The post I read for the BlogHer '10 Community Keynote was Phone Karma. I wrote the post, about finding a lost iPhone on the subway, partially as an exercise following a writing session at BlogHer '09.
For the community keynote, my reading had to be four minutes max, so I had to cut the piece down. This turned out to be an interesting add-on to the writing lesson. When I first wrote the piece, I was trying to include details and color. So the post in its original form is rather long for me.
When I went back to trim it, in the end I felt like the piece got stronger and tighter. So I wanted to share that version on my blog as well.
I got onto the Blue Line at Jackson and sat down next to an iPhone.
My first reaction: An empathetic sinking feeling for the poor soul who surely realized their mistake the instant the train pulled away. My second reaction: Bomb.
A brilliant plan to leave a shiny iPhone on a train bound for O’Hare, to be scooped up by some greedy soul and walked right onto a airplane. I picked it up.
It looked used. A bomb in an iPhone would surely be in a new iPhone, I decided.
And so, I held a 16-gig iPhone in my hand. Covet. What to do? I was already pushing it on time, I hadn’t yet acquired a boarding pass, and now I’m going to hunt down Metro lost and found at O’Hare? I sat there with the iPhone for a moment.
I looked up and boldly queried my neighbors. “Does anyone know if there’s a lost and found at O’Hare? I sat down next to this.”
I waved the iPhone high. My fellow passengers looked at it as though I’d just hoisted a gold bar above my head. iPhone. Lost iPhone and I’m basically offering it to strangers.
A friendly fellow confirmed that there was likely a lost & found at O’Hare, but just as I’m telling myself I’m going to have to take time on the airport end to deal with this, an athletic girl with cool short hair and a bike offers to take the phone and find a number in the directory to call when she gets home to return it.
I quickly decide that if you’re going to offer a lost iPhone up to the general populace, you’re just going to have to trust the soul who stands up to take care of it. I give her the phone and thank her.
Soon we’re exchanging stories of lost phones. Bike chick tells how a friend of hers had lost a phone and she’d been the last number called, so the person who found the phone called her and the phone was reunited with its owner.
“Now you can pay it forward,” I say.
I tell how my phone had fallen out of my purse in a restaurant the night before. It had taken me a beat to realize and so it sat on the floor behind my booth for 2 or 3 minutes - unsnatched, unkicked.
I decide that I’m paying it forward, too. Thanking the universe for my safe retrieval of my phone. Phone karma.
The other Metro passengers do not join our conversation. No matter what their assessment of the likelihood that the phone will be returned to its owner, they let it lie. It is on a new path.
But at a later stop, someone pokes their head into the train and says something. I don’t even hear it.
All I know is, the scruffy guy in the corner suddenly says loudly, “The phone! You have the phone!”
It was the train operator looking for the phone, but now he is gone and the doors are closed. “Hit the button,” the scruffy guys says, pointing.
I speak into the microphone. “We have the phone,” No response.
Scruffy guy stands and he tries and this time the operator’s voice replies, “What car are you in?”
Scruffy guy says, “The last car.”
I think about making my flight. We passengers sit barely patient. But, the phone must go home. I am so relieved for the owner who surely must have thought it was a lost cause but tried anyway because how can you not?
The train operator arrives; bike chick gives him the phone; he says thank you, and I look at the time - on my Not-An-iPhone - and decide I will probably make my flight.
I didn’t hear the operator poke his head in. If I hadn’t spoken up and involved my spontaneous community of fellow passengers, I might have missed my flight while I wandered around looking for some Metro lost and found.
I am sure that someone could easily pocket an iPhone. I don’t know what one would have to do to use it, but I’m sure plenty of people do. But for many of us, we have a collective understanding of how losing your tech feels. Of the cost of it. Of the shiny. I am personally so thankful that that phone will make its way back into its owner’s hands.
Chatting with the friendly guy we talk about how I’m in town for a blogging conference. “You’ll have to blog this,” he says. “The story of the phone.”