Five days ago, in the sardine-packed Ferry building in San Francisco, I came across someone's phone in the stall of the ladies restroom. Knowing that someone was either panicking--or was about to-- when they discovered their phone was gone, I asked everyone in the crowded room if that was their phone. I then asked the lady who was in a conversation in Spanish if she could ask the room in Spanish if it was anyone's phone. No one answered, so I took the phone out to the coffee kiosk next to the restroom and was turning the phone in when a harried lady walked up to me.
"Oh, you found it! Thank you for turning it in!", she said, a look of complete relief flashing across her face.
I understood. These days, the phone is the equivalent of an entire purse, file cabinet, CD collection, relationship journal (with everyone we know) and photo album all rolled into one. Some people may not like it, but our phones are IMPORTANT to us.
Mine has the candid pictures of my wedding. Like the way my husband looked at me from the altar as I came down the aisle. The photo of my son and I displaying our matching Chuck Taylors at the reception.
The ones from my honeymoon, us in our matching newlywed shirts, pictures from restaurants whose names I've forgotten if not for the pictures.
Pictures from our latest weekend trip, which haven't even been uploaded yet. Candids of our kids that we haven't posted. A text conversation over a year long between my husband and I--a journal of our entire wedding planning and first year of marriage. "I love you" texts from my Mom. My current grocery list. A list of the things I have in my mind to write about. My kindle. My fantasy football team.
What ISN'T on our phones anymore?
I was victim of a theft AND injustice this week. I, for some reason, am walking around suspicious of everyone around me, regardless of where I am, who they are or what they look like. AND I DON'T LIKE THAT FEELING.
Three days ago, my son and I went to run some errands. We went to Hobby Lobby and had to go to the grocery store, and (I thought) luckily, there was a store next door.
Don't you hate when you have that little teeny voice in your mind (sometimes I consider it God giving me a little heads-up) that throws out a little something and you consider it for a moment, then shove it aside and continue on?
That happened. "You don't really like this particular store, you used to live over here, just go the extra few blocks to the one you like." Nope.
Part way through shopping I took a bathroom break. I set my phone on a little shelf in the bathroom and promptly forgot it there. It hadn't been two minutes of being back out shopping when I realized it, because of course my grocery list is on it.
I went back to the bathroom. It wasn't there. I didn't quite panic yet, because MOST HUMAN BEINGS are decent and it was probably sitting sadly on the Customer Service desk waiting for me.
I went back to the bathroom.
I retraced my entire line through the store, thinking maybe I dropped it, but knowing I didn't, because I have a photographic memory and pictured myself setting it on the stupid bathroom shelf.
Back to customer service.
Out to the truck to see if I left it there and was just crazy.
Back to the bathroom.
Customer service to try calling it.
It rang, and eventually went to voicemail.
THEN I knew it was stolen.
Right then I got mad as HELL because something I've worked hard for was TAKEN.
I have an iPhone 6, that was gifted to me by my husband. It's not cheap, but we're not lazy.
We work. We EARNED what we have. Every. Single. Bit of it.
I also got shaky because so much of my personal, private life is in that phone. Whomever took it had to see my background photo.
The lady at the customer service counter took my information and felt bad because I was clearly upset. Finally, dejectedly, I called my husband.
Within seconds of explaining what happened, he said, "Let's hang up, I'm going to do the locator several times. Walk around the store and see if you hear it. If you don't I'm locking it and whoever took it will never be able to use it or sell it."
I had COMPLETELY forgotten about that capability.
We hung up and he started setting off the locator. My son and I wandered the store, listening astutely, ready to pounce. Finally, after walking behind the checkstands, my son announces, "I hear it Mom! It's over there!" and points to the "paid" side of the checkstands, close to the front door. At that point, I heard it too. Unmistakable.
It led me straight to the cart of a woman whose eyes looked surprised and as though she was in a hurry to leave the store. Her kid, around 8 years old, stood there holding a phone that wasn't mine. I went directly up to the woman and said, "You have my phone."
Her son interrupts me and says, "No, it's THIS phone and I'm playing a game that makes that noise."
Now MY son jumps in. "You're LYING, Samsung's don't even MAKE that noise."
I said to the woman, "GIVE me my phone." She says, "I don't have it, I don't know what you're talking about."
Meanwhile, my phone is STILL making the super loud "pinging" noise that Apple has lovingly designed.
A woman working in the store, presumably a manager, who KNEW I was looking for my phone, interjects from nearby and says, "Ma'am, that is HER cart, you need to step away from her things."
I looked at her like she had three heads. "SHE HAS MY PHONE, CAN YOU NOT HEAR THAT?"
Then, her checker, says to me rudely, "That is HER PHONE, Ma'am, it's been making that noise the whole time in line. Please leave her alone."
It is at that point, I was ready to punch someone. I had been stolen from, and now, the only blonde girl present, store staff and thief included, was being treated as though I was the one in the WRONG, interrupting this poor woman's shopping trip. As though I had singled her out. Why? Was I approaching her because she and I look different?
Umm, no. I WAS APPROACHING THE LIAR WHO WAS TRYING TO MAKE OFF WITH MY PHONE, MY PICTURES OF MY KIDS, MY CONVERSATIONS WITH MY HUSBAND.
FYI, I would have been ALL OVER a little cotton ball-haired old lady trying to make off with MY STUFF. I. DO NOT. PLAY.
What to do next flashed through my mind, because this woman was about to be out of the store. I was either going to make her give it back, not knowing if she was in any way armed, or I was going to just let her go.
All I knew was, IF she was armed, SHE WASN'T THE ONLY ONE.
I made the split second decision and yelled at all three of them: "MY HUSBAND IS SETTING OFF THE LOCATOR ON MY PHONE AND GUESS WHAT? IPHONE MAKES THAT NOISE AND IT'S COMING FROM YOUR PURSE. SO YOU'RE EITHER GIVING IT TO ME OR I'M GETTING IT MYSELF."
She again says, "I DON'T HAVE IT", and, with that, I grabbed her purse. She immediately grabbed it back, and at that moment I decided I was calling the police, until, she slowly unzipped it, as the pinging noise got louder, and produced MY PHONE. She handed it to me, and said "I THOUGHT IT WAS MINE."
I said, "BULLSHIT, YOURS IS RIGHT THERE AND LOOKS NOTHING LIKE MINE. YOU'RE A THIEF."
She pushed by me and said nothing else, no "I'm sorry", no nothing. No one was saying ANYTHING.
For good measure, you know I followed her outside and made sure she saw me scribbling down her license plate. She wouldn't make eye contact.
I was furious. FOR SO MANY REASONS.
I felt violated! I felt that gross feeling that comes from having something personal being intruded, that shaky feeling from an angry confrontation, from being lied to, from being made to feel like I was the one doing something wrong.
By the time I finished my shopping, and was approached by the same manager who told the crazy white girl to step away from a thief's things, being told "I'm glad you found your phone..." (no apologies)....I was DONE. FRUSTRATED. I told her, "I didn't FIND my phone. I RECOVERED it. No thanks to any of you. I will be letting your upper management know how you treat people who are victimized in your store." And then, handing a copy of the license plate and a vehicle description to the security guard, I informed him, "You might want to keep this. Clearly you have a thief shopping at your store."
On the way home, I fumed.
You know why? This woman saw my phone. I'm sure she saw my picture. She made a choice, to steal from another Mom, because I had seen her throughout the store and she SAW ME looking for my phone with my son. She didn't care. She was an opportunist who thought she could capitalize on something, I HAVE WORKED FOR.
I was treated like I was the privileged girl harassing someone.
I was taught to respect people, their possessions. I was taught to be honest. I was taught to work my ass off for what I wanted, that nothing was handed to you without working for it. It's how I live my life, and though I have plenty of flaws, I try to live according to these standards.
So the iPhone 6 I have? I was busy working 13-15 hour nights in an emergency room treating everyone from a Super Bowl performer to psychiatric homeless people I had to chase through parking lots to pay for it. Missing nights with my husband and kids.
That nursing school that I went to? I found a program who would pay for my classes if I gave the hospital two years. At the time, I had a newborn baby, a fulltime nightshift job at a psychiatric group home in Phoenix, and commuted four hours to get to class and be away from my new baby for two and a half days a week. I worked my ASS off in nursing school, and finished at the top.
At Christmas during nursing school, my only car broke down. I was making $10/hr two days a week working as a nursing extern while I was in school, and had to figure it out and/or borrow from my parents to get my car fixed so I could get to work.
I didn't get scholarships to college. I got good enough grades and a mountain of school loans to get through. I have had a job since I was 14.
I have had weeks, when working full time as a nurse, homeschooling my kids and helping run a church, that I was down to my last $60, which stretched for groceries AND gas for the week.
As a kid, I was EXPECTED to get good grades, got grounded for C's and was expected to clean and cook simply to help out. No allowance! We had what we needed and, based on merit only, a lot of what we wanted. I was told "no" plenty, I was rewarded for doing right, and spanked when being a jerkface. Because I had ACTUAL PARENTS, willing to do what was necessary to not raise an entitled phone-stealing derelict.
Everything I have, everything my husband and I have, the way we live, has been born of our work ethic. We don't expect anyone to swoop in and save us, give things to us. We are not entitled to what anyone else has earned and you know what? THAT WOMAN WAS NOT ENTITLED TO WHAT I HAVE WORKED FOR AND EVERYONE ELSE NEEDED TO MIND THEIR BUSINESS.
So, yes. I'm mad. I'm mad as hell.
Especially because I'm walking around paranoid now. That every person, everywhere I go, is going to grab my purse or jump me at the gas station. I'm having dreams of being held at gunpoint. I HATE that feeling. Over a simple theft and confrontation! WHY?
But I'm not going to play victim. I still choose to believe that people are inherently good, or at least good-intentioned. I choose to respect people, help people, love people. Nothing is going to change that.
I still would have turned that lady's phone in in San Francisco. And I will always expect people to be decent until they prove me wrong. Most of all, thanks be to God for helping me refrain from throat punching that woman in the store.
Because she totally deserved it.