Wednesday, 17 May 2017

A sense of loss, a sense of incompetence

Oh, the sense of dread. The chill hand of loss gripping the heart. The sense of shame and regret at my own incompetence.

I’d discarded the comfortable clothes suitable for indoor use and for walking the dogs – the kind of clothes that can cope with being sat on by a small dog at home or spattered with mud by the same dog outside. Instead I’d climbed into the kind of stiff trousers that owe their looks to dry cleaning, not simple washing in a machine like real clothes. A shirt that fits the formal requirements of the term “business”. A proper jacket, the kind that lets in the wind and rain because it does up with three buttons instead of a zip.

My two laptops – yes, yes, two, don’t ask – were in my rucksack. My notebook (that’s an actual notebook, with pages made of paper and bound in hard covers). My iPad. My Kindle (got to do something on the train). My personal mobile phone, safely in my pocket. All I needed was my work phone – yes, yes, two phones, don’t ask.

And then – the dread.

It wasn’t where it should have been, charging quietly.

It wasn’t on the table where my work laptop had been a few minutes earlier.

It wasn’t on the dining table.

Hey, it wasn’t in the bedroom, the spare bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom (yes, I even looked there).

I tried phoning it. No joy. Straight to voicemail. As if it were switched off or – ghastly thought – someone else were using it. How could that be?

I’d used it in the morning. When I went out earlier, I’d deliberately not taken it with me. Clearly, it had to be at home still.

And then a ghastly thought came to me. The lorry had called earlier to collect the recycling. And I had indeed thrown some papers in that bin. Could I absolutely swear that the phone hadn’t been mixed in with those papers? I tried to remember how they’d felt. There’d been some packaging. Could the phone have been with it?

But I’ve never done such a thing before. It’s not the kind of thing I do. Why would I have done it now?

I tried to phone the IT specialist at work. Surely he’d have a way of tracking an iPhone? If it wasn’t at home, then it might well be in the back of a recycling lorry. He, though, had taken the day off.

The clock was ticking. My appointment was approaching. I had to go if I was to have any chance of arriving on time.

I swallowed my anxiety and went. But a dim sense of loss, a mood of depression followed me the whole way there, during the meeting itself, and the whole way back. It’s so depressing to lose things. A favourite scarf left on a train luggage rack. A pullover under a cinema seat. A child’s toy on a beach.

When the object is relatively expensive and you have to account for it to someone else, the feeling’s all the worse.

Back at home, though, my wife came to my rescue.

“Use ‘Find my iPhone,” she said.

“But I haven’t set it up for the work phone,” I explained patiently.

“Oh, yes, you have,” she assured me.

And she was right. I logged on. And there was the trace. The phone was in the house. I sent out instruction to it to bleep and it started bleeping.

From where it was lying underneath the couch from which I’d used it in the morning.

Which left me feeling silly. But relieved. Which is a lot better than how I felt before.

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