Last Sunday, I dropped my phone outside a restaurant in Andersonville. For the record, I’d had one drink. ONE. (We’ll blame the Angostura bitters here, but really, I need my head examined.)I noted that I had dropped it. I chastised myself for being clumsy. Then I walked off without it.
Who does that?
I didn't realize until half an hour later that I hadn’t picked it up, and when I returned to the scene of the crime to retrieve it, my phone was gone. My Android phone worth hundreds of dollars, swiped off the sidewalk by some stranger, never to be seen again. There’s a joke in here somewhere about fiscal responsibility and generally being a damn adult. But I was in no mood for jokes.
I locked my bike up when I got home and trudged upstairs, already calculating which would be less expensive and more worth my efforts: cashing in my insurance policy yet again (the first time, I drowned my phone in a toilet… because I’m awesome) or canceling my contract, paying the early-termination fee and running back to my mother’s family plan. Tail. Between. My legs.
MEANWHILE, IN CYBERSPACE…
A lovely, law-abiding man — not some hoodlum with black-market motives — and his wife had found my phone, and they were looking for ways to get it back to me. Enter Found in Town.
Zach Haller, a friend of mine from Chicago’s amazing tech startup community, had me on board with his universal lost-and-found program almost immediately. Here’s how it works: Users prone to losing things sign up for a set of FiT tags, which come with a unique code and can be affixed to anything and everything that is able to be lost.
When your tags arrive in the mail — branded with the logo of one of FiT’s community partners, who help fund the program — you activate them, attach them to your stuff and wait patiently for the day you can put them to work. (You know, or not, if you're not like me.) For me, that day was Sunday.
When I got into my apartment, I had every intention of sending a series of frantic, futile text messages to my phone with the vain hope that I would get a response from whoever had fled the scene with my link to the world.
Instead, I had two e-mails waiting for me. The first: an e-mail from the resourceful man who found my phone, which I love him for, even if it did mean he had to go through my phone to find my contact information. The second: a notification from Found in Town that someone had found my phone. A little redundant at that point, but…holy crap, it worked. I had my phone back less than two hours after I went braindead and left it on the sidewalk.
Found in Town doesn’t guarantee that your stuff will be returned — if I’d left my now-vaguely-infamous iPad lying on the ground, I don’t expect some good Samaritan would have returned it — but it does make it easier for the stellar human beings among us to do their thing.
I may not be so lucky next time I go full-on bonehead, but I definitely have a little more faith this week in humanity…and technology.
So THANK you, Zach, for having this idea, and thank you to a stranger named Noel for wondering what to do with a silly sticker on the back of a stranger’s phone.