It finally happened. A terrifying ordeal that left me numb with loss and near tears. A shell of myself. I should have known something would go wrong. I should have known the potential for casualties and collateral damage was high.
It was one of the more challenging travel days I had ever planned for myself. The end of a vacation abroad with nothing but a few hours until a new project.
An eight hour flight back from Amsterdam into Newark, NJ, then after a brief stopover to exchange laundry for fresh work clothes, a trip out to LGA for a flight to Chicago and the beginning of a new project.
It was supposed to be simple. No one was supposed to get hurt.
Sure there were signs things were going to go wrong. A few black clouds that, at the time, looked like nothing more than random circumstance.
Checking out of my Amsterdam hotel in the morning, the shuttle I booked took off without me while I waited for it in the lobby. Unfortunate.
A pre-flight lunch at the airport which included a giant splotch of ketchup on my shirt, the last clean one in the bag. Bad luck perhaps, or maybe just a case of a poorly handled sandwich
The flight from Amsterdam was on time, a good sign. Of course, eight hours spent in the middle seat with nothing on the in-flight movie but the romantic comedy, Valentine's Day, seemed like something designed for a sitcom laugh track.
But I was fine. I was making good time. A breeze through customs, a train, a different train, a subway, and a bus later I was back at my place with a freshly packed bag.
Plenty of time to get to LGA. Nothing to worry about. No reason to suspect the sword perilously dangling above my head, about to drop.
I hopped in a cab, and as the driver took off, he asked if I had cash for the fare.
As a work expense, I put them on my corporate card, for the ease of reimbursement. Plus, I just got back in the country and didn't have a ton of U.S. cash. I didn't think he would take my Euros, so I didn't bother asking.
Take another cab, the driver told me.
Frustrated, a clambered out of the cab, got my bag from the trunk and hailed another.
As I got in and the cab began it's journey, I noticed it.
A suspicious absence in my front pocket.
My wallet was there, as were my headphones...
but where...where was my iPhone?
I checked my pockets...I checked my backpack...the floor of the cab...the depths of a cab seat cushions...
My shirt collar was getting tighter...my pulse quickening.
It must have fallen out of my pocket when the cab with the faulty card reader booted me out.
I did my best to avoid a complete heart attack. My phone was password protected, but it had all my information. Not only that, it was my anchor to life! My news, my sports, my link to family and friends! When you spent you're life in airports, hotels, and conference rooms, your cell phone is more than a communications device, it's what keeps you alive!
And mine was riding away in some other cab with a busted credit card machine.
I tried to figure out a plan. We had already lost sight of the cab (although that would have given me the best excuse to yell, 'Follow that car!' Which I've always wanted to do)
I borrowed the cab driver's cell phone and dialed. No answer. I text'd a message to the phone with my address and the promise of a reward,a figuring it would pop up on the phone. No response. I called a second time, and a third.
Nothing. It was ringing, but those desperate calls went unanswered.
When I arrived at the airport, I knew I needed to keep up the search. If that phone wasn't found in the first 12-24 hours, I'd probably lose it forever. I'd lose it to the streets. If I didn't find it, who knows where it could end up! Alone and scared, maybe in the gutter, turning trick phone calls for a nickel a minute?!?
I booted up the laptop and sent out a distress signal to the family. If everyone called the number over the course of the night, someone would have to eventually notice it.
But when I landed in Chicago, no one had gotten a response.
I kept up the campaign late into the night and even early the next morning. But by the next morning, my calls were not met with rings, only a direct link to my voicemail.
My phone was off, and with it, likely any chance at recovery.
That was Sunday, and since then, I've been without a phone. Without remote email. Without my anchor.
Oh sure, I ordered a new one. But each new phone takes between 7-14 days to get processed.
And so I sit. Alone.
Some people would call that liberating. They'd say that freedom from the shackles of a modern cell phone would allow me to clear my head.
Those people are stupid.
I know that the access and processing of new information triggers the release of dopamine (or so I think I read). And sure, that's probably what's turned me into a complete info-zombie. Craving more and more data at all times. It's why I have a hard time watching a movie without a laptop, or taking the train without a podcast on my headphones.
Yes, I'm a complete information addict. And now, with no remote source of data, I'm just a stumbling junkie in withdrawal, wandering the streets looking for a data fix. I grew desperate, begging, even bargaining with strangers. I tried to trade my apartment for a list of the most blogged New York Times articles!
But there were no takers. So I'm still back in the stone age.
Just a lonely caveman in a crazy modern world.