Sunday, January 4, 2015

Adventures in the Bush

OK.  So I peed in the bushes.  It was a rare Sunday afternoon of beer for me, and I knew I was in trouble as we approached New York City’s heavily trafficked exit door at the Holland Tunnel.  My friend at the wheel assured me we would make it as we entered the tunnel.  He had it all figured out – with several service stations lining the welcome corridor in New Jersey, we would just pull off and scramble madly for a bathroom.  Every man for himself.  But it didn't happen that way.

As it turns out, urination is not a priority for these stations.  Perhaps there is not much profit in it - I don't know.  But after being told by two attendants in different buildings that there were no bathrooms, my physiologic needs trumped all decorum.  I am not a green thumb, and I rarely give a second glance to the varied flora around me.  But at that moment my eyes were sharp for it, looking for that perfect little forest in a paved and heavily trafficked Jersey City plaza that formed the concrete world of the Port Authority. 

Not only did I find the thicket of my dreams against the neglected side of a small brick kiosk, but once inside I probably took the bark off whatever shrub was in front of me.  Then I found something else.  Suspended in the branches of that small jungle was a flat little black case.  I plucked the small prize as I left the grove and opened its leathery folds as my friend gunned the engine with assertion and peeled away from the scene of our crime.  And behold – it was an iPhone.

Interestingly, my own Android smartphone suffered screen failure mere days before; once turned on, it mocked me by yielding only a single white pixel, teasing me with cute little chirps as my finger blindly tickled its black glass surface, yet yielding nothing in the way of useable information.  Was this some divine offering in the thicket? Yet the scruples I so quickly abandoned in the bushes were returning.  In my post-micturition delirium, I searched the device for clues as to its rightful owner.  It had no password protection and with all the respect I could muster, I explored it further.

The amateur detective in me noticed a few things right away.  The phone was powered on when I found it and had a minimal charge.  With a battery standby time of 2-300 hours, it could conceivably have been there for over a week.  But the phone was bone-dry and it had been raining as recently as two days earlier.  I did not delve into the messaging or emails, which may have given me further glimpses into its final moments before it was orphaned.

It soon became apparent from the wallpaper and limited messages that this phone belonged to a young lady.  That this was found in the bushes caused me some concern.  Was there a darker story to this?  Could this device, now thoroughly bathed in my fingerprints, be a vital piece of evidence in an investigation of more scandalous import?  I shuddered to think of security tapes playing on the six o’clock news, showing me smiling as I departed with haste from a thoroughly soaked crime scene.

I used the phone’s remaining charge to call AT&T, the service provider for the device.  The initial recording asked if I was calling about “732-xxx-yyzz” and I promptly copied down the number for possible future reference.  An AT&T representative told me I could drop the phone off at any AT&T center, yet when I visited the only nearby kiosk I was told in so many words they were ill-equipped to reunite lost phones with distraught owners.  It appeared that was a task I unwittingly inherited as soon as I picked up the device.

I went through the phone’s contact list and finally talked to a lady named Anna.  I asked her if she was indeed Anna M., and she guardedly acknowledged she was.

“Well, I am calling you from a phone I found in New Jersey,” I said, and when I told her the number of the phone, her now-relaxed and cheerful voice acknowledged it was indeed her daughter’s phone.

“Of the eight phones she lost recently, you’re the first person who bothered to call that you found one.”  She went on to say that her husband borrowed the phone, and he was the one who lost it.  Then she asked where I found it.  I was suddenly on the spot.  Unless he was a highly dedicated botanist, the most likely reason to visit the hidden thicket of trees by the tunnel entrance would be for baser intent.  Other possible reasons just got worse from there.  I decided to avoid indulgence in possible motives.  Somehow, I managed to return the conversation to the joyful anticipation of a smartphone reunion.

She asked me to let her know how much shipping the phone back to her would be and offered to write me a check.  I suggested instead that she just “pay forward” the same spirit of favor for someone else in similar straits.  I did not require compensation for postage, an act that would only whittle away the good will, which was enough.

Perhaps a karma may result, bringing me another smartphone - one I can keep.  Or maybe that karma will just ensure a wonderful summer of convenient bushes when I desperately need them.  That would be enough.

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