Last weekend, my roommate Maria lost her phone. One moment, it was in her back pocket, and the next, gone. This was her origin story. Her spider bite. Haven’t you ever wondered what led Sherlock Holmes to be the man in the deerstalker hat?
I’ll spare you the harrowing details—the fruitless googling, the questioning of the meaning of the iOS alerts she was emailed, the hours spent searching in the grass. She was unable to log into her Moodle account because she couldn’t do two-factor verification with Duo Mobile. I would take a break from scrolling on my phone at night to look across the room and see her, scrolling on her computer and looking sad. She used my phone to call her parents and do her Snapchat streaks. People talk about the thousand-yard stare of soldiers after combat, but they never bring up the fourteen-foot stare of a girl without a phone.
We began to question everything and everyone. My boldest theory was that a squirrel had dragged it away. She found a Craigslist listing for a phone in New Jersey and wondered, “Could it be?” Everyone was a suspect, everything was a clue. Could that be it, under that tree, sunlight glinting off the metal? No, it was an empty can of Bud Light. That person looks guilty. Why are they walking so fast? Hurrying away from the scene of the crime? No, they were just late for class. She became Holmes and I, her Watson.
We became this close to setting up a bulletin board with tacked-up photos and yarn between the tacks. I thought about buying a magnifying glass, Maria a fingerprint duster. We had gone full detective mode—we paced the linoleum of our room, thinking, wondering. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Clues, motive and means all blurred together behind a facade of mystery.
We embarked on a return to tradition. We told each other where we’d be and when. We left notes on the door. I felt like a pilgrim, forced to scribble letters by candlelight. When I went out, Maria became a woman pacing the cliffs above the sea, wondering when I’d return from my voyage. We experienced college like our parents and grandparents before us—devoid of technology, a communication wasteland.
It seemed like all hope had been lost. Maria had resigned herself to a phoneless life, rejecting modernity, embracing tradition. But then! A light in the darkness. A beacon of hope lit up, in the form of a text from her cousin, telling us that she could track the phone. We dared not dream. We dared not get our hopes up. But we threw on our shoes, sprinted from our dorm and booked it to the townhouses. We zeroed in on the phone’s location, the specific house it was located at. We searched the lawn, the grass next to the street and even around the back. But we did not find it. We determined that it must be inside and that we must submit ourselves to the mortifying ordeal of knocking on a stranger’s door.
Maria mustered all her courage and knocked. Once. Twice. An upperclassman answered the door, bewildered as to why two girls had been snooping around his backyard. She asked if he had seen a phone. Knowledge dawned on his face, and he said the most glorious words we had ever heard: “Oh, that’s whose phone this is?”
I pumped my fists in the air. Maria jumped up and down. A chorus of angels sang, and he handed back her phone. We rejoiced in high spirits all the way back to the Deece, where we celebrated with Greek bowls and ice cream. Our epic journey had come to a close, and we emerged as changed women.
Now, I take no text for granted. No phone call, no Snapchat, no DM goes without appreciation, now that I know how quickly it can all vanish. Don’t live in the moment; the moment can wait. Instead, hold your phone close to your heart, and make sure it doesn’t fall out of your pocket at the Town Houses.