Let me set the stage: it’s a cold autumn morning, and S and I have just finished our dreary history tutorial. We’re kvetching about the TA, meandering around campus, when she says, “Hey, do you wanna get pancakes at Woodsworth?” It turns out that the wonderful, beautiful people at Woodsworth College cook and give away free pancakes every Wednesday. So we went, we ate, we chatted, and we left. S and I split ways back on St George; she headed to UC and I to Robarts.
When I got to my seat in the dear old Book Fort, I set down my bag and reached for my phone to keep track of the time. Not in my jacket pocket – curious, but not unprecedented. Not in my pants pocket either, or in my bag, or on the floor. As I unpacked every item from my bag onto the floor amidst a crowd of onlookers, I was overtaken by the existential dread that is now closely associated with the loss of a cell phone. What if someone tries to call me? To text me? What if my boss needs to tell me something? What if it’s the Queen? I don’t have voice-mail!
I got moving. I am not known as a perfunctory fellow, but I moved more quickly than I ever have, darting between students zombified to the spot by midterm cramming. I ran back to Woodsworth with an eye on the ground, retracing my steps to see if the phone had fallen. I inspected the spot where I had been sitting at Woodsworth and, seeing no phone, I went to the registrar’s office. I had never been to this particular office, but to set the scene I will ask you to imagine the DMV as rendered on American television. When I repeated my predicament to the woman at the front desk for the third time, she explained it slowly to one of the other employees, and then to another, and then three of them agreed that they had received no lost phones.
So it was back to Robarts. I ran again, knowing that with each passing minute the likelihood of retrieving a stolen valuable decreases. Once there, I approached the information desk at the very front. I explained the situation.
“No one’s turned in a phone,” the man said. I thanked him for his help, and decided to keep looking by myself. I turned one of the standing Infostations near the entrance into my base of operations and logged in. I e-mailed and messaged everyone I could think of to call my phone. Some of them did, but got no answer. Then I remembered that I had installed AVG Mobile onto the phone. I logged onto the AVG Mobile site and asked it to locate the phone using GPS. A progress bar told me it would take four minutes. Four minutes later, it could not locate the phone. I tried again, and again. On the third try, it located the device very quickly: the phone was connected to the wi-fi of Robarts Library. The call is coming from inside the house!
I remembered about another service that AVG Mobile offers: an alarm. Every time the button is pressed, the phone rings twice at full volume, even if it is muted (as it was at the time). From somewhere on the main floor, I heard the faint but familiar sound of my ringtone. It was definitely there. Knowing that I would need a team to pull off the grand sting operation I had begun to imagine, I approached the two people at the information desk.
“You hear that ringing? Yeah, that’s an alarm on my phone, which was stolen.” Their ears perked up. I don’t know if they were particularly eager employees or just excited to do something like this as a part of a job that is, I imagine, often quite heist-less, but in any case they rushed into action. I returned to HQ (the Infostation) and kept pressing the button. My team spread out. We reconvened in a couple of minutes. We agreed that the alarm was definitely coming from the main floor, but that it was moving. One of the info desk people suggested that I stop pressing the button so frequently, so as not to tip off the person who had the device. I agreed. Instead, I began approaching other employees, asking them to keep their ears out for the alarm. They all seemed a tad uncomfortable with the idea, but they agreed. I went back to HQ and resolved to press the button only once more; with everyone on the floor listening for it, someone would have to know who had the device.
I pressed the button. The alarm sounded, faintly. And then I waited. After only a moment, the young woman from the printing station waved me over. She knew where the sound was coming from, who had my phone.
The culprit was: the very irate woman from the loans and circulation desk. She had held onto it as it had been ringing, but didn’t know that the sound was an alarm until the printing clerk told her so. I approached the loans desk and explained the situation.
“Ach, this phone has been so much trouble.”
“Right, but can I have it back?”
“Ach. What colour is it?”
Seriously? I’ve got the whole floor looking for the alarm-sounding phone, and you’re not sure it’s mine?
“It has a pink case.”
“Pink or red?”
“Pinkish-red.” This clearly wasn’t enough. She stared at me as though I had asked her to empty the vault. I added more detail: “It’s a Huawei Ascend P1. There is a P on the back of the case.”
She pulled the phone out from a cubbie behind her desk, and held it for a moment before returning it. She said, “This phone has been nothing but trouble! I’ve had it here for hours! I was just about to send it to Lost and Found!”
Hours indeed. I had lost the phone not one hour before the loan lady returned it. And why did she have it in the first place? As I walked out of Robarts, phone in hand, my gratitude towards the people who had helped was overshadowed by the incompetence of those who had inadvertently hindered me. The man at the information desk told me explicitly that no phones had been turned in, but that was untrue. The phone was stashed at the loan and circulation desk, even though it should have been with information, and information should have been informed.
At the end of it all, my heart was poudning and my faith in this school was at an all-time low.