It Takes an Air-Conditioned Village

I lost my cell phone. That, in itself, is not exactly news. People lose their cell phones all the time. In fact, given that there are more cell phones than people on the planet, millions of people could be losing their cell phones at this very moment. Now, there’s a tip for an entrepreneurial-minded person: start a cell phone recovery business. You could call it “iFound.”

This cell phone was a replacement for another cell phone that I lost in Nairobi last week. I had left that cell phone on a shuttle in the outskirts of a place called Karen, which sounds like the title of a novel. I’ll have to think about that.


The cell phone lost in Karen was the same one I left on a pew in the Church of the Gesù in Rome just a week earlier. It was also the same one I had lost in a park along the water in Montevideo, Uruguay one year before that. Then, a young woman retrieved it from the bench I had been sitting on and recognized me from a picture in the photo gallery. Apparently, benches of any sort distract me. Gracias, Sofia.

I explained to the agents at Verizon that I am forgetful. They didn’t argue. I cancelled the old phone, deactivated the backup Android I had been using in the interim (doesn’t everyone have a backup Android?), ordered a new iPhone, and then activated it when it arrived via UPS. I was as happy as a clam with my replacement phone, which everyone assured me worked even better than the original. I bought a new case (i.e., phone condom). It looked great.

Here’s the thing. I am simplifying my life by getting rid of clutter, donating clothes, and reorganizing my files. After affixing the phone condom, I went to campus, opened the Goodwill bin, and unloaded bags of clothes. I even donated a book bag. I walked away feeling lighter and spiritually cleansed. What could be better than that? That’s when I realized I had left the new phone in the book bag.

Goodwill 5

I stood in disbelief. I cried to the heavens. Then I just cried. After reviewing my options, which included standing there until Goodwill came for the collection, I went up to the guys installing air conditioning in an adjacent dorm. I tried not to sound crazy. They listened, looked at one another, and then followed me to the bin with a bungie cord, umbrella, and tool box.

It worked like this: the bungie cord was attached to the handle of the umbrella, which was held by a scrappy air conditioning guy while his friend hoisted him up into the opening and I held the bin door open. I would have taken a picture except, as I have mentioned, my phone was in the bin. I don’t know how, but it worked. The little guy got his head stuck a few times and I scraped my forearm holding the door open, but he hooked the book bag with the bungie cord and slowly retrieved it with the umbrella as his friend extracted him from the bin. It was like performance art.

I thanked them profusely, but they acted as if it was all in a day’s work. Maybe they’ve done it before; I don’t know. I’ve heard stories of people driving up to donation bins and accidentally throwing their car keys in. That didn’t happen to me, because I made sure I had taken my keys out first. I’m smart that way.

Maybe I need a personal assistant or even a supply of gingko pills. But the lesson here is that it really does take a village. An air conditioned village.

Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance

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