Unclassified Info: Lost and too often not found

By the time I discovered my iPhone was lost, I knew the odds of finding it were slim to none. I dashed in to Vons to grab a coffee before writing last week’s column. After adding cream and Splenda to my cup of joe, I forgot to pick up my phone. I went home, spent a couple of hours writing and soon after realized the phone was gone.

My 10-year-old daughter, with her optimistic heart, tried calling the phone to see if someone would pick up. Unfortunately, her call went straight to voice mail, indicating the phone had already been switched off.

“I once found a credit card in a store and gave it to the store manager,” she told me. The thought that my daughter’s sense of right and wrong was in the right place lifted my heart.

With no expectations of finding it, I drove back to the store only to have my suspicions confirmed. I then drove to the Apple Store, where I spent some of my Presidents Day handing over a considerable amount of Benjamin Franklins to replace the stolen phone.

As I was waiting for my new phone to be activated, I thought about how sad it was that my expectation of recovering my phone was so low from the get-go. It depressed me to realize that somebody consciously picked up my phone and walked away with it as if it was their right to do so. There was no doubt the property wasn’t theirs, yet this person seemed to feel that if someone else left it, manifest destiny made it theirs.

I must admit a certain loathing of that philosophy as I write this, and also that I am filled with a great desire to see karma repay them with a whole lot of loss in the very near future.

The New York Times recently reported that in Japan, 75% of lost cell phones are returned. In fact, Japan has an almost unfathomable rate of return for all lost items. In their country, there is a cultural pride in returning things that don’t belong to you.

The Japanese government literally has buildings filled with returned items. It is also common for those who have left something behind to find it exactly where they forgot it — untouched.

So why can’t we keep our dirty little hands off things that don’t belong to us? I don’t believe it is so much a matter of needing the money as it is a matter of lacking decency and consideration.

It’s behaviors like this that define a society. Yes. We have freedoms that other countries do not have, and I am sure I am going to get the obligatory flag-waving letters telling me how subversive and unpatriotic I am for admitting that another country’s people stand on a higher moral ground than Americans.

It saddens me to think that I can’t go into a Starbucks, grab a coffee, forget my phone and return to find it there when I return. I believe having to live with one eye constantly on our belongings puts an undue and unnecessary amount of pressure on our lives.

And I don’t buy the argument that I should not have forgotten my phone in the first place. We all forget things. We are not perfect, and we should not have to pay hundreds of dollars to replace something because of a momentary memory lapse.

So instead of feeling like we belong to a community where we are watching out for one another, we live more as paranoid isolationists, always looking over our shoulders, installing alarms and bolting down everything we value so our fellow neighbor doesn’t walk away with it.

In the end, the solution isn’t getting an app that helps you find your phone, locking your bike to a pole or buying a locator to help recover your stolen car. What really needs to be installed is the respect for others and their property.

But it looks like that will have to be a grass-roots effort.

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at gh@garyhuerta.com.

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