A friend of my daughter’s posted this story, a kind of Thanksgiving story, on Facebook. It is reposted here with her permission.
All Is Lost
Written by Sabrina Fonseca
Edited by Jimmy Wohl
My iPhone fell on the subway tracks from a moving train, between stations in Manhattan, while I walked, illegally, from one subway car to the next.
It was past midnight on Wednesday. I always hated the iPhone 6 because it's too big, and it flew from my hand many times before. Now I had it in a cheap yellow fake-leather case that also held my driver's license, debit card, several credit cards, my building pass for work, my Metrocard, and a discount card for the deli where I often eat an average salad.
It had been in my coat pocket, but it barely fit and was sticking out. It knocked into the car door and tumbled down into mass-transit oblivion. I watched it disappear into the abyss in very, very slow motion.
I think people saw it fall, but they stayed quiet. I was too stunned or tired to react, so I continued walking to the next car.
I thought I'd stop at a station and ask MTA people to retrieve it. But I didn't have a phone to let Jimmy know I'd be running late, and I couldn't call because I don't remember his cell phone number. I could probably recite all my friends' numbers from when I was a teenager, but the guy I’ve been dating for over 2 years and live with? No need to memorize it, it's saved on my phone.
I figured the phone was lost forever. The only life forms hanging around subway tracks between stations are rats and accompanying bacteria of the Bubonic Plague, not people interested in finding smartphones. I decided to go home, and deal with it later.
At the train station near my home in Queens, I approached an MTA worker, and he said I should've stopped right away at the station where it happened. But I was still too tired. The broken phone wasn't going anywhere either way.
I met Jimmy at home, he was already worried. I checked Apple’s Find My Phone service.
The phone was still alive, blinking, lying injured around the 50th Street station on the E train, near where I dropped it. I imagined it was being used as a toilet for rodents, or laying on a rail like a damsel in distress waiting for a hero to rescue her in one of those old-timey Westerns. But I was too tired to save it.
I woke up much earlier than usual the next morning, which is what I do when something bad happens, like being at risk of getting deported, having a sick relative, or going through a breakup. I checked Find My Phone again, and it was still sitting in the same place, waiting for me--and only me.
I put on long leather boots and a reflective rain jacket, in case I got the chance to go treasure hunting along the subterranean train tracks. Then I thought this might get me arrested, but does Indiana Jones care about the law? I brought a flashlight. And a camera. I'm loving this.
I was hopeful for success, so I bought a single-use Metrocard and rode to 50th Street station. At the MTA booth I explained the situation. I lied that I had been moving between cars because a guy was harassing me, not because I'm a law breaker who got what she deserved.
His reaction was not what I expected at all.
He asked me what the phone looked like, which direction I was going. And then he started making phone calls I couldn't listen to because the booth is sound-proof, and probably bullet-proof. Tourists started lining up behind me. I explained the situation so they wouldn't hate me. He got off the phone and told me to hold on a bit.
15 minutes later, he said I should come back later in the day. That kind of problem required MTA to stop the train traffic, and they wouldn't be able to do that during rush hour, though he made clear that MTA treated these issues as emergencies.
Really? This is an emergency for me, but for the MTA? I became cynical. They probably aren't even looking for my phone. If they stop the traffic to look, they won't find it, even in its bright yellow case. If they find it, they'll steal it, sell it, and pay for hookers with my credit cards.
I went to work. I must have checked my beloved on Find My Phone like 50 times, and the phone didn't move. Or maybe it moved a little, closer to the 50th street station booth? Maybe it wanted to go home.
I returned to the station that same day after 8pm, when I thought I might be able to ask them to please please please stop the train traffic to pick up my phone. It was another guy at the MTA booth, he asked: what color is your phone? Yellow. No, the phone itself. Black.
Then he slipped the yellow phone case through the little booth hole.
I opened the case. The phone was intact. Not a single scratch that wasn't already there. Yay cheap fake-leather bright yellow case.
As I jumped up and down, he asked me to check the contents.
It was all there. Credit cards, debit card, driver's license, building pass. MTA card. The deli card.
Along with some new, unidentified black stains. But cool.
I asked for details. I wanted to know how they did it. When did they stop the traffic? Was there a notice on mta.info
about the E train being slow when it happened? Did they foil a terrorist plot that wasn’t expecting MTA workers to be on the tracks at that time? He didn't tell me much, and said they couldn't retrieve the phone when I arrived at the booth because they needed other MTA workers who specialize in something involving retrieving drunk people's phones from subway tracks. Protocol is that they had to do it right away. They also needed help from a different department to handle the train traffic, no one at the subway stations has authority to do it. So it happened at some point during the day, he didn’t know when, when all these people got in sync and saved me and my phone.
All I know is that every phone case I ever get will be made of some bright color leather.
And it will have a strap.
After Sabrina posted her story, she told me someone sent her a link with all the details she’d wanted to know about “how they did it.” She passed that link on to me. And so, for the rest of the story: “Lost and Underground: Meet the People Who Retrieve the Stuff You Drop on the Tracks
.” Happy Thanksgiving.