As all of you should undeniably know—primarily because you are also incapable of driving 0.4 miles down the exact same road that you already live on in order to find the gas station without a woman’s voice telling you to do so—in the year 2016, our cellphones are, in reality, the center of our entire lives. They keep our appointments. They allow us to communicate with the outside world. They tell us how to get to the nearest Long John Silvers. Without cellphones, we would travel through this world alone. Without cellphones no one else on this Earth would know we exist.
One Sunday morning a few weeks ago I woke up without my cellphone, and the terror that ensued was as immense as it was debilitating. It was a lot like what I imagine losing a pet turtle to be like, assuming your pet turtle is capable of sending gchats to your college buddies for you during work. It was, as people who have never been through, say, a nuclear holocaust or a mediocre pedicure, can attest to, the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.
Losing my cellphone is the only thing that could get me to give up my Sunday ritual of almost dying and defecating all over a Cheesecake Factory. That’s what happened to me in early June. And this is how it all went down.
Sunday, June 5
10:07 A.M.-I Wake up in a very warm sweat, Patrick Chewing style. The first thing I do is get out of bed. The second third I do is turn on the air-conditioning, because of the aforementioned Patrick Chewing situation. The third thing I do is replay the night before. My girlfriend and I left the bar around 2 A.M., got in a cab, had the cab drive us through Taco Bell, and then went home, at which point I discovered both that Kristin—who was in charge of ordering—had eaten all the food and that my phone was missing.
This combination of factors turned me into an inconsolable mess of human DNA who was promptly sent to bed some 7 hours or so earlier because he was weeping while wondering how to make a homemade cheese gordita crunch without both a phone to provide me with that information and any cheese in my refrigerator.
10:11 A.M.-I open up my laptop to begin the process of finding the lost device, when I notice that my browser had been opened the night before and had several tabs running with a couple different Google searches going as well. The first was “Drunk In The Grove…HELP.” The second was “Can you find my boyfriend’s phone.” The third tab was an Uber driver application that Kristin had begun filling out and only stopped because, at 3 AM or so, she apparently didn’t have a copy of her car’s registration handy. I go back to the second tab. It turns out the first result to a Google search of “Can you find my boyfriend’s phone,” isn’t, “oh course. Zach Poelker’s phone is inside his safety deposit box at the Farmer’s Savings and Loans bank branch in Davenport, Iowa.” Son of a bitch.
10:26 A.M.-By now Kristin is awake and I’ve discovered how to use the find my iPhone app, which tells me that the device is located somewhere in North St. Louis County. In fact, I discovered how to use this app some 15 minutes ago and have spent the past quarter hour staring at a blinking dot on a screen. When I inform her of this she stares at me incredulously before suggesting that we get in our car and go get it. I suggest that we just stand pat and do nothing, while watching the phone blink on this map in perpetuity and hoping that someone who isn’t me will take a proactive interest in making my life better.
10:38 A.M.-The phone still hasn’t moved according to the blinking map. Kristin is again insisting that we start to make moves, and I, of course am resisting. We don’t have the address I said. Just a blinking dot on a map that tells us exactly where the phone is, but without numbers, meaning that we have no idea what to believe when it comes to the phone’s precise location. I mean what are we supposed to do? Drive to this dot and then find the house with a cab in the driveway and just assume that logic dictates that this is where the phone is? Like there aren’t multiple cab drivers residing on each and every every block of a metropolis as large as St. Louis? Give me a break.
I open up my email to check and see if anyone found the phone, randomly guessed that it belonged to someone who could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and fired off a quick “hey man, found your iPhone in the bed of my Dodge Ram. Damn you Google ‘How much do slim jims cost’ a lot,” email that would allow me to recoup my device with little to no embarrassment at all. Instead I found an email from Apple informing me of the exact address at which the iPhone could be found. Fuck. Look’s like I am doing stuff today.
10:42 A.M.-I am dressed and ready to move, even wearing real pants so that the dude in possession of my phone would know that I have both a job and dental insurance I never use because dentists are the devil. The only problem? I have a tough time running in khaki shorts, which is the excuse I will use in order to wear sweat pants if I am ever an extra in a horror movie (I also have a hard time running in sweatpants, but M Night Shamylan doesn’t need to know that). Kristin was readying herself in the bathroom when she asked a question along the lines of “Should I dress super hot in order to entice this guy into giving us the phone or should I dress like someone who is ready to beat some ass.” “Uh…” I thought. “Super hot?”
“Yeah,” she said in response. “I can still kick someone’s ass when I look super hot.” I nodded my head in agreement. No one was more aware of this unique ability than I was.
10:47 A.M.-We are in the car heading North when Kristin plugs her phone—still in tact and unlost in some random cab or Taco Bell workers apron— into an aux cord and starts straight bumpin’ Beyonce’s “Formation.” This is our anthem. Because haters are corny with that illuminati mess. And while I have no idea what “Twirling On My Haters” is, I know this: you don’t want me to twirl on your ass. Because in my mind “twirling” probably involves way more Ric Flair style throat chops than it does in Queen B’s.
11:02 A.M.-We get off the highway and make a few turns into a subdivision lined with modest and well kept ranch houses with an inordinate amount of Dodge Ram’s (maybe that email above wasn’t so crazy after all…) in the driveway. House after house has a American Flag displayed on its front porch. I am not sure, but I am pretty sure, that there is at least one open window next to which someone has placed a freshly baked cherry pie. I can smell it. And I’d lying if I said it didn’t take every bit of self-control the good lord has blessed me with to not jump out of this moving vehicle and hunt said cherry pie down.
Here is the thing about cherry pie: it is better than apple. That’s also why I chose to eat a cherry pie in the one and only pie eating contest I have ever lost. Because even in defeat—suffered at the hands of a woman who weighs about 1/20th as much as I do—it gave me happiness. Because even in defeat—and the last vestige of self-esteem my eating ability was protecting for me—cherry pie tasted so gosh dang good.
11:06 A.M.-We pull up to the address where the Google machine is telling us my iPhone is stashed, and hop out of the car. It is a beautiful two-story house, the biggest on the block, with the aforementioned American flag hanging from its front porch and several additional American flag banners strewn across the windows and ledges on the houses’ lower level. Based on all of this patriotic symbolism, I can only assume that whoever wound up with my phone is probably a marine or a retired factory worker, someone with worn hands and an American spirit, someone so patriotic that they are only going to vote for Donald Trump because Hillary Clinton made the gigantic mistake of being born a woman.
The look of this house eases my concerns and tells Kristin that she might not have to use the lure of her body in order to retrieve my Apple device. I am not sure how someone so sturdy and morally upright came to be in my possession of my phone, but I am damn near certain that once I knock on their door and explain my conundrum, that I will not only get my phone back but more than likely end up hangin’ and bangin’ at this dude’s spot all day, drinking Budweiser’s and watching reruns of Duck Dynasty. Because this is America. And that is what good people do on their Sundays, after they clarify to their children that they cannot afford to pay for their college because their flag budget has gotten straight outta control.
11:07 A.M.-The only problem? There is a taxi parked in the next door driveway, a driveway connected to what looks to be a tiny row house that may or may not have bear feces strewn across its light blue siding. Kristin and I logically deduce that we should do our due diligence and check there first, before bothering the good people next door.
Within seconds Kristin can see my phone in the backseat of the taxi, and attempts to open the doors to the cab, hoping that one of them is unlocked and we can just slink away into the daytime and enjoy a celebratory brunch without anyone ever knowing we are here. Alas the doors are locked and we are forced to pursue other options.
We approach the front door of the abode and notice that the doorbell has been ripped out of its sockets. Looking through the windows, we see a living room with trash and several inoperable appliances, most noticeably a refrigerator that has been disconnected from the power socket and turned onto its side, littered across it. I knock vigorously on the door and wait a few seconds, wondering if this dude is gonna either flee the premises or shoot me dead because the only people who ever knock on doors in 2016 are cops, a fact which would’ve solved a lot of Leonard DiCaprio’s problems in The Departed, I am willing to bet.
11:09 A.M.-Still no response after several knocking sprees. I stand at the front door paralyzed, while Kristin marches around the perimeter of the house and starts knocking on several windows. She comes across a side door and opens it, noting that it is unlocked and could be an option later. She comes back to the front of the house and tries the front door, also unlocked, meaning that this fella cares more about his 1995 Chevy Caprice taxi cab then he does about the unplugged fridge in his living room. Real logical man.
11:12 A.M.-More knocking. More Kristin shuffling around. At one point she opens the front door and starts yelling into the house “Hello. Hello. Hey man…can you help us?” Before closing it again. She repeats this action several times. Somewhere along the line she actually takes a few steps into the guy’s house, and I, quietly and on the inside, start to lose my shit. You can’t just go in another man’s house and tiptoe around. That’s how people get hurt…or at least blinded by one of these new, badass tactical flashlights.
No one responds. We walk back onto the sidewalk to regroup and give ourselves plausible deniability when we are later charged with a B&E. A group of neighbors across the street are out on their porch, loading up their Dodge Ram for a Sunday trip to the lake and/or state penitentiary to visit their cousin Titus. I stare at the ground. Any rationale observer could only infer, based on our appearance, that Kristin is a prostitute and I am her pimp. But not a badass pimp with a cane and a pinky ring. More of a nice pimp, who would never use a gun, and stand on the street car and be like “hey man, you know this girl is someone’s daughter right?” before accepting beef jerky in lieu of cash and pretending like I am not a bad person because, if Bill O’Reilly taught me anything, it’s that people are never responsible for their own actions.
11:15 A.M.-Kristin gets the bright idea to call the cab company and have them track the driver down. I pull out her phone and begin to Google “ABC Cab,” based on the company's logo being displayed on the side of the taxi directly in front of me, in search of the phone number. Kristin damn near socks me on the side of the head and points to the side panel of the sedan, right next to where I had just been looking, which has the phone number spelled out in bright yellow letters. I want to give up. Not on my search for the phone…but on being conscious.
11:17 A.M.-I talk to the operator, and describe the situation as if it is a hostage situation. I am at the door to the house. You have 24 hours to get him on the phone or I am going to poop in his living room (a pile of feces that would inevitably go forever unnoticed). Finally the operator ensures me that she has spoken to the driver and he will be out shortly.
A few seconds later a fella with a voluminous beard wearing basketball shorts and a gray t-shirt stumbles out of the door. “Oh,” the man exclaims, “the Taco Bell drunks.” (Side question I would ask Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman if I ever met her: what is a more dangerous addiction…booze or crunch rap Supremes?). “Yeah,” I say beaming with pride. “That’s us.”
The taxi driver hobbles to his cab—he isn’t wearing shoes—and unlocks the door. I grab my phone and hand him a $20 bill. Kristin has already walked across the street, gotten in our car, and started the ignition. “Thanks,” I say before turning to my car. “Don’t mention it,” he replies.
Don’t mention it? Yeah, I won’t mention a lot of things: the knocking, the pounding, the opening of doors and the possible home invasion. I mention none of these things to the man as I drive away. I decide, instead, to write a 2,500 word blog post about it 3 weeks later. Because it’s 2016. And this is the way cool people communicate with the outside world nowadays.