Photo by Ketut Subiyanto (Pexels)

How to Find a Lost Phone Without Losing Your Mind

Julian Matthews

I once lost my phone. You know the feeling. That sudden sinking realization it’s missing and, with it, your entire life.

Someone now has access to all my recent photos, all my phone contacts, all my social media accounts, all my banking and e-wallet apps, all my food delivery apps connected to my banking and e-wallet accounts, all my confidential email accounts, all my private journal notes and all my personal conversations on chats, or to put it in an unpeeled nutshell all my private, confidential, very personal shit!

I panic.

I look at the usual places: desk drawer, bedside table, bathroom, other bathroom, the pockets of the last pants I wore hanging behind the door, the pants I wore last night now in the laundry basket, the pants I just picked up from the laundromat, all my pants folded in my wardrobe. Panic.

It’s in the car. It has to be.

I take the lift down 24 floors to look for it in the car parked in the basement car park. Reach car. Forget car keys. Go back up 24 floors. Find car keys. Return 24 floors down to car.

Check dashboard, check side pockets, check glove compartment. Not there.

Check under driver’s seat, bending over in newly invented variation of yoga downward dog pose. Not there.

Check under passenger seat like the rejected pretzel made by the new intern at a bakery. Not there.

Check back seats while massaging back from strain of yoga-pretzel poses. Remind myself to make appointment for long overdue massage at massage center. Remind myself I don’t have my phone to make said appointment.

Check boot, just in case left phone in there the last time we went grocery shopping, and I didn’t have a free hand. Not there.

Make space in boot for dead body of person who stole my phone.

Troop back up 24 floors. Reach apartment door and realize left house keys in car. Somewhere.

Head back down 24 floors to find house keys in driver seat in car. Phew.

Check under armrest box and cup slots one last time. Stick fingers in and retrieve 14 crumpled restaurant receipts, five 4D betting slips, three parking tickets, two sticky Magnum Almond ice-cream sticks, a half-eaten, melted Himalaya Salt lemon flavor extra cool mint sweet, and someone’s large booger – not mine. Urgh.

Back upstairs. Ask wife to call my phone. It goes straight into voicemail mode. The rotten thief is probably hacking into all my accounts and messaging friends suggesting I have been robbed and am now stranded in Bali and to please wire money to his offshore bank account.

Contemplate sending broadcast message to all my social media contacts via my laptop to thwart the sneaky thief’s dastardly scheme.

Ponder why humans can remotely control rovers and fly a drone on Mars, yet cannot invent an app that allows me to call my phone, key in a secret password to self-triangulate, and tell me its location.

Wait. I probably wouldn’t remember said secret password anyway.

I remember suddenly that the salesgirl activated the Find My Device app on my phone when I bought it! Yes!

Get on laptop quickly to find my phone.

Google says phone is still located at the restaurant I was at last night! Phew!

I call restaurant. No reply. Its Facebook Page says it opens four hours from now. Wait and wait and wait.

I contemplate calling all my banks and locking up all my accounts.

I say a prayer to St Anthony, feeling guilty I hadn’t been to confession throughout the pandemic.

I cross my fingers hoping the bastard thief takes selfies so my photo app will automatically upload them on my photo account. I monitor my Google Photos account. The most recent photos are food photos from said restaurant.

I am soon distracted and surf the Internet to discover that the phone is just one of the most common things people misplace every day. It’s right up there with remotes, car keys, house keys, glasses, shoes, wallets and purses. I have lost all those items at least once –  except the last.

According to a survey, Americans spend 2.5 days a year looking for lost items, and spend USD$2.7 billion a year replacing them. How in the world they calculated that number is beyond me. But I’m impressed. Replacing lost things is a growth industry. Some venture cap should be funding this.

I comfort myself that the same survey says Millennials are generally twice as likely to misplace items over Baby Boomers, and a third more likely to lose items compared to Generation X. Boomers come out tops as being the “most responsible generation.”

Wait. Am I a boomer or a GenXer? I can’t remember. Either way, fuck you Millennials!

You are fast contributing your trash of lost things to landfills all over the world, and adding to the Great Garbage Patch Vortex in the Pacific Ocean, and some poor, innocent, endangered leatherback turtle is gobbling up your misplaced plastic and e-waste and dying a horrific choking death as a result.

At least, I am a responsible Boomer/GenXer and still responsibly tracking down my phone before it ends up in Michelangelo’s esophagus!

I call three hours and 45 minutes later, 15 minutes before the restaurant opens.

The manager says no phone was reported missing. He says he will check with the staff at the place we were seated. He asks to call back in 15 minutes.

I call back 14 minutes and 45 seconds later. “No phone found, sir, sorry.”

I decide the manager and staff are all working in cahoots with the sneaky, dastardly, bastard phone thief. Maybe it’s all part of a larger scam. They must be stealing phones daily and hawking it to a syndicate. Maybe the syndicate has its tentacles in restaurants all across the city. Maybe the syndicate is part of the Mafia, laundering its dirty drug money from hacking all those phones and shifting it to phoney bank accounts in Panama. Maybe Tony Soprano is still alive. Maybe I need to call my therapist.

I decide to drive to the restaurant. I would have reached there sooner, if I hadn’t forgotten my car keys again.

The restaurant manager at the counter re-affirms that no phone was found. His poker face suggests he’s either telling the truth or is well-trained by the KGB.

He allows me to search the restaurant on my own as it’s still empty. I search the seats where we sat. I search under the seats where we sat. I search under the table where we sat. I search under the tables next to us where we sat. I search under the seats of the tables next to us where we sat. I return to the counter empty-handed.

I call the phone. No answer. I peer over the counter suspiciously.

The manager eyeballs me suspiciously. I eyeball him suspiciously. We eyeball each other suspiciously. He blinks first.

He then says if it shows up, he’ll call me back. I give him my phone number. After I write it down, I realize I should give him my wife’s number instead.

We leave. After we are at a distance, I turn back and notice him calling someone, and looking at me furtively from afar. Dang, the bad guys are on to me. I stupidly showed up at the scene of the crime. Was the manager secretly taping my voice from behind the counter? Was there CCTV? Now, the Stasi have my voice and my photo, they can do even more damage.

Back in the car, I wonder whether I inadvertently posted my mother’s middle name in a 2004 blogpost on Blogger. Or my pet’s name in a tweet from 2014. Is there a photo of my car plate number in my old Flickr albums? Did I give away my favourite band’s songs in my MySpace account, which is the answer to my secret question.

The Mafia/KGB/Stasi/Sopranos may be emptying all my accounts as we speak. Their hackers are deepfaking my videos and placing me in compromising positions so they can blackmail my entire family.

I feel so vulnerable when we reach home.

I flop on the couch, defeated and resigned, even teary-eyed.

I look for the remote to switch on the TV and can’t find it anywhere.

I stick my hand in between the seat and arm of the couch and pull out something familiar. It’s my phone.

I remember falling asleep last night on the couch with the phone in my hand, before waking up suddenly, then adjourning to bed. Minus the phone.

I stare at my phone. It looks a little different. But only slightly.

Luckily, I stuck my hand into the couch at the precise moment when it returned from its round trip to the multiverse.

But that’s another story.

P.S. 24th floor. I changed the floor I live on to disguise it just in case the hackers are reading this. I actually live on the 12th floor. Oops.


Pixie Technology Inc’s lost phone survey 

Julian Matthews is a mixed-race poet and writer from Malaysia, published in The American Journal of Poetry, Beltway Poetry Quarterly and Borderless Journal, among others. He stumbled onto at a creative writing workshop by accident six years ago. That happy accident has turned into a rabid compulsion. He is still extricating himself from the crash. If you wish to support his recovery, Paypal him at 

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