It’s 3:40am. I’m at the Lionel-Groulx metro stop in Montreal waiting to catch the 747 bus to the airport. I’m reading a book as the bus pulls up, right on time. I silently count off the items I can’t leave the city without, all packed safely and double-checked before leaving my house: computer, charger, gluten free soy sauce, phone. Yes, I packed them all. The soy sauce is for just in case I go to a sushi restaurant and need to bring my own soy sauce. I never leave town without it. It’s safely stored in my luggage. I used my phone to call the Teo Taxi that picked me up and drove me to the metro stop, so I know I have that one. And my computer is in my bag, making it noticeably heavier.
I haul my suitcase up onto the bus and reach into my right pocket for my OPUS card. The card is there, but the pocket feels strangely empty. What’s missing? My mind is slow this early, and I figure I must have taken any unnecessary items out of the pocket when I switched jackets this morning.
I’m heading to warmer weather, after all. No need for a parka.
I take three steps towards the baggage rack at the back of the bus and stop dead in my tracks. My face falls. I know what I forgot. “No, no, no, no, no,” I start saying. I must look like a crazy person, but the man seated in front of the baggage rack doesn’t even glance up at me. My hand flies back to my right-hand pocket.
My phone is missing. I just had it. I’m on my way to a foreign country where I need Google Maps and my recording app to conduct 10 interviews with my magazine clients. I need to transcribe those interviews and turn them into ten articles by the end of the following week. I’d been on the Teo Taxi app when my driver was approaching in his electric-powered Nissan. I’d put my phone safely in my pocket after getting into the back seat, I was sure. But then I’d pulled out my gloves and left the pocket open. Was it possible the phone had fallen out? My hands were cold during the short trip. I’d needed those gloves. It was still parka weather, after all.
It couldn’t be missing, I told myself. It must just be somewhere else. I stood in the bus checking all my pockets. Maybe I’d put it in the front of my carry-on. Not there. Had I slipped it in a back pocket without thinking? Empty. What about the front of my luggage? No.
“No, no, no,” I repeated. Too late to get off the bus. And what would I do anyway? I couldn’t call the cab without its number. But the number would be on the Teo Taxi app, I figured. I felt helpless. All I could do was let the bus carry my where it wished.
Who looks generous? I thought, looking around the bus. A teenage Asian girl. She’d have a cell, but probably not the app. A 20-something Middle Eastern girl on her phone. Maybe. I settled on a 40-something man with dark curly hair and a semi-professional look.
I gave him the story and a tired, stressed look. I even pushed my luck and asked him to download the app, not knowing if he was a local or even had data. He hesitated and mumbled something I couldn’t understand. But he took pity on me.
“Why don’t you call your phone?” he suggested.
How stupid of me. Of course, that’s the easy way. The driver would hear it and pick it up and be my knight in shining armour by driving it to the airport, I was sure – for which I would gladly pay him the $40 airport trip fee. So I dialed, only remembering when there was no answer that I’d had my phone on silent. He’d never hear it. I handed the phone back to the man with dark hair.
I must have looked so desperate that a minute later, he handed the phone back to me. My jaw dropped a little. He’d actually downloaded the app for me. I logged in. My account came up. The recently finished trip came up. My heart jumped for joy!
$5.95 from my house to Lionel-Groulx. Arrived at 3:30am. That was it! But there was no number to call the driver. There was no number for Teo Taxi either. Instead, there’s a “start a conversation” button. So I did.
“I just drove with driver TKTK in his Nissan #TKTK [name and car number left out for privacy] and left my cell phone in the back seat. I’m headed to the airport and need the phone. Can you please contact the driver?”
I hit send on the text message and waiting for those promising three dots to appear and indicate that someone in an office somewhere had seen my call for help and was answering.
No one was working at 3:45am. I checked the app for other options and re-checked the ride history page to make sure I hadn’t missed a phone number for the driver. I tapped the picture of his face, his car, the ride price. Nothing again.
Okay, calm down, I thought. I can get a cheap replacement phone, or get GPS added to the car rental, and either buy a recording device or a notepad and take crazy amounts of notes until my hand wants to fall off. Or carry around my laptop and record directly onto it. Or just take notes onto the computer as the interviewees talked. I can type without looking at my hands, so I could still nod and have a conversation. It’d even eliminate the transcription step. Heck, maybe this would make my job easier. But it looks weird when you’re typing someone’s words while looking at them. The experience doesn’t feel natural for them. So I’m leaning towards the computer recording with the screen facing away so it doesn’t feel obtrusive. Besides, I have ten chances to try different approaches and see which works the best.
And I know the route to my hotel from the airport, at least. I’ve been twice before. I’ll just have to use WIFI at the hotel and make sure I memorize my maps before leaving. I’m bound to get lost. And I won’t be able to call the interviewees for last minute directions when I end up on a former airfield in the middle of nowhere (been there, done that).
At least I have my computer. I can use Messenger and email and even call people from my computer. Besides, there’s a landline in the hotel room. So much for Instagram this week, but I can still post to other social media and keep on top of my business.
Really, a week without a phone is pretty freeing. It’s an opportunity to problem solve. A challenge. Glass half full.
The second I got through customs and security, I checked my email. My receipt from Teo Taxi had arrived for the trip. Reply! I thought. But then I noticed a little link at the bottom.
“Did you forget something in the car?” the screen reads.
Why yes, I did. This must happen all the time. I clicked the link and a new email opened with my trip number already pasted in.
“I left my cell phone in this car and am headed to the airport. I won’t be back until next Wednesday. Can you please let me know what can be done?”
Ambiguous, yes. If they want to send me the cell phone, I will sing their praises on Twitter. I will be a convert for life. But even the fact that they now know I left something in that vehicle gives me a little peace of mind. One little link, one quick email and I’m okay with being cellphone-less.
Or, almost. There’s a tiny bit of anxiety still in my chest about never getting the phone back – and certainly about managing without it for a week. Apps and contacts are powerful things. Waiting for my flight to board, I reach instinctively into my right pocket again, still convinced it’s hiding in there. How did it fall out? What can I do differently next time?
And then I shrug, sigh and stand up to board my plane. Onward and upward.