My iPad came home.
The little guy’s been gone quite
a while — 116 days, to be precise. Not that I counted. But I missed it.
I took it with me on vacation to Key West. On the way back to the airport, I wanted to make sure it was in the carry-on bag, not the checked suitcase, but the bag was already in the trunk of the rental car. So I stashed the iPad under the seat for the drive back to Miami.
I realized as soon as we made it past the security checkpoint that I didn’t have my iPad. But no one ever leaves the secure area once they’ve shed the belt, the shoes, the coins, and the phone and submitted to electronic frisking, and time was short, so I figured I’d just call the rental agency and they’d ship it back to me. Three days, maximum.
When I called the rental place, Daniel answered the phone. Polite, sympathetic, helpful. Overly helpful. Generously helpful.
No, he said, the rental agency can’t ship it; they have a policy. Anything left in the car you have to pick up. They don’t ship. They don’t want to be liable. But, he said, this happens all the time. He’d do me a favor. He’d take it home with him, take it to UPS, and ship it himself.
Wow! What a guy! That sounded great. I got on the plane, marveling at how the world was full of nice people.
For the next few days, I tracked the iPad while its battery still held a charge. I saw it go back and forth from what I presumed was Daniel’s house to the rental agency. OK, he left it in the car. He’d get to UPS one of these days. He’s doing me a favor. Don’t bug the guy.
A week went by, maybe two. I heard nothing from Daniel. I had his cellphone number; I left a few messages. Always polite — Hey Daniel, remember me, maybe you forgot. Anything happening with my iPad?
Maybe he was one of those people who doesn’t actually use a phone for phone calls anymore, just for texting. So I texted him a few times. Silence.
Nothing seemed to work until I offered that maybe I should call him at work. That got a response. Sorry, I’ve been on vacation, Daniel said. Got back and heard all your voice mails, Daniel said. I’ll get it to you right away.
What’s the big deal, right? I have an iPhone. I have a laptop. Two laptops, in fact. One at home, one at work. The iPad always seemed kind of an extravagance — nice to have, not need to have.
Except. Except I began to notice how my habits had changed with an iPad in my life. Specifically, my reading habits. I stopped reading newspapers a long time ago, in my attempt to adapt to a digital life. But with the iPad, all reading had become electronic. All my magazine subscriptions were digital-only. All the books I bought in the last few years came from the iBookstore.
Analog reading suddenly seemed so archaic. First, I had to wait around to get a book — from the library, from a bookstore, even from Amazon.
Get up from the couch! Go to a store! Or walk downstairs to get the mail!
Then I needed a light! A bookmark! And my CVS reading glasses, since I can’t magically make the fonts on the page larger. Never mind falling way behind on Sports Illustrated. I never realized reading was such a production. I was in the middle of the last volume of William Manchester’s epic biography of Churchill when my iPad went missing; don’t ever try to read that on a phone — 5,233 pages (in portrait mode)!
My thumb cramped up from swiping. It seemed easier just to give up reading.
Eventually, the iPad’s battery died, and it no longer updated me on its whereabouts. Daniel answered about one text out of every 10, still apologizing for his tardiness and swearing he’d send it back to me. A few times, he plugged it in and charged it up, just so I’d see where it was. It sent me e-mails now and then to let me know it was all right, since I’d turned on “lost mode.” “Bennie’s iPad was found near Blah Blah Blah Street Miami FL at 11:36 AM.” Then it would go dark again.
I investigated courier services. I threatened — still politely, since Daniel and I were still getting along through all this, and really, he was doing me a favor — to call him at work again. But what leverage did I have? What could I tell the police? It wasn’t stolen. He didn’t try to sell it. He gave me his address and phone number. I knew exactly where it was. It just wasn’t in my possession.
I even broke down and bought a book. It was like learning to read all over again. Glasses, check. Bookmark, helpfully supplied by the bookstore. Lamp — well, no more reading in bed, since the light would disturb my wife.
Did you know that if you fall asleep reading a book, it doesn’t remember the page you were on? Taking the book to the beach, however, was almost pleasant; I didn’t have to slink into the shade to see the page, or worry that the paper would run out of power.
Almost four months later, Daniel went to the UPS Store (not far away from his house, it turned out — he had charged it up one last time before shipping it so I could see its location). Then UPS took over, and I started getting a whole new set of tracking information. It went up the coast of Florida from Miami to Hialeah to Jacksonville, to Florence, S.C., to Baltimore, to Edison, N.J., to Warwick, R.I., to Watertown, and, finally, to Boston. At least that’s what the latest text from UPS told me. An overnight charge, 85 app updates, and one operating system update, and I was back in business.
Eventually, I sent Daniel a check for his troubles. He didn’t have to help me, and he did go (slightly) out of his way and spend his own money to ship it back.
But I waited a few days.