What a monumental blunder, but I’m sure you’ve also had a couple?

Today is photo day at the boys’ preprimary school. You can imagine what the process is like that leads up to taking one little distilled smiling photo. That photo simply cannot convey the frustration and hassle that accompanies prepping for such an event. So off to the hair dresser with my wife and our four and two year old.

In the parking lot I open the door. As I do that I search for my cell phone. I thought I brought it along, I think to myself. I must have left it at home. Surviving the hair cut ordeal, later that afternoon round about supper I start looking for my phone. Now again, supper with a four year and two year old (ours at least), includes painting with the food, running marathons round the table; in short everything but eat. But now the missing cell suddenly becomes more important since I have already looked in all the usual places.

Sheep

Having dialled my number from my wife’s phone numerous times and at various spots such as the bathroom, car we drove in, drawers, I became worried. I won’t say I was frantic but ‘worry’ is such an understatement. You’ll know what I mean If you are anything like me. I try to keep up to date with the possibilities of technology: cloud syncing every device; using Dropbox on various platforms; Evernote and so on. Naturally there are files on my phone that are personal. Needless to say but later that night I had to change a great deal of passwords. But what happened in between, between supper (which I skipped) and before changing my passwords is what is really important.

So I decide that although there’s a slim chance of finding it let me drive back to the parking lot and maybe ask the car guard if he has picked up something. Standing in the parking lot I dial my number. I don’t here anything, but…. To my right a person is walking briskly up the parking lot. I see something in his hands that he is putting back into a holster. My immediate impression was that, that is a BlackBerry. The large touch screen suggested that it could be my model. Hence, all the more chance of it being my BlackBerry. People in parking lots watching over cars do not have that kind of phone I figured. I followed.

With what he does next I get even more suspicious. Still walking briskly he goes to a dustbin and looks into it. He goes to the next dustbin and puts his hand into it and does something. Sometimes I’m told people throw away the SIM card and keep the phone.(Later on I drove back to the shopping centre a second time, to the dustbin. You can imagine the rest of that part.)

Suddenly he turns around and starts walking down the passageway towards and past the community grocery store. At a distance but still I follow. Why do I do this? Well, I can’t just confront the guy. I figured that if my phone was his new find of the day he would probably take it out and inspect it somewhat at some stage. If i could have a better look when he does that I’ll be in a good position if I have to confront him. He walks passed the grocery store on his right and at the corner of the building turns right up the dark parking lot entry way. He speaks to no one and is still in a hurry. Let’s indicate his general direction as walking south.

Just outside of the shopping centre now facing the tar road I thought he was going to carry on south. Interestingly, that got me more suspicious, he turns back down, north to the other entrance of the shopping centre. Now outside of the shopping complex my awareness is that he is much more relaxed. From this I gathered that he is not feeling pressured anymore; he has fled the scene safely. Climbing into my car I thought I don’t have anything to go on yet in order to confront him so I want on and followed him some more. Now I’m beginning to feel like a stalker.

He stopped at the taxi pick up zone. As I drove slowly towards to pick up zone I see that he is sitting on the side-way with his knees up and fidgeting with something between his knees. This is it I thought. If he is fidgeting with my phone I’ll catch him red-handed. There are three other persons also standing around. As I pull in on the side-way he stands up and puts something in his right pocket.

The following account is more or less how the conversation went:

Me: Hey, what’s in your pocket? [I mean, what can you really say if you need to catch someone red-handed? No time for lengthy introductions, elevator speeches, value propositions – although at some stage I did offer him 100 bucks for my phone] Person: Excuse me.

Me: Just show me what’s in your pocket please.
Person: What are you saying.
Me: I think you have my phone.
Person: [He laughs] Me: Wasn’t it you who helped us earlier in the parking lot [referring to when we came to cut the boys hair. This even made me more suspicious and the story more plausible.] Person: Yes [he says indignantly]. Here is my phone. [He shows me his phone taking it from his left pocket not the right one.] Me: [I recall that we actually liked this guy. My wife says she always gives him a tip] I have been following someone who I think is you. He looks like you with the cap and all. He was walking as if… [and I told him the very short accusation filled account of the whole thing. At this stage two of the bystanders interacted] Person 2: Show the man what’s in your pocket. [This person even grabs the other persons bag from him and gives it to me to inspect.] Person: No it’s not me [and very reluctantly he pulls a wallet from his right pocket.]

At this moment I got stuck. I didn’t want to push any further and he already showed me what’s in his pocket. Disengaging in the conversation I drove off. While driving back I thought I should have asked him to completely empty his pocket. There could still easily have fitted a phone. I also only afterwards thought that I should have inspected the bag because I didn’t; I thought it was in his right pocket.

At home I felt really disheartened. This is not the first time. There was another incident only a couple of months ago where one of the workers that I trusted to help us relocate (I’ve known him a long time) stole an older phone of mine (I wanted to give it to him anyway, but not this way!). Still today I’m sure that it was my phone. I actually held the phone in my hand afterwards. Although related, it is a story for another day.

At home it is bathing time for the kids. I was just going through the motions still very confused about the whole cell phone matter. We went to bed eventually. Next morning came and the morning routine followed. Just before I see the family off and before my wife closes her door she says and holds something out to me:

Jy kyk soos jou gat!

There, right in front of me she was holding out my cell phone. I felt as ‘red’ as the early morning sun shining in my face. I was so embarrassed in that moment. The sun had to wear shades.

Local Sunrise

Local Sunrise

The non literal translation of my wife’s words was that I really don’t search very thorough. I’ll save you the literal translation. In any case, she’s right.

A few moments later and I’m now I writing this. What do yo do with this experience? You are welcome to comment. I’m trying to reflect on how exactly I came to my conclusion that a particular person which in the end happened to be the one helping us earlier in the day was the one that picked up my phone and allegedly stole it. There are many events and indications that suggest that my suspicion was reasonable. But then there are also events where my eyes played tricks on me I believe. How would you handle this? Maybe at work, at church something similar happened to you. This reaches my personal list of top embarrassing moments!

Well, I guess an apology is a good start… and off I go.

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