Zoë went to a program at a local community center on Tuesday night and when she got home, she couldn’t find her phone. Typical teenage stuff.
She waited for three years to get that thing (yes, most of the kids in her fancy private school had phones at ten) and she cares for it like a retiree with a classic Porsche.
She even named the damn thing Leonard.
It’s kinda a miracle that she got it at all (Mike’s phone had to be replaced and our carrier was having a buy one get one free sale) and man, does she know it.
After searching the house and the car (she’d already searched the community center when she first noticed it missing), she was in full panic mode. Thankfully, she’d registered with Find My iPhone, so we logged in and waited to see where Leonard would turn up. We found his little GPS blinking in the parking lot of a downtown office building – Metro Plaza.
Woo-hoo! Yippee! The lost was found! We put ol’Leonard in “lost mode” with a message displaying “This phone has been lost, please call 615-xxx-xxxx if found,” sounded the VERY LOUD alert, and waited for Mike’s phone to ring.
A few minutes later we see Leonard moving down the highway back toward the community center.
Awesome! They found it and they’re taking it back!
But still no phone call.
Ok. Maybe they don’t realize they picked it up. We sound the alarm again. I imagine the car flooded with the horrible beeping as everyone scrambles around trying to see where it’s coming from.
Eventually, the little green dot stops at a house in our old neighborhood. A few minutes later, Mike’s phone rings (it’s Zoë’s number) and he answers it, relieved.
“Hello, person who has my daughter’s phone! Thank you so much for calling!”
Static and mumbling, then nothing.
But still the little green dot is there, right there on that quiet residential street, holding perfectly still. So Mike does what any
totally insane determined father who cannot afford to replace his daughter’s cell phone would do: He gets in his car and drives down there. At 8:45pm.
At 9:00pm I shoot him a text: Everything ok?
My phone chirps: ok
For those of you who do not know my husband, let me tell you this: The man is NOTORIOUS for very long emails, voicemails, and text messages. Oh, and he’s a grammar nazi. He’s never sent me a one word text, let alone one that was not capitalized properly.
I began panicking, started “skunk sweating”. It’s my extremely foul smelling, instantaneous reaction to pure terror.
Because here’s the thing about our old neighborhood – it might be the hottest place in Nashville to live right now, but it’s still “up and coming” and “gentrification” is happening on a house-by-house basis. So, even though Google Maps showed that the phone was holed up just next door to brand new $400,000 construction, it couldn’t guarantee that the house it was actually hiding in wasn’t chockfull of drug dealers just thrilled to score two iPhones in one evening.
The truth was worse than that.
Here’s the reason he couldn’t talk:
He was busy having a conversation through a locked front door with a woman (a woman WAY too smart to open her house to some strange man in the pitch black of night even if every other house on her street is being torn down and replaced with half-a-million-dollar mammoths) who was heartbroken, but none too surprised to hear that one of her foster children had stolen a cell phone from a fellow student during the class.
This mom, with two teenage children of her own, has been a foster parent for years. She usually fosters boys, but she’d recently taken in four sisters so that they could be kept together. Though the two sisters in Zoë’s class denied taking the phone (conveniently turned off ten minutes before), the GPS was pretty adamant that Leonard was in the house. The mom tried to get them to fess up. She explained that the phone had been tracked to her home, that this man she “didn’t know from Adam” had come to her home in the night to get it, that we all knew it was there even if we couldn’t get it to ring. The girls denied and denied.
The mom wasn’t buying it – one of the sisters has a history of stealing. She called the case worker. The case worker got nowhere. Mom threatened to call the police. The girls called her bluff. She called the cops.
Here’s the thing. The oldest sister is twelve, the other is ten.
So Mike is there in the living room just watching and waiting. The mom scoots the two tiniest sisters off to bed to save them any more drama (they’ve no doubt already seen a lifetime’s worth), gets the older kids squared away with everything they need for school Wednesday morning, and runs an inquisition – all the while keeping one of her eyes on the baby in the bouncer, and the other on the elderly grandma shuffling her walker to the bathroom. This woman is doing the Lord’s work and she clearly doesn’t have time for this crap. Her teenage son is apologizing to Mike “for all this foolishness”, while her teenage daughter cleans the baby’s spit up off of his shirt, and Mike feels for all the world like White Privilege come to fuck some black people’s shit up.
Yes, it’s true that one of those girls stole my daughter’s phone. It’s true that stealing is wrong and illegal. It’s true that we can’t afford to buy her another one, and that she’s going to be devastated to lose Leonard.
But it’s also true that a phone is just a fucking phone, even if you do give it a corny name. And even without a phone my daughter still has about a million advantages that those sisters do not. She has a home that she’s never been turned out of. She has absolute confidence that she will always be with her siblings without having to depend on the kindness of strangers willing to keep them together. She knows she’s loved, imperfectly, but completely. She has food to eat, and the same bed to sleep in night after night no matter what she may do. She has a father who not only adores her, but is willing to drive across town, in the night, to try to retrieve her prized possession.
It’s a little hard to feel too sorry for Zoë, considering.
Here’s what I wish:
I wish there was a way, through the power of Apple or God Almighty, that we could turn that phone on for that little girl. I wish that that phone could ring, and on that fancy 1136×640 pixel screen, the face of the person she wants most in the world to see could appear. I wish that person could tell her every true thing: that she is worthy, she is important, she is beautiful, and powerful, and loved. That the last ten to twelve years may have been pure hell, but there is still hope. That the next ten to twelve years can be so much better. That there is no such thing as too late.
If it can’t do that, she can just keep it. What good is it anyway?