Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Found and Returned a Cellphone

I found a rather disturbing news report out of Canada that spoke of a secret survey conducted in several Canadian cities. Several cellphones were left out in public and the survey's purpose was to find-out how many people would attempt to return a lost cellphone thay had found and/or if they'd try to browse through the phone and discover the owner's personal information. The result of the survey was disappointing. They discovered that about half of the finders would not attempt o retunr it and many of them would snoop through the phone and try to get into the user's personal data.

A couple of days ago, as I was walking up Bishop Street in Honolulu, I noticed a cellphone laying on the sidewalk near the Finance factors Building at 1164 Bishop. The phone had apparently been dropped and its battery cover had come off, but seemed to have suffered no real damage. I picked it up, replaced the cover and looked around to see if anyone was coming toward me to retrieve their phone, but no one did.

The phone was a Blackberry World Edition and looked brand new, aside from some scratches that I assumed were the result of it being dropped on concrete. My attempts to get the screen to activate proved fruitless and the only signs of life from the phone was a constantly flashing of a green indicator light in the corner of the phone whose purpose I could not fathom.

While on my rounds, I asked several people for assistance in trying to get the Blackberry to work. While they appreciated my efforts to return a lost phone, just about everyone was either an Android or iPhone user and had no knowledge regarding Blackberry phones. The one person who I met who did know something about Blackberry phones was a former user who had switched to an iPhone and was unfamiliar with the World Edition model. So, I was batting zero.

I decided to take the Blackberry to the one place I assumed would be able to help me: the Verizon Wireless store. I walked in and approached three staff members at the counter, apprised them of my situation and asked for their assistance. One of them took the phone and disinterestedly pushed a few buttons before handing it back to me. He said that the phone was on but the screen was broken. He then went back to what he was doing before I arrived.

With the verdict of the "experts", I departed and went back to work. I was contemplating simply handing the phone off to a police officer and washing my hands of the whole situation. Suddenly, a thought came to mind: Why not simply take the battery out, put it back in and then try to turn the phone on? It's what I do when my own phone (an Android) locks-up and it works without any apparent problems with the phones functionality. It was possible that the shock of being dropped on concrete had caused some sort of software glitch that a quick reboot would fix in short order.

Of course, I didn't know what effect this would have on the Blackberry and I didn't even know if the battery could be removed. But, lacking any other options I opened the battery compartment, took the battery out, put it back in and waited. Sure enough, the screen came to life and the Blackberry began to reboot itself!

Once fully rebooted, the phone's screen revealed that it was from a Hawaiian Tel account, which was the first good news I'd had since finding it. Hawaiian Tel has a branch on Bishop Street, right across from where I had first found the phone. If the owner didn't call his phone in an attempt to retrieve it, I could simply drop the phone off with them and they could return it themselves. It seemed like a win-win situation for me and the owner.

While finishing-up some work at the office, the owner finally called his phone. He had assumed that he had left it behind on the bus and was quite surprised that he had instead dropped it on the sidewalk. Due to his then being in Kailua and my being Downtown, it would have been impossible for him to get his phone back right away. We agreed that I would simply take the Blackberry to the Hawaiian Tel branch the next morning and turn it in to security. He could later go there himself and get his phone back.

I returned home after work and went to bed a few hours later. However, at 4am, I heard a buzzer going-off that woke me from a sound sleep. Searching for the source of this nuisance, I discovered that the Blackberry's owner also used his phone as an alarm clock! Since the phone had a security lock, I couldn't deactive it and could only use the Snooze button to temporarily silence it. I returned the phone to my messenger bag and went back to sleep, all the more anxious to return it to its owner.

A few hours later, I woke-up, made sure that the Blackberry was safely stored in my bag and went back into town to work. I couldn't get to the Hawaiian Tel branch before 10am, due to an early morning workload. The alarm went-off at least twice more during my rounds.

When I arrived at Hawaiian Tel, I approached the security desk, produced the phone and informed him of my purpose there. The guard had an obvious look of relief on his face, since the owner had already asked him twice if the phone had arrived. I handed him the phone, got back on my bike and headed back to the office.

I have to admit that I've been feeling pretty good about myself since then.

In case anyone is wondering: the owner didn't offer me a reward and I didn't ask for one. There shouldn't have to be a reward offered just for returning lost property to its owner.

So, even though my own experience ended on a positive note, not everyone is willing or able to return lost cellphones. This is due to the time involved and I think a lot of people blame the owners for losing their phone in the first place. But, I'm a bit more balanced when it comes to this sort of thing. After all, everyone loses things, whether it's your keys. your wallet or whatever. The fact is that people are imperfect by nature and we're going to lose something eventually. Sometimes it's something trivial and sometimes it's something important. I really don't think that we should judge anyone just because they lose something.

Duane Browning
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