Sometime between the hours of 7am and 8:30am on Tuesday March 22nd 2016, my iPhone 5S was stolen.
I had just pulled an all nighter finishing a very complicated programming project and went to the gym to work out, as an attempt to “wake up”. This technique has worked quite well for me and is directly plagiarized from Casey Neistat, a YouTuber who functions on the assumption that you can exchange hours of sleep for hours of exercise.
I left all my stuff in the locked team room that belongs to my volleyball team. I brought my wallet (which acts like my key) and water bottle up to the gym with me, and had a good lift. When I returned to my team room, my phone was missing.
Over the next couple hours I went through five “stages” and I’m going to detail them below. These are my Five Stages of Getting Something Stolen from Me.
Stage 1: Denial
My phone must be here, it must! Maybe I had put it on the wrong shelf, in the wrong cubby, over there under the towels… anywhere! I couldn’t have been stolen from, the team room is locked by fob access, only a handful of people can even get in. The gym opens at 7am… so who would even be here? I’d trust my teammates with anything … but perhaps someone was playing a practical joke … a cruel, cruel joke? I glanced around the room and tried to discern where a teammate would hide my phone. Behind the TV? In the fridge? In the bathroom? As I searched this bubbling bubbling darkness started growing inside of me. I was desperately trying to avoid thinking that I had been robbed. I turned the team room upside in the attempt to hide from the idea that I was a victim. I decided that I wouldn’t stumble upon my hidden phone until I had a shower, but the shower was a desolate wasteland of despair. I didn’t matter what I thought about, I physically felt awful. After the shower I started to overthink the situation.
Stage 2: Self – Doubt
Was I sure that I had brought the phone into the team room? Where was the last time I distinctly remember having my phone? I thought back to that long night.
I had arrived at the computer lab around 9, and waited until 9:30 for my partner to arrive. I had my phone then, because I had just uploaded a picture to Instagram and my phone kept on giving me notifications. At 9:30 we began to tackle this behemoth of a project. The project involved implementing an algorithm designed to process large amounts of data across multiple machines. The actual implementation is beyond the scope of the course, because we don’t know how to communicate between process on different machines, so we restricted ourself to communicating between processes on the same machine. More information about the MapReduce algorithm that our program implemented can be found here. At 11:30 we made the decision that since we were on a roll, we should just continue to work until competition. However we were both getting hungry and a bit tired so we adjourned to get food. Once we consumed some milk shakes and burgers, and watched a couple of YouTube videos, we resumed our efforts. Finally, at the tender hour of 5:30am we were satisfied with our assignment. It worked well and only had a couple of stylistic elements that needed to be fixed before submission. So we called it a night and headed out, my partner to his residence, and me to get a coffee from Tims. I sat in Tim Hortons for half an hour, nursing a double double, scrolling through Reddit and browsing Imgur. My most recent Instagram upload had also reached a record breaking, at least for me, number of likes. So I definitely had my phone at that 24-hour Tim Hortons. Once 6:30am rolled around, I began to make my way to the gym. The doors official open at 7am, so I sat outside and continued to browse the internet looking at funny images. Then the doors opened and I went down to the team room like any other morning (I typically work out at 7am, it makes me more productive).
There! My phone must have reached the team room. There’s no other explanation for it. What if it fell out of my pocket? What if I randomly put it down somewhere? As ridiculous as these thoughts sounds as I write them, they legitimately crossed my mind.
Stage 3: Hope
What are my feasible options? Well, I know the person that works at the front desk, she must know who’s entered the building in the past hour. I take the elevator up to the ground floor and talk to the people working at the front desk. Apparently one of my team mates came in around 7:30am. This could be promising. I realize his locker is directly next to mine. Of course! On his way out of the team room he could’ve easily grabbed my phone from my cubby by mistake. It would be an easy thing to do at 7 in the morning whilst one is still half asleep. I Facebook message my team mate and I ask him to check his stuff. I mean, this is the only logical explanation for the scenario that I’ve found myself in.
“I have mine. I don’t have a phone. I just went in there to fill up my bottle. sorry bro. I was in there after my physio appt, and I didn’t see anyone but I’ll keep my ears peeled and my eyes open. I’m sure it’ll turn up”
Stage 4: Emptiness
My heart drops like a stone through water. He wasn’t supposed to say that. He was supposed to be my deus ex machina, my happily ever after. I don’t know what to do. I try turning on Find My iPhone. It says that it’s offline. I never have my data on so there’s no way it’ll ever be connecting to the internet again. My team room is also three floors underground, where the luxury of cellular service doesn’t exist. I try calling my phone from the front desk: instant voice mail. I hear a much younger version of myself telling me that “I’ll get back to you as soon as I can”. Yeah right.
I ask the front desk what I should do. This can’t be the first theft in the building’s history. It may only be two years old but there’s no way I’m the first. They tell me to contact campus police. I trudge half way across campus to their office, I expect the worst. After I explain my situation to the officer I hear the tune that I was expecting. There are two ways that the police could get my phone back. One, the thief holds up my phone to the security camera and announces that they have just stolen this phone, and the phone must be identifiable as mine. Or two, it shows up at a pawn shop and they match my Serial Number with it. A small part of me hoped that the police would be actually useful, but hope was stage 3: this is stage 4, so obviously that’s not happening.
As I leave the police station I pat the front pockets of my jeans. On my left I feel the reassuring lump of my wallet, on the right there’s only my jeans separating my palm from some very sore quadriceps femoris. I am lopsided. I don’t like it. As I walk through campus there is suddenly a flurry of movement as students empty out of lecture halls and scurry to their next class. What time is it?
I’ve long stopped wearing a watch, since I got into the habit of breaking them while playing casual volleyball. I wonder what I should be doing right now?
I used a physical agenda for the first half of grade 7 through 11. By the winter break I would grow tired of writing in it and just kept reminders on my iPod Touch. When I got my first smart phone for grade 12, my entire calendar and agenda became digital.
Somehow I remember that I have class at 10am, and that I really should attend this one. As I sit in lecture, my head starts to nod as the professor drones on and on about solving systems of differential equations using the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of the matrix created from the coefficients. My notes become few and far between as my head nods. Every now and then, my elbow slips off the desk causing my head to go into a free fall before I snap back into consciousness, much like a kick in Inception. I should probably go take a nap.
I resign myself to going to get food first. I’m hungry, it’s noon, and I haven’t eaten since midnight. I’m still feeling empty, as if a physical part of me has been stolen with the phone. The all-you-can-eat chicken nuggets at the cafeteria attempt to fill the hole, but they just aren’t suited for the task.
The emptiness is hard to describe, but I’ll try. It’s the lack of comfort from being able to text your friends. It’s the worry that you’ll miss a phone call. It’s the realization that you’ll have a buy a new phone, which will cost a lot of money. It’s the mistrust for your fellow man. It’s newfound wariness of the place where it went missing. It’s the forced disconnect from social media. It’s the inability to check the time. It’s the inability to use your phone to pass the time in elevators. It’s the Fear Of Missing Out, because what if someone needs to get a hold of you right now. It’s the disappointment in yourself for letting something like this happen.
It’s. Just. Empty.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Okay. So I took a nap from 12pm – 5pm, although that feels too long to be properly called a nap. What I do now?
Okay. My phone is gone. There’s no point in getting angry, that’ll do no good. I’ve done everything that I can to get my phone back. I’ve talked to the right people and filled out detailed police reports. At this point I just need to accept that my phone is gone.
My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone.
Much the opening scene in the Simpsons, I keep telling myself this. I also refuse to use copy and paste to write this. As I walk I try to accept that this is my life now. My phone is gone.
My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone. My phone is gone.
As I write that my phone is gone again and again, the words start looking more and more foreign. This phenomenon also happens when you repeat a word enough times: it begins to sound like gibberish. “My phone is gone” is a series of squiggles that carries so much meaning in my life right now, but with repetition, the meaning starts to fade as the character of the statement begins to emerge. The character of a statement is what it atheistically looks like, without any of it’s symbolic connotation. And as I repeat that my phone is gone, the emptiness starts to fade away. The character of the statement emerges as a solitary fact. I no longer have a phone.
I’m probably going to have to buy a phone in the near future. Okay. I’ve made money working a part-time job, I guess this is what I will spend that money on. I’ve accepted my current situation. Life goes on.
The Silver Lining
I refuse to label this as Stage 6. That would imply that the only time someone finds the silver lining is during times of hardship. I want to try and find the silver lining in every moment: good, bad and neutral. I want to find something interesting/gorgeous/weird to look at while I walk to class.
Finding the silver lining when my phone was stolen, wasn’t all too hard. I’ve been trying to separate myself from constantly checking technology for a while, and I guess that since I couldn’t do it the easy way, I’ll have to do it the hard way. This is an ironic goal coming from a student majoring in Computer Science, but life does exist beyond the screen.
I hope that you can find the silver lining for every moment too. It’s a nice thing to find.