We went to Utah on Thursday night for a family reunion. It was so great to see the family. My parents, two sisters, two brothers, two in-laws, and 172 nieces and nephews. Okay, it was really just fifteen kids, it just seemed like a lot. We hiked, swam, played board games, ate lots, did lots of dishes, stayed up too late, ate too much sugar, and loved every minute of being with each other. We stayed just the right amount of time; I was sad to leave, and I was looking forward to another visit.
It was a wonderful trip, but I did leave my cell phone in the airplane when we landed in Portland. I also left Chad and Zoe to collect our bags while went to collect the car in the construction zone that is economy parking these days. It only took me 10 minutes to get to the car and that’s where I realized I’d lost my phone.
I was bummed. I’d been reading in between stints of playing jungle gym for Zoe. I’d also clearly remembered to pack other personal items I’d stashed in the seat back – like Zoe’s used crayons, a dollar store book, and some garbage we’d been collecting. Yes, it was just a thing, but it was the thing I made phone calls on, and I dreaded being without it even for a day or two. I got back in the car and drove back to the terminal. I believed that I’d get it back, and I was hoping that if we could go back to retrieve it before we left the airport.
I had no idea Monday evenings were so popular for travel. It took over 20 minutes to fight traffic from economy parking to the Alaska Airlines arrivals station. I fought my way over to the curb and got out to frisk my bags to see if they’d been holding onto my goods, while I bird dogged to see Chad and Zoe. After going through both carry on bags, I gave up on searching for the phone, or my people. I got back into the car and merged back into traffic as slowly as possible, so I could keep an eye out without getting on the traffic cop’s radar. I finally saw Zoe in Chad’s arms, surrounded by a veritable sea of people. I darted my way back over to the curb and waited for the parked traffic to clear so I could get space for a safe car seat installation.
Meanwhile, Chad was nearly at the end of his rope. Apparently Alaska beat any record for quickest baggage return, and he’d been trying to console and entertain a frightened toddler who didn’t like the lights, the people, the cars, or the crazy whistling from the traffic cops. He was managing a large rolling suitcase, a huge, 65-pound, sexy black-and-hot-pink car seat, and a wriggling two year old. And his wife wasn’t answering her phone. He was wiped out.
I’d hoped for support in tracking down the phone while we were at the airport. I had already started future tripping about the inconvenience of not having a phone, and was imaging the time I’d waste if I had to drive back out to the airport to pick it up once it was found. But Chad had just wrangled a fussy two and a half year old for thirty minutes at the curb. He was willing to submit a lost item form on Alaska’s website on his phone, but he voted to go home. On the drive home, I tried to be sympathetic, but deep down I wasn’t feeling it.
Chad has a bit of a cynical worldview. In his fashion, he assumed the phone was gone for good, and he suggested (numerous times) that I just get a new cell phone. But this small-handed blogger wasn’t ready to give up her trusty, if nicked and dinged iPhone 5. I’d tried the 6 but I couldn’t navigate one handed for fear of dropping the bizarrely huge, wafer-thin thing. No, I’m not talking about the Plus, I’m talking about the 6. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to my 5.
I spent the rest of the evening considering my options. To upgrade, to file an insurance claim to replace my current phone, or to switch carriers to lower our bill altogether, it was a lot to consider, but gee wiz, if only I hadn’t lost my phone in the first place! I got very busy making lists and investigating carrier review sites, and found the process distinctly unsatisfying because I wasn’t looking for a new device by choice. What a funny life change that in my past life, new gadgets were desired, sought, and coveted. In my new life, I just wanted my phone to work, to hold Zoe pics long enough for me to download them, and to let me drive it with one hand.
After midnight, I finally gave up research for the night, and went to bed. I’d visit carriers the next day, or at least chat online with them to see what my best option was. But when I woke up in the morning, mothering and housekeeping duties prevailed. We’d been out of town for four and a half days. Not only did I have dogs to claim from the boarder, and nearly overdue library books to return, but Chad invited Zoe and I to lunch, and we didn’t want to miss him.
So we ate our breakfast and ran our errands and met Chad for Sweet Tomatoes. The next stop on my agenda was to visit AT&T, but then something awesome happened. I asked Chad to please check my Gmail, and lo and behold, when he signed in, Alaska had emailed. They had my phone in their safe behind baggage claim kiosk #2 in the Portland Airport. Hallelujah. With a flood of relief, and a return to sanity, I crossed ‘make complicated and unnecessary cellphone/carrier decision’ off my to do list, and added ‘drive to airport to pick up dependable and now beloved phone’.
It was a non-event to drive out to the airport. The traffic was light, and Zoe was pretty content, for a two year old, for most of the ride. She enjoyed taking the elevator in the parking garage, the walk across the sky bridge, and the escalator in the terminal. And she even said a sweet, if prompted, thank you to the Alaska Air employee who returned the phone.
I can say that I didn’t respond to losing my phone with any great emotional overreaction – I didn’t berate myself, or panic, or get angry. But what I did was waste the present moment, a whole series of them, for a few hours. I lost sight of my trust in humanity, and my belief that I would get the phone back after a short delay, and I fell into a mentally draining and essentially unnecessary investigation of options I didn’t want to choose.
I filled the present moment with a bunch of doing, instead of winding down from, reflecting on, and perhaps writing about a great family vacation. I also wasted the opportunity to prepare for the swiftly approaching resumption of normal life. Thank goodness my normal life is pretty relaxed these days, with the exception of my occasional lapse in minding my devices. Thank goodness my life gives me these reminders to stay in the moment, to appreciate it for all it’s worth, and to look around one more time for anything I might have left behind.
A few notes to wrap up with – I was without cell phone for about 18 hours, and I survived. In fact, I did three loads of laundry, ran loads of errands, and got in a few cute baby girl cuddles too. I now have a renewed appreciation for my dinged-up and filled-to-capacity 32gb iPhone 5. When faced with the thought of replacing it, I realize I don’t need or want a newer, faster, bigger, gadget. Capitalism, greed, and envy, be damned.
I feel a lot of gratitude in my current life. And I think that this week I might not have to work too hard to appreciate what I have right in front of me. What will continue to challenge me is to just observe the thoughts and emotions that arise and not hand them the keys to the car. And I’ll mindfully check for my belongings before I exit the building.