The Burner

Pop turns to me—I’ve just walked through the door—he turns to me and says, “Did you lose your phone?” My answer is, “No.” He asks because he found a dirty old cell phone lying on the front stoop. He’s just come back from the library; I’ve just come back from the gym. My mind jumps to the postwoman. (She always lets Pop kiss her on the cheek.) I see her in her mail truck yapping on her cell phone nearly every day. So I go looking for her, but she’s gone. Then I get the bright idea to take the strayed phone to the nearest U.S. Cellular store, since that’s the thing’s brand. The girl behind the counter says she can’t track the phone back to its owner. This seems stupid, but what do I know? I’m not a criminal. So I take the phone back home and scroll through its own phone book. I press a button to dial up the “home” entry, but the phone doesn’t connect. So I dial up the post office (using Pop’s landline) and leave a message; then I drop the phone in Pop’s mailbox. The next day the postwoman comes and goes and leaves the phone right where I left it. I grab it and chase after her. She tells me, when I catch up, she tells me that she got the message but it’s not her phone. So now I’m concerned. Nobody Pop doesn’t know has any business setting foot on his front stoop, save for the postwoman—who he barely knows. Pop lives in a tucked away sort of neighborhood full of middle class houses. There’s a train station a block and a half away, and across from that there’s a dry cleaners and convenience store. But nothing much else. Bottom line: If you don’t already know anybody around here, then you’re probably lost. That’s assuming you’re not up to no good. So I call the cops. They file a report. They offer to send a cop over to take the phone off of our hands. Otherwise, they don’t know what to do. They don’t even care if I toss it. I tell them I’ll think about it. On my own phone, I dial up a buddy. He looks up the number’s area code on the WWW. It’s from Wisconsin. I hang up and dial the thing’s own number. Big surprise: No voicemail service. So now I’m getting paranoid. Here’s a great way for a predator to gain unforced access to a house: Ding-dong. “Hi. Did I leave my phone here?” Pop, though, he’s not worried. 
21 April 2005

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