But I'm still extra careful while using public restrooms. Who knows where that toilet-seat chlamydia will be lurking!

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