A Stolen Cell Phone: An Adventure in Chinatown

Picture this: a warm, sunny morning in Los Angeles, California–a perfect day for a photo shoot. L wore her punk rock outfit: black tights, black dress, and black platform shoes. Her newly colored grey and blonde ombre hair had been pinned up halfway. We stopped at Starbucks for a quick fix and then made our way to our shoot location. Fifteen minutes later, we saw the large red sign hanging above the street. Chinatown.

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We found great locations for the photo shoot. L would be the punk model and Chinatown would be the backdrop, a quirky contrast of two styles and cultures. I began shooting pictures of L in an area with a large group of colorful buildings and a Bruce Lee statue. The pictures were turning out great.

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After an hour we moved across the street, directly next to the restaurant where Jackie Chan had filmed Rush Hour. The restaurant was a part of an alcove of buildings that had a square garden in the center. It was a great area to take pictures especially since there wasn’t that many people in this part of Chinatown. L sat down next to the fence that surrounded the garden and I sat across from her. I took my phone out of my back pocket and placed it on the ground near me.

The spot where it all started...
The spot where it all started…

“I’m going to put my phone here. I can’t forget it,” I said to L.

I began taking pictures and soon I was in the zone. Five minutes later, she stood up and I did too. I moved around the garden to capture different angles, and L changed up her poses. After a bit, we grabbed my camera bag, walked past a family going toward the garden and went around the corner to find new scenery.

After about ten more minutes of shooting, I grabbed my camera bag so that we could move on. I went to grab my phone from my back pocket so that I could check the time, but my phone wasn’t there.

I rummaged in the camera bag for my phone. It wasn’t there either.

“My phone. Where did I put it?” I said.

“It’s not in the bag?” L asked.

I shook my head ‘no.’

We looked around our current location, making sure to check all the window sills where we had previously sat our things on. She called my phone but after a few seconds we still couldn’t hear my stupid ringtone.

I ran around the corner to the alcove with the garden and began looking around. Maybe it was over here and if I was closer I could hear it ringing. But still nothing. Suddenly, I remembered that I had left it on the ground where we had first started taking pictures. Surprise, it wasn’t there either!

L asked, “Do you have insurance on it?”

I cringed. “When I got this new phone I switched insurance carriers, and this insurance doesn’t cover stolen or lost phones.”

There, I had said it, admitted what I did not want to be possible. It might have been stolen.

My phone, the lifeline to everything in this world, might have been stolen. Probably was stolen. Okay, was stolen!

I couldn’t even find a grocery store without GPS and what about all my pictures that I hadn’t backed up? I worked and lived on that tiny little machine and to have it stolen was like having my leg chopped off! Okay, well, not that drastic, but you understand.

I had activated a tracking system on my phone when I got it in December. L and I quickly got on the tracking website on her phone. It took four minutes for the website to “locate” my phone. Imagine my impatience as I watched the clock tick down until the location of my phone was found.

Finally, a location showed up. “Los Angeles.” No shit, Sherlock! What kind of tracking system just told me the city? Granted, it also showed me a yellow dot which happened to be right where we were standing. That couldn’t be correct.

We searched for my phone again on the tracking system. This time it had moved to another area but we could only see the street names on the map, and when we tried to expand the map it wouldn’t allow us. After a few more searches we noticed that the phone seemed to be moving down Broadway which was only one street over.

At this point I was sure someone had stolen my phone and I was furious…at myself. When I had placed the phone down I had said that I couldn’t forget it. Why did I not heed my own warning? Did I curse myself or predict the future? Why had I not just left the phone in my car? Or put it in my camera bag?

“We can walk down the street, call your phone, and see if we find the person.” L said.

“Yes! Let’s do it!”

We speed-walked toward Broadway and then thinking we could catch them quicker if we drove, we hopped in my car and headed down the busy street. After checking the location again, we discovered that it was between Ode and Alpine.

“What if they don’t give you your phone back?” L asked.

“I get out my bat and we see if they really want my phone.”

By this point, I’m boiling. Stealing is wrong. It’s the first “no-no” that a child learns! How dare they? I was absolutely ready to take back what was mine.

“Okay, it’s moving again. Let me out up here. I’ll start calling your phone, and then you can park and meet me.”

I pulled up next to a curb. Just as L was about to hop out of my car, I said, “Wait! How will I find you?”

“Oh, yeah, ” she said. I didn’t have a phone.

We finally found a parking spot after I did a crazy a U-turn simultaneously scaring a little boy riding his bike. His mom wasn’t too happy with me…but why not take your child to a safe place, like a park, to ride bikes?

Regardless, we hopped out of the car and headed toward my phone. We hoped that we would hear my phone ringing, see the thief pull it out of his or her pocket and—BAM—I’d demand my phone back. It was about to get real crazy in Chinatown.

“What if they run from us?” L asked as she called my phone for the fiftieth time.

“I chase after them.” This was not a “what-if” situation. This was a “I’m-going-to-get-my-phone-back-no-matter-what-I-have-to-do” situation.

“You should have brought your bat,” L said.

“A cop would probably arrest me for carrying a bat around Chinatown.”

“You could say you’re headed to a softball game,” L said.

L was right. Why hadn’t I brought my bat? I curled my fists as we walked and looked into every store we passed, searching for the perpetrator who would be stupid enough to fall for our trap.

I was gearing up for a fight that I thought might be coming when I heard L say into her phone, “Hello? Yes, you have our phone.” She paused, listening.

“We are tracking the phone. Where are you?”

At the time, I didn’t laugh but looking back now I see that we hadn’t actually “tracked” the phone down. Sprint’s tracking system only showed me a fifteen foot area in which the phone could be in and i would soon learn that we were somewhat farther than 15 feet away from my phone.

“Where are they?” I asked.

“Oh, Starbucks? Yes, we will meet you there,” she said and hung up.

Two seconds later, L is telling me to run ahead to the corner so that I can cross the street and grab my phone from the guy who had answered our call. I think we both thought it was a trick and the person wouldn’t actually be at Starbucks when we arrived or that they wouldn’t actually give us my phone back.

I arrived at the corner and waited to cross the street. L arrived a second later. I noticed her speaking to a woman near me who pointed across the street. Suddenly the woman saw me and said, “You!”

And I realized, that the family who had walked into the alcove after we had left, had picked up my phone.

Her husband arrived shortly after and handed me my phone.

“I couldn’t figure out how to answer it so I had to wait for my son to show me how.”

I laughed because I was relieved and surprised that someone had actually found my phone and had every intention of giving it back to me. This was a lovely family and they had saved me from the extra expense and trouble of getting a new phone. They reminded me to have faith in humanity because they showed me that there are very good people in the world that are willing to help others.

After leaving the family, my adrenaline dropped to a normal level and I was left in awe of the fact that I had actually gotten my phone back. Do you know how often that happens? Never! This was Los Angels, Chinatown; I had immediately expected it to be sold on Craigslist. Not handed over to me forty-five minutes later.

We got near a large dragon sign and I hugged one of the poles of the sign.

“I just can’t believe it. I might have to convert to Buddhism,” I said thinking of all the Buddhist statues in Chinatown. I laughed and proceeded to thank God, Allah, Buddha, Mother Earth, Shiva, and any other god that had helped me in getting my phone back.

After my praise of thanks, we walked back to the Jackie Chan restaurant and stuffed our faces with fried rice and chow mein.

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