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Saturday, August 13, 2011

The 1892 Pencil Box of E.R. Rushmore - and the I-Phone of a Stranger

I admit it. There are certain times when even I have trouble finding anything good. Fortunately, that isn't why I do this. 
No, I am in search of the search. I don't need to find anything at all. But I am sure you know as well as I that it is impossible not to find something. Well, this past weekend I found way more than I wanted to... 
If you were thinking that this post was going to be about a pencil box...well, it is and it isn't.  Last weekend turned in to a brief odyssey that had me questioning my core ethics, and actually unsure of the right thing to do. My best excuse was that I caught some kind of flu or respiratory infection (wasn't looking for that!) and so my UA abilities were somewhat challenged. Here is the story from last Saturday.

While looking through the local print media, my progeny and I found only one decent-sounding sale, an estate tag sale in Redding. In the near future, I plan on doing a post on the ethical and scrupulous naming of sales in the classifieds.  There is no "Dig-i-pedia" for Urban Archeology, but maybe I should start one because I am pretty sure folks name these sales blindly. As you might have guessed the Redding sale was not what I had hoped. Attaching "estate" to a tag sale does not make it a "dig." Although it could have held promise, being deep in an old wooded section of the town, we found nothing worth blogging about. I was even put off because a confused shopper had maneuvered her car in front of mine to cause us to park much further away from the driveway than necessary. During the walk back to the car, which was  long and up- hill, I thought of all the cars that came and went and sensed that someone had dropped something. I don't always think this way, but I had a feeling that caused me to scan the side of the road more carefully than usual....nothing.  As we parked ourselves back in the car and adjusted seat belts I noticed something black about 10 feet in the woods laying on the ground. I first thought that it was a reflector from a car or bike being flat, black, and rectangular, but as I shifted my position I caught an odd reflection from it. "Why not take a look?" I thought. 
"Whoa!" Impressive, but it didn't look anything like the picture. It was dead, and damp, and must have been sitting there for a long time. I was amazed at the ruggedness of the case and how it had ended up lost, tossed, and abandoned. I began to peel back the rubberized wrapper which revealed underneath a hard plastic case. The manufacturer was "Otter box" and inside was an I-Phone 3g. It took some inspecting and poking to get it the plastic case apart. Hats off to my 8-year-old, who knew exactly where to pry.
I don't know what guarantee this company promises, but I was at first unconvinced of any obvious claim. The phone was wet. Being face-up when I found it, any rain had rested in the well around the screen. I grabbed a paper towel and removed what was mostly condensation. The glass was foggy with dampness and the camera lens had numerous droplets from deep inside.  Not much hope, but having just recently purchased a car adapter for my 2g I-Phone, I tried to power it.  "Boink!" It began charging. Maybe an "Otter Box" is not a bad idea for some of us.

As much as I would like to upgrade my phone, this wasn't the way I had planned. This was someone's phone. I scanned through the numerous Aps and songs trying to figure out the identity of the owner. There were pictures, but mostly of a family pet and flowers, a few people on couches, but the screen was foggy and nothing was obvious. As we searched for other sales in the area we stopped and explored the phone a little more each time. The phone directory seemed to have a lot of people with the same last name. Could that be the owners name?  I remembered that somewhere in the settings you can find the phone number of the phone itself. 4 sales and 2 towns later I figured this was the number to call. No answer. Given the time that this had been in the woods (2 months from the last call) wouldn't the owner have ported the number to a new phone? After looking through some of the texts I was still only vaguely getting an idea of this person's world - none of it my business- and all of it leaving me with concern for foul play.  Was this stolen and tossed? My mind can easily get very creative about reverse-engineering a story of how this phone came to be in the woods.

I have to admit, I badly wanted to keep this phone. My daughter was no help, she loves my phone and the idea of one of her own was no doubt on her agenda. I found in the directory a favorite number which looked to be either a spouse or a sister. I called and got a machine and chose not to leave a message. I was getting close, but still bugged by the mystery. Later that night I did a little research and found that a zip lock of rice plus the phone would dry it out over night. The next morning I was amazed to find the screen was crystal clear! Another call to the spouse/sister and this time I left detailed information about the how to get the owner in touch with me.  I searched the internet for a similar situation and spent an hour reading through a vicious flame war of comments over one individual's decision to keep a found phone. The resounding advice had been to turn it into the Apple Store (not going there) or the police.  
I won't go into all the details (though it seems I have), but a FaceBook search had me convinced I knew whose phone this was and the town he was from. Progeny and I headed off to that town's police department only to be turned away! After giving my license and DNA to the man behind the 4 inch bullet-proof glass,  "Where did you find the phone, sir?" "Redding."  "Oh, you can't turn that in here. You need to go to the Redding PD."  "But but, but I am almost sure the owner is a resident off this town." " Sorry."  Now a extended trip to Redding would be required...and on a Sunday!? Did Redding even have a Police Department, or just a resident trooper? I was resolved to have this phone taken off my hands and turn in my detective's badge.
After some searching, including the brief interrogation of a friendly jogger, I did find the Redding PD. Although I did receive a similar request for my written DNA, I was connected with a friendly officer who seemed impressed that I had dried out the phone and made a few calls to find the owner. He promised to continue the search. When we got home I made a final call to the spouse/sister and left another message explaining that the phone could be picked up at the Redding PD. I still want the phone, but more than that, I hope to someday get to the end of this mystery with more detail...stay tuned.  

Coming Soon! Part 2. The actual mysterious Pencil Box of E.R. Rushmore!

1 comment:

  1. Art, the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others.
    It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, photography, sculpture, and paintings.

    Your blog totally matches this definition and I promise I'll come back. I also suggest you check out this blog I just saw, I think it's great as well: Drawings Paintings Prints
    Will be coming back,


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