The iPhone on the day of "the accident"

I’m just going to say it. My phone is kind of a badass.

Sometimes, when my phone is having a drink with other phones, the conversation gets personal and he takes off his shirt. The scars never fail to get a reaction.

“Oh wow!” “Is that Scotch tape?” “Ouch!” “Are you OK?”

OK? My phone grins. I’ve been tweeting and emailing and photo-taking every day since … the accident.

My phone gives me a look. My wallet peeks out of my purse to listen in. That’s when I know it’s time to tell the story of the event I consider a lucky break, a wake-up call and a miracle. A story that’s not so unique, and — considering the imminent arrival of the iPhone 5 — one you might take to heart.

We were going to go camping near Cle Elum, Washington. Me, Jason and our friend Sara in one car, our friends Sarah and Guillaume in the other. We stopped at a gas station in North Bend, picked up some snacks, and got back on I-90, headed East.

Twenty minutes later, Jason brought up scurvy, like you do. Neither Sara nor I knew what nutrient the body has to lack to contract the disease, so I opened the glove compartment to ask my phone. It wasn’t there.

Immediately, I knew why. I’d left my phone on top of the car at the gas station. Along with my wallet.

<heartstop> Ohgodno. </heartstop>

Mónica Guzmán

I rolled down the window and patted the roof of the car at 65 miles an hour like an idiot (Jason’s idea). Then we turned around.

While Sara and I scoured the Mt. Si Chevron parking lot, Jason found my soft white case amid shattered glass alongside the roundabout near the ramp to I-90. But no phone, no wallet.

I thought about the roundabout. Fifty minutes earlier, while our car waited for the other to get through a light, we did about four laps around that thing. Sara and I even stuck our arms out the windows and said, “Whee.”

We. Said. “Whee.”

I was losing it.

“Maybe you can track it,” Sara said. A phone is not a mere object, after all. It is a magical, wonderful object, capable of knowing precisely where it is when you check in, snap a photo, or leave it on the effing roof of your effing car.

But no, Sara. No. Setting up a way to track my phone would have allowed us to know where it is in just minutes using Sarah’s WiFi enabled laptop, so we wouldn’t have to consider crazy things like making a public announcement at the next-door McDonald’s. Preparing for a situation like this would have been smart. Mónica, today, is feeling very, very stupid.

It was in the midst of this self-loathing that a low, dark, two-door sports car pulled up beside us, both windows  rolled down.

Whee! ... Oh, crap. The area in question, including the Mt. Si Chevron and the fateful roundabout leading to I-90 E. Click for larger version.

“Did you lose a phone?” said a man in his twenties from under a sideways baseball cap. “‘Cause we found one out by the highway.”

<heartstop> What? </heartstop>

In a cupholder between this guy and the driver was a phone, naked and wounded, but intact. The guy in the cap handed it to me. His name was Frank. The other guy, Paul.

I couldn’t give Frank a hug through the window. But I tried.

They’d seen the phone on the grass by the entrance ramp to I-90, pulled over, picked it up, and come back to town to see if anyone had lost it. They didn’t find a wallet. I didn’t care. Sara and I waved goodbye and squealed. What was more ludicrous, pieces of glass were falling off the phone’s back, but everything worked. Even the camera. I took Sara’s picture, just to prove it.

Jason, Sarah and Guillaume returned from a crawl up I-90, wallet-less and pragmatic. Did I get Frank and Paul’s full names? Did I get their license plate number? Sara and I had been talking about tracking my phone when they pulled up. Maybe they had both my phone and my wallet, but figured they’d give up the phone so we couldn’t find them. The phone and wallet should have fallen near the same place. Maybe Frank and Paul weren’t coming back to find the owner, but to shop at the outlets next door with any of my three credit cards. People aren’t always good, Mónica. People can be bad.

<deflation> I know. I know. I just … forgot.

I am so attached to my phone that my wallet seemed an afterthought. How messed up is that? My wallet had my license, my credit cards, my insurance card, a couple gift cards and about $120 in cash. Replacing the iPhone is $200 at an Apple store (or so I thought at the time. See update below). Replacing these?…

Then there’s security. Why don’t I ever think about security? Frank and Paul said they were about to look me up on my own logged-in Facebook account because — oh, right — I never locked my phone. Now someone somewhere has my address and my credit cards’ three-digit security codes.

Stupid. Very, very, very stupid.

I grabbed a napkin from the gas station to keep the broken bits of phone glass from cutting me. Jason canceled our AmEx. We considered getting back on the road. I thanked everyone for being so helpful. Then my phone rang.

On the phone with Jaremy, learning that the missing wallet had miraculously been found. (Photo: Sarah Schacht)

“Hey, Mónica. It’s Jaremy Rich. I’m calling about your wallet?”

</deflation> <collapse>

Jaremy, a social media geek now at Seattle’s PopCap Games, had just gotten off the phone with a woman named Elle who was driving with her boyfriend when they found my wallet near the highway. They’d found his business card in the wallet and called him.

By the time Jaremy gave me Elle’s number, I was crumpled on the floor outside the gas station, holding my phone tighter than I should have, considering the prickly parts.

The next day, after a camping trip full of its own misadventures, I met Elle MacDonald and Zach Malanca back at the Mt. Si Chevron. They’d been running late to see Sound Garden at the Gorge when they saw a wallet fly off the roof of a car in front of them and scatter its contents onto the grass by the highway entrance ramp. They’d pulled over and picked up all the cash and cards they could find, which was pretty much everything. I offered them $40.

“No, keep it, Elle said. “We just did what had to be done.”

A couple weeks later I made an appointment at an Apple store to have my phone replaced. I didn’t go.

People are good. The scars are a welcome reminder.

How do you keep tabs on your phone?

I installed Apple’s own free Find my iPhone tracking app the day after “the accident.” Windows Phones have a similar native service available called Find my Phone. Android users have apps like Lookout and Plan B, which you can install after you’ve lost your phone.

When she heard the story, Seattle social media geek Keridwyn Deller recommended, a service that helps people who find your lost devices find you by making it easy for them to report the find online or via text. The cool thing about this is, it works for anything — even something without GPS.

What do you use?

Update: As Briana Saunders pointed out, while repairs on an iPhone can run in the $200 range, a new iPhone can cost $600-$700 if you’re still in contract — which I am. Thanks, Briana! And, for the umpteenth time, thank you, Frank and Paul!

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  • Keridwyn Deller

    Thanks for the mention! Love and Found My IPhone. What an amazing story, Monica! We should all be that lucky! 

  • Keridwyn Deller

    Thanks for the mention! Love and Found My IPhone. What an amazing story, Monica! We should all be that lucky! 

  • FarFromLoozen

    Thanks for the “Shout out” to Cle Elum.  Grew up there.

    • Monica Guzman

      The camping trip story could be another column for another website, @846b4d11dd6888962fc8e37cb1e97cb6:disqus. Suffice it to say it was … interesting. @sarahschacht, @jasonp, @sarakseattle and I will not soon forget it. That said, beautiful area. Want to go back.

  • baratunde

    my first iphone was the original badass phone Got run over by a car. Served proudly long after

    • Monica Guzman

      It’s one thing to fly off the roof of a car but to be run over by one? @baratunde:twitter might have my badass phone beat :)

      • Franck Curier

        run over by a car, been there, done that :/ It never really recovered, although alarm clock was still on :)

        • Monica Guzman

          Well that’s something, @hallucinant:disqus  ;) Do you still have it hanging around? A memento, perhaps?

          • Franck Curier

            I sure do @twitter-3452941:disqus ! I wish I knew where I put my first mobile phone. That one was a monster AND a survivor. I was thrown into the swimming pool w/ my clothes on. It was still working like a charm

          • Monica Guzman

            Wow. I wonder what the rule is. Maybe it’s like with food. The five-second phone-in-pool rule.

  • baratunde

    and here’s my 1st badass iphone at the DNC in 2008

    • Jason Preston

      very nice fireworks pattern on display

  • joshc

    In Seattle (and Chicago), Jet City Repair in Fremont is great for fixing shattered iPhone screens. When I dropped mine, it was already out of warranty and they repaired cheaper than the Apple Store and in just about an hour.

    • Monica Guzman

      Just asked them on their Facebook page what they think fixing my “badass” phone might run, @joshc:disqus . Not that I’d do it. But… well, it’s good to know ;)

      • joshc

        their website has pretty clear pricing guides, $35 for the back, $129 for the front. 

  • Carissa N. Garrard

    Mine only has a story about my repeated clumsiness, not the kindness of strangers.

  • Carissa N. Garrard

    Mine only has a story about my repeated clumsiness, not the kindness of strangers.



  • Mason B.

    If all you broke is the back glass, that’s only $30 to have repaired at the Apple store (unlike the front which has the touchscreen and is around $120). 

    • Monica Guzman

      Hm. That doesn’t seem like much at all. The back is pretty well shattered, but everything works. Maybe I should have a talk with my phone. Maybe it’s time he shape up and get over the whole badass thing. But he sure loves telling that story. Hmmm…

      • daryn

        cute story monica! :) 

        Beyond the $30, you can also find replacement back covers online (there’s a sweet metal one I’ve seen), and they’re pretty easy to replace yourself. 

        • Monica Guzman

          Thanks for the tip, @daryn:disqus!

  • Jaremy

    I totally love this story. I’m also happy I was able to help you rescue your phone in the end. Just goes to show you that there is a value in physical business cards taking up a spot in your wallet! So glad you were able to get everything returned (more or less) intact.

  • Andrea James

    You. Are. Such. A. Good. Writer!!

    And I love this story!!! And the new html tag, heartstop, I gotta remember that one!

    This story is awesome – yay for the goodness of humanity! I have a similar one, not told nearly so well as you tell it! 


    My little brother dropped his wallet Somewhere In Seattle in August. It was a Blue Angels day and I made my visiting family JOG to Madison Park from Queen Anne so I could get my workout and hangout time in all at once. (That’s about five miles one way.) 

    That evening, Citibank called and said that someone called with the wallet. She gave a name, misspelled, and a phone number. The Citibank tele-employee did not write the name down correctly and did not write down the number correctly.

    Here’s what I could deduce, a man in Seattle with a name that rhymed with XXX Patel (for his privacy, keeping it private) and the number had a Baltimore area code.

    After 15 minutes of searching various variations on the name, I figured out who it was thanks to Google’s “did you mean to search for THIS?” feature. (Patel is a WAY common last name!)I paid $1.99 to Intelius to get his entire background. He’s a doctor in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. His parents live in Texas. He went to Johns Hopkins (Baltimore number). His name rhymed with what the lady at Citibank said. Bingo!

    I called his parents in Texas, explained my situation like this, “Um hi, yeah my name is Andrea and my brother lost his wallet. And I think your son found it. Can I please have his number?”

    The sweet parents, who no doubt were disturbed by the 11 p.m. Central Time call, gave me Mr. Patel’s cell.

    Then, I Facebook message the guy and I call his cell and leave a message. He calls back. He’s at a bar on the Hill. He has the wallet. We can come get it.

    “By the way, where did you find it?”

    “At the intersection of Olive and Denny.”

    I write a note apologizing for stalking him and awarding him the Good Samaritan award.

    It totally restored my faith in humanity, especially because my hiking gear had been robbed two days earlier!

    • Monica Guzman

      Wow – nice work tracking this guy down, @2dd5d85b408c5faf2601d6b7b857fcb5:disqus! Amazing how easy that can be with the right resources. Considering how easy it could be, too, to “get away with” stealing a wallet, it’s so great that so many people know that’s just wrong, regardless of risk or consequence. Conscience #win.

  • Breanne Coats

    Great story! I’m always impressed with people that do amazing things but act like that’s just the way the world works…I so want to live in that world!

    • Monica Guzman

      Well said, @twitter-351867311:disqus . I did love the way Elle responded. She and Zach just kind of shrugged their shoulders, like the idea that what they did was unexpected was beyond them. You’re right. That’s a nice world to live in.

  • amymstewart

    I love this story!  I hope most would do what those people did–I would. There ARE good people.  But lots of bad ones too so lock your phone now! :)  Only thing missing from this story is… when did this happen!??!! and is hard to use your phone now? Love your writing. Keep being adorably geeky

    • Monica Guzman

      Thanks, @twitter-11076862:disqus ! This happened July 30, I believe. And the phone’s fine! I covered it in Scotch tape (guess I did forget to clarify that) and put a soft, steady case on its back. Here’s the same-day tweet summarizing in 140 characters all the day’s crazy:!/moniguzman/status/97450436063272960

  • christiananderson

    Love the story @twitter-3452941:disqus ! The Apple store at Bellevue Square replaced the glass on the back of my iPhone for $15. It got badassed in a horrible ultimate frisbee incident. :( It’s better fixed. :) 

    • Monica Guzman

      Ultimate frisbee accident, @christiananderson:disqus? Graphic ;) Mine really is performing just fine in its badass state (like I told Amy above but neglected to mention clearly in the column, I covered the back of my phone in careful strips of Scotch tape), but the comments on this post — particularly the ones about cheap fixes — are making me consider putting an end to my phone’s bragging rights …

      • christiananderson

        Ha! The other way to go is to put it in a case. Although, you’d want a clear case to continue to show off the badassitude. My incident was particularly horrible because it happend two weeks after I got my 4.

        • Monica Guzman

          Ah. Ouch!

  • Answer

    The answer is “Vitamin C”, BTW.

    • Monica Guzman

      So we found out. Our guesses were way off. Iron was one.

  • Monica Guzman

    More on iPhone love, from the New York Times:

  • nathan

    Great story – you can get the back replaced for $50 in Freemont, well worth it

    • Monica Guzman

      Thanks! Yeah, gotten good recommendations on this post on how to repair the phone. Didn’t want to do it, but just this week, actually, my phone’s camera stopped focusing right. Now I think I have to get the phone replaced … or buy an iPhone 4S?

  • Jetladuke

    great feel good read – thanks!!

  • Carl Setzer

    I’m sad I’m just now finding this. Great story, great ending, and great people.

    • Monica Guzman

      I still can’t quite believe it. I was so defeated. It’s amazing how lost I felt thinking I’d lost my phone…

  • Carl Setzer

    Moments like this make the Apple service plan look good. :)

  • Theresa Buchanan Gormley

    Awesome story – and really well-written. Of course, perhaps partly because I can see myself doing exactly what you did. Thanks :)

  • voleheart

    i laugh at your definition of BA

  • Sea Urchin

    Love humanity, sometimes, and always love my OtterBox.

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