Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Found Cell Phone, Sorta

My land line rang at 2 am. A tentative voice said, "Hello? I found this cell phone at the gas station in Bowie. Is this Jeff?"

For backstory: I drove to BWI from D.C. Sunday night. I've never been there before. Mapquest screwed me and I got ALL lost in Northeast D.C., several times. I was an hour late, and more frantic than I'd care to admit when I stopped at some gas station up in Bowie to ask directions. After I left the gas station, I got a few miles up the road and realized I didn't have my cell phone. I freaked, pulled into the emergency lane and ransacked the car, then turned around and went back to the gas station. The attendant said there was no phone there, nobody had turned one in, nothing.

According to this guy on the phone, I must have left my cell phone on the counter when I went in that gas station to ask for directions. He came in a moment later "to buy my girlfriend a pack of smokes which I usually never do 'cause I don't like her smoking" and found my phone on the counter. At that moment, I was two miles up the road, parked in the emergency lane and turning the car inside out, looking for my phone.

He sounded hesitant, a little scared. He apologized for taking so long to call, said he wanted to do the right thing, but he was scared he'd get in trouble somehow. He even blocked the number he was calling from "so if things go bad, I can't be tracked." He claimed his mom had taken the phone from him, and then he took it back. "I'd bring you the phone myself, man, but I don't have a vehicle," he said. Unfortunately, I don't either. I asked if I could e-mail him. "I don't hardly ever get on the computer, man," he said.

"Maybe you could come out here and pick it up," he offered. "It would take like fifteen minutes from DC, and I can see the road right from my patio." The thing is, it would have to be at night. "My schedule, I can't sleep at night, so I stay up all night and go to bed early in the morning. I do carpentry on the weekends, don't need to work much because I stay with my mom. Maybe you could meet me at the job site in DC this weekend and I could give you the phone there?"

He swore he hadn't been making calls on it, apart from one to see what the number was. Verizon said someone had made a call at 2:45 the day after I lost it. I told him I'd cancelled that phone, so even if he had been calling Africa at lunchtime, I wasn't going to be charged. He sounded genuinely relieved.

"My mom, she takes our phone to work all day, and she brings it home at night," he said. "Maybe call me tomorrow after 7:30 to figure out how we can give it back?"

I told him I was a little sketched out by just driving out to a problematic part of Maryland after dark to meet a stranger at his house. He claimed he totally understood.

We're going to talk again tonight to figure out what to do, where to meet. I have a new phone already, I just want all my old numbers back. Something about this situation is ringing bells in my head, and I'm not sure why. He sounds legitimate, just handling this in a way that's a little dumb.

I didn't want him to incur any out-of-pocket expenses or hassle by mailing the phone to me, but something about meeting at night out in Bowie, MD, meeting a guy who waited 24 hours to call me, called me at 2 am and says he always sleeps all day and only works weekends ... it's not quite right.

SO I'm asking you, friends: what do I do? I want to believe that this guy is legit, but this whole thing is weird and I am NOT trying to get my ribs ventilated in a parking lot over a missing cell phone.

Please leave your advice in the comments ...

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At 1:16 PM, Blogger D. said...

If you wanna roll with the "just in case" method, I'll be happy to accompany you to "the job site in DC" - maybe with another guy around your size, and we can hang back with a camera, a hittin' brick, and phone dialed into 911 with the thumb on "send".

Or, alternately, he can anonymously leave it at the security desk of my workplace, and I'LL get it to you.

At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's my advice: send him a SASE and have him return it to you that way. This dude is surely up to something.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

I lose my phone like it's my job and I've never had anything like this. I'd be wary - is the phone worth it?

At 5:05 PM, Anonymous josh c said...

My niece lost her phone just before Christmas, and went through a similar deal just to get it back. As it happens I was there to give her a ride to Creighton Court (the projects), dressed in my (carpentry) work clothes so she may have gotten off easier than otherwise. She gave the dude like $10 "for the Xmas turkey" and we drove off.
Take a friend and a couple of bills, and maybe meet the dude somewhere relatively neutral. The numbers are worth $20, right?

At 12:04 PM, Blogger mm said...

Phones are important. Take a friend with you and meet him up. Preferably a big, intimidating friend.

At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the bells are ringing b/c dude is seriously acting shady. don't feel bad for taking precautions! best of luck m8!

At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Robin said...

Daytime, weekend, construction site, nearer you, sounds better to me. In theory, there will be other workers there, also, and you can bring a friend along. Something's not right, but it may just be on his end, cuz he could have just tossed the phone out and not called you. Daggone word verification I can hardly read these things (yes I need new glasses). argh

At 8:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your blog pretty regularly now, but never commented before, since I didn't have anything to add. However...

I'm from Bowie, MD, and I think it would certainly be better to go to Bowie than to some sketchy part of DC (a construction site? no thanks!)

I have to laugh a bit about Bowie being described as "a problematic part of Maryland"... Bowie is still pretty fine, even if it is in PG. Meet him at a 7-11 or something... there's gotta be something nearby his house. I also second the SASE suggestion. You could send him a fedex envelope or something.

At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Strathy said...

My two cents worth is: Don't go! Let him have it! The warning bells are already going off in your head - don't ignore them!

At 11:27 AM, Blogger :: Jennifer :: said...

I just found this searching for advice myself - is there a follow up? Please tell me WTF happened! thanks


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