The Tale of the Missing iPhone

JetBlue Tail (N556JB; "Betty Blue")

JetBlue Tail (N556JB; "Betty Blue") (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Act I

I was returning home from a speaking trip on JetBlue Airways (Seattle to Long Beach) yesterday when my iPhone went missing. On the plane I switched off the phone before the plane pulled away from the gate. During the flight I managed to get some sleep and do some reading on my iPad. When our plane landed in Long Beach I prepared to stuff my phone and iPad into my carry-on and discovered that my phone was missing. I did all the searching that was possible in the cramped quarters of a plane-load of people as we taxied to the terminal. No luck. (Or, as some in England would say, “No joy.” In military air intercept, “no joy” is code meaning “I have been unsuccesful.”)

I resolved to wait until we reached the gate, and everyone else had de-planed, before resuming my search. I mentioned to the passengers adjacent to me that I couldn’t find my phone. They wished me luck and joined the ranks of exiting passengers.

Now I was confident I would find the phone. I checked under the seats, under the cushions, in the seat-back pocket (again). I went through all of my on-flight gear. I re-checked my pockets. Flight attendants came offering their assistance. The captain of the flight joined us in our search. He called my number to see if that would help us locate the phone, but I was sure I had turned it completely off. (Imagine being busted by the flight’s captain under these circumstances!) The cleaning crew boarded the plane, and they joined our search. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

They suggested that I go directly to the baggage claim service office and file a missing item claim. I left, finally, and they, I suspect, breathed a sigh of relief to be done with me. Before going to the baggage service office I found a JetBlue agent at the gate and described my plight. She got on her radio and asked somebody important to get on the plane check once more for me. We heard back that it was not to be found. (No surprise there.)

Long Beach Airport

Long Beach Airport (Photo credit: Konabish)

So I made my way to baggage service. The kind lady in the office took down my information. But by this time I had reluctantly concluded that my phone had been taken by someone on the plane. The captain himself had told me, “It happens.”

As we concluded the paperwork, which was surprisingly uncomplicated, the service agent suggested that I call the baggage claim for JetBlue at the Portland airport sometime around 9:30 p.m., when the same plane was scheduled to land there. It was possible, she said, that my iPhone would be discovered during the next flight and be turned in by some conscientious passenger or a flight attendant. As a philosopher, I’m well aware of logical possibilities. But I wasn’t sure that this was physically possible (or sociologically likely).

Act II

I drove home and made the call at 9:30. No one answered, so I left a message. I had now resigned myself to the fact that my phone was gone forever and that I would now need to sort out what to do about the data on the phone and arrange to get a new phone.

Of course, I was tired from the weekend and the journey home. So I flopped down in front of the TV in search of something to watch for an hour or so. I recalled seeing on JetBlue television during our flight that Kiefer Sutherland was in a new TV series called “Touch.” For some reason this was news to me. So I flipped over to my Apple TV and searched for the series. Behold, there it was. So I downloaded the first episode and put my feet up to watch “Touch” for the first time.

I’m used to odd coincidences happening with remarkable frequency in my life. Another one soon presented itself. The show began with a businessman looking frantically for his lost phone—at an airport. (I’m pretty sure it was not the Long Beach airport.) I said to my wife, “I just started watching this show and it begins with a man who lost his phone at an airport. And the whole TV series is about coincidences!”


Shortly into the episode I got a phone call from JetBlue in Portland responding to my message. I was surprised that I would hear from them when my phone was actually permanently lost. (I shouldn’t have been so surprised, since I was now very impressed with their customer service.) The agent there asked me a couple of questions, like “What kind of phone did you lose?” “What seat were you in?” Then she said, “We have it here.”

Before, I was baffled. But now I was dumbfounded.

I asked her where exactly they had found it, and she said she didn’t know. “Somewhere on the plane.”

We then made arrangements to FedEx the silly thing back to me. Of course, this would cost me about $30. Too bad none of us could locate the phone before it left Long Beach. But at least I’m not blaming an anonymous passenger for stealing my phone. And I’m not spending my day cancelling the data and getting a new phone.


It was a little unusual that I couldn’t find the phone before landing. It was baffling when a half dozen people looking for it with considerable zeal could not find it. But what do you call it when it turns up in Portland?

And what do you call it when you just happen to switch on a TV show that depicts a passenger frantic about finding his lost smart phone?

A coincidence? Hmm.

Mark Twain said that the chief difference between writing fiction and non-fiction is that fiction has to be believable. I heard that on the radio . . . while driving home from the airport last night.


The Charms of Motel Lodging: Nelson, BC

Despite my many travels, I had forgotten about the charms of classic motels. Memories from my childhood have roared back during our few days at the North Shore Inn in Nelson, BC. Here is a brief inventory of its classic features:

  • Our rental car can be parked conveniently near the front entrance to our quarters.
  • The parking lot has fewer spaces than the motel has rooms, yet, oddly, it is ample for the number of cars actually needing a space.
  • Landscaping is austere, but not without appearing that some effort has been made to dress it up. A park bench for three and a stack of white plastic chairs are there in the event that we wish to relax in front of our room and enjoy the view. (The view, by the way, thanks to Mother Nature, is spectacular! The motel overlooks Kootenay Lake.)
  • The exterior paint, such as it is, is monochromatic.
  • The lobby is no more handsome than the rooms themselves, as it, too, is carpeted in 1950s burber that has held up remarkably well. (Guests are mercifully spared the grotesqueness of shag that inexplicably sprang from the floors of most dwellings in subsequent decades.)
  • In our two bedroom unit with kitchenette, ceilings are exceedingly high, walls are painted a glossy white, and trim is in chocolate brown aluminum. The entry is enhanced with a safety chain of precisely seven links. In the kitchenette, the brown cabinetry and white appliances are fronted by a strip of linoleum, which marks off the space dedicated to watching TV and eating meals. A fire extinguisher is mounted above the sink. The TV itself is a Citizen of a vintage no longer available even at yard sales. (Our Apple TV device will remain packed.) The manually operated air conditioner is set over the front window some eight feet above the floor.
  • The first “bedroom” is adjacent to the kitchenette, has no door and no window, so that what little privacy it affords is improved by perpetual darkness. This room, furnished only with a queen bed, would make for a nice walk-in closet off the “master bedroom,” which does have a door, a nightstand, and a closet with folding doors. (The only chest of drawers is in the main room and is used to support the aforementioned Citizen.)
  • There are three inconspicuous and unremarkable wall hangings, thoughtfully distributed among the three rooms (one over the sofa and one over each bed). (I’m one who tends to notice wall hangings more by their absence than by their profusion.)
  • The bathroom is something special. It has no window. The white walls and flooring are accented with ocean blue tub, sink, and toilet bowl. We speculate that this room is the object of special pride on the part of the novelty-conscious proprietor. Heat and water pressure in the shower are superb. The blue wash basin is set in a plain formica counter-top that is glued to a press board cabinet with peeling veneer. A pool of water encircles the toilet pedestal, the result of heavy condensation forming around the toilet tank and running off it like a British Columbian waterfall. The fan switch has been installed on an unlikely wall opposite the shower, and is turned on, if at all, only when you—and the bathroom—have already been thoroughly marinated in steamy hot water.
  • The “Contl Breakfast” is meager, as it should be if your room is fitted out with kitchenette.
  • Wi-fi works efficiently, if slowly, and is free.

My favorite feature of the unit is the poster above our bed. It pictures, in sepia tones with enhanced shades of orange, a solitary rowboat anchored near a wood pier. Inscribed at the bottom are the words: “IMAGINATION. Believe in the glory of your dreams.”

Bearing Books from New England

A week ago I returned from a New England holiday with my family. We journeyed to Maine and New Hampshire in quest of respite from the cacophony of California. We found it. Harbor views, the Maine woods, marine vessels, lobsters, crisp air, and fall leaves.

And I found bookshops—with mountains of second-hand books—ranging from the maximally disheveled to the customary semi-organized to the immaculate (for example, The Old Professor’s Bookshop in Camden, ME). Read more of this post

Back in the Saddle

For the past two weeks I’ve been off-blog. Two weeks ago I was in Birmingham, Alabama to debate Michael Shermer on the question, “Does God exist?” Then I travelled to Spokane, Washington for a conference on “Faith, Film and Philosophy,” co-hosted by Gonzaga and Whitworth Universities. The title of my presentation was “Big Ideas on the Big Screen—How Arguments Work in Film.”

When the conference ended, my daughter caught up with me and we flew over to Seattle, then drove to the Olympic Peninsula to do some writing without distraction. I worked on an essay on “Death and Immortality.” She worked on two novels she’s been drafting.

Today was the first day back on my motorcycle, a ritual that comes before blogging. With that out of the way, I’m ready to log on.

With the election past, and the unctuous posturing of the media, I think my blogging in the immediate future will move into other areas. I’ll still find it irresistable to post comments on the media, political happenings, and media coverage of political happenings. But there’s so much more to think about!

Catch ya later!

Kindle Your Reading Habits

The Kindle is a thin, book-sized reading device that holds innumerable e-books and other digital reading material that can be downloaded in an instant using wireless technology almost anywhere in the U.S. Wow! Amazon boasts a Kindle library of over 160,000 items. And the inventory continues to grow.

The Kindle came out fall 2007. My gadget-guy instincts kicked in immediately. But I held off buying. I thought the price might go down (it did), that the wait period for it to come in the mail would shorten (it did), and that my “need” for a Kindle would increase (it did).

I ordered my Kindle from Amazon in March so I would have it in time for my trip to Europe in May. It’s the only thing I took for reading material during my trip. And it’s one of the reasons why I was able to travel extremely light using carry-on baggage only.

So now I can get my reading fix no matter where I happen to be. And if I just want to read today’s issue of The New York Times, or I don’t have a book that suits my mood, I can download what I want no matter where I am. The technology is wireless.

A few years ago, I read The Gutenberg Elegies, by Sven Birkerts. Like Birkerts, I believe it would be a tragedy if books—I mean real books—became a thing of the past because they all went digital. I’m a hardcore advocate for having a houseful of books. To me, books—books on shelves, books in piles—are the ultimate in home decorating options. Books speak to me even when I’m not reading. There’s nothing quite like being in the presence of books.

Still, I welcome the arrival of the digital version of reading material. While an e-book can’t replace the role of a real book, there are things it can do for readers that the traditional book can’t. And Kindle is the way to go in this arena.

Here are seven of the main reasons why I now own and use a Kindle:

  1. I can go anywhere and read what I want while I wait.
  2. I can go anywhere in the U.S. and download books for instant reading.
  3. I can subscribe to newspapers and magazines without having them pile up around the house.
  4. I can pack light when I travel and still bring a huge library with me.
  5. I save space on my shelves for physical copies of books I really must have.
  6. I save money when I order books for my Kindle.
  7. It’s the easiest way to read in bed.

The Kindle is the perfect complement to my other hobbies. I can fit a whole library in the saddle on my motorcycle, or carry it in a small book bag on my back. The Kindle goes with me when I’m kayak touring. Traveling is a greater pleasure now that I can haul all the books I want on my Kindle. I can practice foreign languages as long as I have the right tools on my Kindle.

Yes, I can mark my Kindle books, bookmark them, and take unlimited notes that are linked to specific passages in them.

Then there’s the cool factor. A woman and her daughter saw me reading on my Kindle at a Starbucks; seeing mine convinced them to get one for themselves. On a recent trip to Europe, nearby passengers asked about it. On the train between Stuttgart and Zurich an engineering student who had never heard of the Kindle decided within a few minutes that he had to have one.


For Discussion:

  • Had you heard of the Kindle before now?
  • Are you interested in becoming a Kindle user?
  • Are you a Kindle user?
  • If so, what would you say are the best reasons to have a Kindle?
  • What are some of the things you’ve downloaded to your Kindle?
  • What is your evaluation of the Kindle?

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I Like Living in California

I like living in California. There—I said it. And I found myself thinking it a lot yesterday. This was something of a surprise to me. I was born here and have lived here most of my life. I lived for six years in Mexico as a teenager. I went to college out-of-state. And I taught for two years in Indiana. So you might expect me to be partial to California. But if there’s any region I’m partial to, it’s the Great Pacific Northwest, especially western Washington. Read more of this post

First Lines: Thinking of the Future When It’s Become the Present

“Not until my ears popped and the plane was coming down over the winking lights of Bogatá—or really it looked like any other city at night—did I raise my eyes from the page I’d been puzzling at and begin to think of the girl, or woman, the friend or acquaintance, Natasha, whom I was flying so far to visit. That’s how it was with me then: I couldn’t think of the future until I arrived there.”

—Dwight B. Wilmerding, lead character in the novel Indecision, by Benjamin Kunkel

“I couldn’t think of the future until I arrived there.” In this case, the character is literally arriving by plane at

Book Cover for Indecision, by Benjamin Kunkel

Book Cover for Indecision, by Benjamin Kunkel

Bogatá, and he’s thinking—really thinking—for the first time about the point of his trip. Whatever he was reading before this moment had occupied his attention and had nothing to do with what was going to happen next.

Wilmerding was there to visit Natasha, and he’d come a long way by plane. Natasha doesn’t have a settled identity for this protagonist. She is, variously, “the girl, or woman, the friend or acquaintance” he’s come to see. These are his thoughts. But if this is so, why has he travelled so far to see her?

That’s what we want to find out, isn’t it?

As for Bogatá, on approach into the airport, it didn’t look different than any other city at night. Has he seen Shanghai, I wonder? But I take his point—in a way, cities do look alike, even the ones we’re seeing for the first time. We approach a new place intent on noticing what’s foreign about it. We’re romantics when it comes to travel. But if we think about it, we really must be more modest. We have projected a difference that doesn’t exist.

Wilmerding hints that his penchant for waiting ’til the future arrives before thinking about it is now past. That’s interesting. What accounts for this idiosyncrasy? And are we any different? Shall we find out?

That’s our question as we stand in the Barnes and Noble fiction isle trying to decide whether to buy and read Kunkel’s novel. We are in the grip of Indecision.

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