April 18th, 2010 | Uncategorized


That’s a picture of me sadly searching the internet for clues about what to do when you lose your iPhone. I seem to have left mine in a cab in New York this afternoon. I know it’s very unseemly to come on here and whine about it, but I can’t figure out what to do and maybe you’ll all have some clever ideas. I did call this cool 311 number that NYC has for all kinds of minor city life bureaucratic details like parking rules and recycling schedules. Very smart, snappy people take all your information and for a second you feel hopeful. I had the cab’s medallion number. But they won’t know anything for two days.

Should I call AT&T and cancel the service? This seems smart, but then whoever finds the phone won’t be able to find me. Right? We’ve been calling the phone all day to no avail, and sending texts to it

I’d show you pictures of my ferry ride to Staten Island last night to see Kate Clinton and Lily Tomlin perform. But they’re on my iPhone.

It’s very odd how much a part of myself that thing was. I feel strangely amnestic, not quite sure who or where I am.

36 Responses to “lost”

  1. Byrdie says:

    Have you called the store from where the phone was bought to find out what the standard procedure is for recovering one? I checked the Apple website but their only suggestion I found involved a MobileMe app that needs to be installed on the phone before loss. =/

    Good luck, Alison.

  2. Anne Lawrence says:

    Use landlines.

  3. hairball_of_hope says:

    Bummer… the 311 number is one of the best things Bloomberg has brought to NYC (the other being the complete smoking ban in public places).

    You did the right thing calling 311, they will contact the TLC (Taxi Limousine Commission) to track down the cab drivers for that medallion. That can take a few days, most drivers lease their cars/medallions from the actual medallion owner, and the owner has to track down the driver or provide that info to the TLC.

    Most likely, a passenger found the phone and didn’t turn it in to the driver, so you might be at the mercy of a passenger’s honesty.

    When I find something valuable and traceable in a cab, I do the return myself. I’ve tracked down two different folks whose wallets I’ve found in cabs, both were amazed to get all their money back along with the IDs (it’s assumed that taking the cash is ok as long as the IDs are returned).

    If there’s some magic app that will help track down your iPhone, TekServe will be able to help you. They are the best independent Apple store in Manhattan, W.23 St between 5th and 6th Ave, (212) 929-3645.

    The bad news is that an iPhone is like instant cash to a finder or thief. Remove the SIM card and sell it on eBay or Craigslist, AT&T will sign up the new owner no questions asked.

    I hope you weren’t foolish enough to store passwords to your various accounts on the phone. I doubt you did, but there really are people who save their passwords to online banking and e-mail on their phones.

  4. bpod says:

    This is my favorite iPhone recovery story:

  5. hairball_of_hope says:

    Dumb question… did you try checking your voicemail? Someone who found your phone and figured out the number might try calling it and leaving you a message for return. S/he might not want to answer calls or texts received on the phone.

  6. Joe c says:

    Man, that’s a shame. It’s too late this time, but if you sign up for Apple’s MobileMe service you can find out where your phone is via it’s GPS and see a map of it’s location on the web, send it a message to display in case someone wants to know where to return it, tell it to erase itself in case it’s REALLY gone, and even make it beep if you’ve misplaced it in your house and the silencer is on.

  7. Rose says:

    1. Call your phone. Maybe someone will pick up. I’ve gotten my phone back in NYC a few times this way.

    2. After you tried calling your phone, call your service provider and ask if they can suspend service while you look for it. They should be able to do this for a short period (a few days to a few weeks).

    3. In addition to following up with the 311 call you made, call the precincts in manhattan that are responsible for stuff lost in cabs. Here’s a list of the precincts. http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/html/passenger/lost_property_precincts.shtml Call the one nearest where you lost it first, but try the other one in the borough too. (this is how I was succesful in finding my lost smartphone).

    Good luck!

  8. Rose says:

    and yeah, I’m a phone losing pro…

  9. Thor says:

    Also, put a ‘lost’ notice at Craigslist. It couldn’t hurt, and it’s free.

    Good luck! I hope your story has a happy ending.

  10. Rebecca Sparks says:

    Yes, do call at&t to suspend your service. The worst that will happen if you call is you might need to buy another phone chip; the best that can happen is stop someone from using your phone inappropriately. You will not have to make the choice to shut off service or get a new phone immediately.

    Hopefully, you can just get your phone back and reactivate your service like nothing ever happened.

  11. AnnieB says:

    I like that you used unseemly šŸ™‚ That’s a great word and not often used these days. Sorry to hear about your iPhone misadventure.
    I was at the Javits some year ago in NYC, for a comic book convention as it happens, and lost my wallet. It was found, I was paged and everything returned to me (including the cash) within a half hour. I had only just become aware it was missing! So there’s hope. Best of luck and hoping that your wayward phone comes back none the worse for wear from its walkabout travels.

  12. Dylan T. says:

    On feeling amnesiac: At least you haven’t progressed as far as Steve Mann, who ended up in a wheelchair after losing his own bit of technology.

  13. Julia says:

    I’m sorry to hear that. I guess the only thing you could do is send a text message to the phone, saying “Hi, I’m the owner of this phone. Please call -your-number-” and it would probably be wise to offer a reward right in the text message too, seeing as it’s an iPhone and these tend to sell quite well… On the other hand, the good thing about the iPhone is that the message will pop up right on the screen so whoever found it should be able to see it straight away.

    I am always worried about losing my iPhone, which is why I bought the (rather expensive) MobileMe service from Apple – it has a “Find my iPhone”-feature, AND it has an option to remote-erase your iPhone. I don’t have super-sensitive data on mine, but still…

    Best of luck!!

  14. Khatgrrl says:

    Sorry to hear about your phone. I would definitely make a call to AT&T or the store that you purchased the phone from and find out proper procedure. Really sorry to hear that you lost your photos. That is probably the worst part of this. Although inconvient, the phone is totally replaceable, photos are not. Crud! Good luck!

  15. NLC says:

    Just a couple random thoughts (most of which you –or the places you’ve called– have probably already thought of):

    1] Some phones have built in GPS capability (even my relatively out-of-date kRzr has it, at least for 911-related calls.) Do iPhones support anything like this?

    2] I’d give it a couple of days before your cancel the service to give a potential finder any chance to Do The Right Thing. Also, the finder might not call you (unless it’s real easy to find your number on the phone.

    (The one time this has happened to any of us a stranger found my daughter’s cellphone, dialed the Contact for “Mom”, left it at the counter of the store where he found it and Mom picked it up on the way home from work. OTOH, this was a cheap-o Verizon phone, left in a rural Vermont town store, not a valuable iPhone in the back of an NYC cab….)

    3] Is there any way AT&T can tell you what numbers have been dialed on the phone? (That is, if finder decided to keep –and use– the phone, you might be able to call whoever s/he calls.)

    (OTOH it’s pretty unlikely that AT&T would do something like supply information like “Please Tell Me The Numbers That xxx-yyyy Called”, at least this side of a federal court order.)

    4] But like Byrdie#1 suggests, this is certainly not the first time something like this has happened. We can only hope that AT&T/Apple has has some good thoughts about what to do now…

  16. Dr. Empirical says:

    When people ask me why I don’t have a cell phone, my stock answer is “Because someone might call me.”

    Now I have a backup answer: “Because that way I’ll never lose one.”

    None of which helps Alison in any way.

  17. Calico says:

    I really don’t know; I have a regular old fashioned cellular phone from 1936. ; )

    Your wan expression at the computer is causing me to feel sad.

    Good luck finding it!

  18. judybusy says:

    Oh, Alison, I hope whoever found the phone has a conscience.

    bpod, quite a story!

    And now back to bacon, and a chance to plug one of my fave blogs, written by Nancy Nall–it comes with an interesting, dedicated community of commenters! Now, where have I come across that before….

  19. judybusy says:

    Drat, no matter how many times I proof, sometimes I just don’t do it right. Thanks in advance for you patience….http://nancynall.com

  20. Adam Ek says:

    Do you have an Apple Mobile Me or .Mac account? If so you can log on to the http://www.me.com site and click on the Find My iPhone link (button looks like a little radar screen). If your phone still has a battery charge, it will show a GPS or cell phone tower triangulated location of your phone. It will let you display a message on the iPhone’s screen and give you options for remotely locking your phone or remotely wiping the data from your phone.

  21. Bechadelic1 says:

    Aw, sorry to hear that you lost your phone Alison. You look so woebegone in that photograph, I wanted to reach into the computer monitor and pat your cheek in consolation.

    I don’t have any suggestions on how to get it back, but I have my fingers and toes crossed that you do indeed have it returned to you. My phone’s a bit like an extra body organ too, so I would feel extremely lost without it.

  22. I’m beginning to suspect that you’re all sales reps for MobileMe. Unfortunately I was not a subscriber. But I’m giving serious consideration to becoming one.

    Thanks to Hairball for asking if I’d checked my voicemail. I had been meaning to, but couldn’t remember how to do it from another phone. So I called AT&T to ask them, and the woman I spoke with suggested resetting my password so I said sure, let’s do that…but she didn’t realize that in order to activate the new password you need to have the #&^*$ phone. So now I can’t access my voicemail! Unless I schlep out to the AT&T store and get a new SIM card installed in another phone.

    I’m thinking of getting a SIM card installed in my frontal lobe.

  23. --MC says:

    Iā€™m thinking of getting a SIM card installed in my frontal lobe.

    Anybody here remember that great film “The President’s Analyst”?

  24. hairball_of_hope says:

    @AB (#22)

    Oooh, can I watch the SIM implantation surgery?

    Not sure how AT&T voicemail works from another phone, haven’t had AT&T in nearly 10 years. On Verizon, you call your cell number from another phone, then hit # when the voicemail answers. You’ll be prompted to enter your password, then you can access your voicemail and all the settings.

    As for the MobileMe stuff, what I’ve read on the web suggests that you’d be better off jailbreaking your phone (don’t tell AT&T) and using iLocalis, but again, you’d have to do that BEFORE losing your phone. Perhaps you might try the Family tracker GPS thingy on AT&T, that will work post-loss.

  25. I need a TimeTravel app so I can go back to yesterday at 1:20 pm, just before I got out of the cab without my phone.

    But first, I’d have to go back a little further so I could download the app.

    Wait…there’s something wrong with that plan, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

    God, I’m so addled without that device. Getting the DTs.

  26. NLC says:

    re: Time Travel, etc

    Do you know the Anthony Burgess story about Shakespeare?

    In brief, in the story we finally get an answer to the question whether or not Shackspear wrote all those plays.

    In short, no he didn’t.

    Rather all these literary types kept traveling back from the far future to determine whether Shaxepeer actually wrote the plays. So he would murder them, steal the copies of the plays that they always brought with them, and publish them as his own.

    (Not really on-topic, but maybe a little something to help you survive your iDTs….)

  27. Andi says:


    I imagine the following scenarios in the NYC cab where you lost your iPhone:

    1) Young person finds it, exclaims, “Dude! An iPhone! Waaaaait a minute, this is like, a YEAR old! No multitasking? I’m SO waiting for the upgrade. Feh!” [tosses it back onto the seat and exits cab.]

    2) Next Passenger, a visitor from another country who is not familiar with iPhones: “Ah look! An American toy for my child!” [Fiddles with buttons] “How does this thing work? Too complicated. Feh!” Tosses it back onto the seat and exits cab.

    3) Good Hearted Person of a Certain Age enters cab. “Look Martha! Someone lost her iPhone! Can you imagine what she’s going through? Let’s figure out how to get it back to her. Driver, do you have a lost and found?” Cabbie: “Here is your stop. For ten dollars I will tell you the day of the week of any date, for I am a genius. Here is an article that tells you all about me. Only ten dollars, any day in history, and within a minute I will tell you the day of the week.” Good Hearted Person: “Never mind, we’ll try to contact her ourselves.”

    At this very moment, some nice woman is trying to figure out who owns this phone, as the battery is now dead and she doesn’t have an iPhone charger. Look, she’s heading over to the Apple Store to get some help…I think you’ll hear from them soon.

    Wishing you a speedy retrieval. I just got an iPad and (in spite of the truly unfortunate name) I’m already so in love with it I’d like to buy it little outfits. Would break my heart to lose it.

    Marx was right when he talked about the power of Commodity Fetishism and our relationship to objects. He writes,ā€œ A commodity appears at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.”

    Sure sounds like an iPhone to me – a very “queer” thing indeed…

    Hang in there,


  28. Acilius says:

    Good luck Alison, hope all your info is safe.

    @–MC #23: I love that movie!

  29. Alex K says:

    Oh, Alison.

    I saw the bad news this afternoon and told myself firmly, “Check back in a few hours later. Things will be better.”

    I wish that they were. I’m sorry that they’re not.

  30. Anonymous says:

    oy. sorry Alison, bummer you lost it. I have no helpful suggestions.

    @MC 23- President’s Analyst is my all-time fave movie and I think about the phone implant all the time. And Ma Bell as the ultimate enemy. Just had a little to-do with FairPoint (the phone company) this afternoon and thought about the President’s Analyst.

  31. Khatgrrl says:

    Hmm, I keep hoping for a Shadocat update. I think that from now on if anyone mentions an upcoming surgery, they need to have a designated blogger to update all of us on how they are doing.

  32. makky says:

    ehh, mercury went retrograde Sunday, I believe.

  33. Kate L says:

    Hairball (From a previous post). Now, where in the world would I come up with the name “Governor Patterson” instead of “Governor Parkinson”? I guess it’s because I’ve always longed to visit the Empire State! At least ever since the summer of 1965, when my father’s illness forced my family to miss a scheduled vacation to The City (as we Kansans refer to New York); Dad recovered, but we never made the trip. And, so, I never saw Grand Central Station, or the museums or the Empire State. Not to this day! Oh, and A.B. looks so sad in her photo! I hope she looks happier than that most of the time she reads this blog!! šŸ™‚

    Hey, hairball, maybe it was the Kate L from the alternate time-line that posted about Governor Parkinson earlier. Poor kid, I hope she’s ok…

  34. Anne Laughlin says:

    This is a dilemma. I keep reading about a new iPhone being released “sometime” soon, the 4G, which undoubtedly will have more superpowers than the current one. So what do you do? Buy a 3GS now to replace the one you lost? Of course, because you can’t wait until the new one comes out. I couldn’t. But it will be galling. You’ll then have a brand new phone and fewer excuses to buy the 4G when it comes out. So sorry to hear your news, Alison.

  35. Eva says:

    So sorry Alison! You do look very lost and sad. No helpful advice from me, as all I’ve got is the one landline. I hope it all comes to rights and quickly.

  36. S. Irene says:

    Live owl cam … just now, the ma has been flying in and out with mice to feed the chicks .. she’s back again !!