Thursday, April 19, 2012

Phoning Home on the 300K

A lone tree on Coleridge Road outside of Siler City
It was one of those “oh sh#t” moments. On Sunday’s 300K pre-ride, I rolled into the Snow Camp control, 140 miles done, 50 to go. Plenty of daylight still and feeling fine, I decided to put a Facebook post, as I’d been doing along the way. Update my friends, enjoy the comments at the next stop. 

So I fish through my handlebar bag. Hmm. Phone doesn’t seem to be there. Check the jersey pockets. Check the top tube bag. Check the handlebar bag again. Maybe the phone is tucked into my arm warmers. Maybe if I rifle through this bag five or six more times, it will just magically appear, like a rabbit from a stovepipe hat.

There ain't no magic moment, and their ain't no phone. I replay the memory bank. Last place I had it was 12 miles back down the road, at the Siler City control. Where I checked Facebook posts, then set it on a window ledge in front of the Kangaroo store.

For about 30 minutes I sat on the bench outside the Snow Camp store. Thinking hard about what I knew I was going to do next. And not looking forward to it. 25 bonus miles. I headed back down the Siler City-Snow Camp road. Into the dying wind.  I’d been riding ahead of Dean and Mike for most of the day, and met them just as they were leaving Siler City. I told them what was up, and that I’d catch up.

A barn on Old Switchboard Road
No surprise. No phone in Siler City. It was long gone. No one had turned it in, the clerk said. “People used to do that, but not many do that anymore,” he said.

I caught Dean and Mike at Snow Camp, and we enjoyed a fine 50 miles back to the finish, even with a 20-minute stop to remove a stubborn tire on Dean’s bike and repair a flat.

We finished at 1:13 a.m. Monday, for what turned out to be a very long day but a very good time. Except for that phone thing.

Fork Creek Mill
When I got home I used an app to see just where my phone might be. Fallen behind the trash can perhaps? On the side of the road between Snow Camp and Siler City?

Nope. Looks like my phone caught the midnight train to Georgia. It was in a suburb just south of Atlanta. In a little subdivision. On a cozy lot that backed up to a public park. 

It took me about five minutes to figure out the street address of where my phone was spending the night. Sweet dreams.

In the morning, I used the same app to send a sound through the phone and a friendly text. I said it would be great to have my phone returned and texted my home number. Call me, I said. I may have casually mentioned that I was able to see the phone’s present location.

I had no great hopes of getting the phone back – the fact is you can pop the SIM card out of a stolen iPhone and replace it with a new one, then reactivate it. You may be surprised to learn AT&T doesn’t track stolen phones. They’re being sued over that right now. 

According to Forbes reporter Kashmir Hill, a class action lawsuit has been filed in California. The plaintiffs in the case -- Hilary White, Jeff Pello, and Natalie Warren all had their iPhone stolen, and they think AT&T could have been tracking stolen phones all along.

Hill dug through the complaint and found the reason for the lawsuit:

AT&T has “[made] millions of dollars in improper profits, by forcing legitimate customers, such as these Plaintiffs, to buy new cell phones, and buy new cell phone plans, while the criminals who stole the phone are able to simply walk into AT&T stories and ‘re-activate’ the devices, using different, cheap, readily-available ‘SIM’ cards."

It looks like the government is going to force smartphone providers’ hands on that issue very soon. In the meantime there are thousands of people who are in my shoes, forced to buy a new phone when theirs gets gone.

My shoes took me to the Apple Store at lunch on Monday, to get a new phone. I like the Apple store, so it was a pleasant enough trip. Brad, who was helping me, had my credit card in hand, ready to swipe it through, when another employee came up.

“You Mike? Your wife is on the phone.”

I borrowed one of the store’s phones to call home. Yep, a woman called, said she’d found it in a parking lot. Where might she send it back to? she asked. That seems reasonable enough. She very likely might have found it in a parking lot. I’d had the password protection on, so the phone was useless to the person who took it. Unless they knew to pop the SIM card out, they might have just thrown it down.

The phone’s not back home yet. I’m hopeful it will arrive in the next day or two. And that I’ll have it in hand on Saturday. I’ll be volunteering at the Snow Camp control. If I have my phone by then, and you’re riding slow enough to pass through when I’m there, I’ll take your picture. Maybe post it on Facebook. So big smiles and enjoy the ride. Even when things don’t go as planned.

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