Cell Power

My cell phone rang Sunday night, a concerned friend calling for advice. His older brother vanished on Saturday, and he wanted my thoughts about how to proceed.

His brother, while visiting family in Florida, met a woman and scheduled a date. His last call came while driving to the date through severe weather. After that, he didn’t return to the house where he’d been staying, and his phone number went to voicemail.

My friend and his younger brother were following every possible lead, expecting that either the police or the car rental agency would track the car and locate the brother, hopefully still alive. The younger brother also consulted a retired private detective.

Like a good TV viewer, I suggested tracking his cell phone and his credit card, suggestions politely received but probably already considered. (Are those even legitimate technological possibilities, or is that only TV fiction?) I Googled other steps, but the only valuable one involved contacting the coroner directly, and providing DNA samples – a bit early, right? Also, like my other ideas, access to any valuable searches seemed limited to “proper authorities” —

— and they weren’t looking. Informed the missing brother scheduled his trip around attending a financial meeting on Monday, they agreed that if he failed to show for that meeting, they would start a search.

Monday morning, my friend said, “I have to admit my brother is probably dead.” About 45 minutes later he called again with the final word…

His brother is still alive!! He’d had been arrested Saturday night and released Monday morning. They took away his phone, but allowed him one call on their phone. Without his cell, he couldn’t remember phone numbers for anyone. Not one phone number. His court appointment has been scheduled for the same week in August that my friend will be in that Florida town.

“At least you’ll get to see him then,” I offered in condolence, as my friend choked back sobs of relief and sorrow. Good news? Alive! Bad news? Arrested! But his court date will allow you a chance to catch up! So many silver linings!

Four things prompted me to write this post.

  1. How forcefully our actions impact others – even you! You’re reading a post about a stranger’s bad decisions last weekend. Strange, right? Imagine spending the night thinking your closest family member died. Tossing… Turning… A rough night of sleep. And then, “Oops! My bad! I’m fine!”
  2. The cell phone challenge. Here, I’ll do this too. Write down the top five people you would call in an emergency. Now, write down their numbers from memory. Now, check your score. I got 2 out of 5. I have numbers to memorize!
  3. If only the police spent five minutes on this case. They had the missing person in their facility; his car in their impound lot; his phone in a box on their shelf. Plug him into the computer = Solved! I totally understand the 48-hour policy; people DO go missing by choice. Their families don’t choose to suffer; that is thrust upon them. People legitimately suffering from concern need to know actions are being taken. The policy of telling people to wait until the missing person is extra gone/extra dead/extra time spent in need of help? Shameful. (For the record, the police told the family in this situation they could go ask the authorities in a neighboring town – the disappearance taking place outside their jurisdiction – for help, totally spinning the family’s wheels. The police also said, “We aren’t all that well-organized.” Oops! Our bad!)
  4. How things barely changed over time. Had you found yourself arrested (for instance) 130 years ago, you were at the mercy of a lenient jailer allowing you to write and facilitating a letter (paper, pen, envelope, stamp), the post office delivering the letter, etc. But these days we have cell phones — they immediately take away. You get one call. When you get out, your phone battery is probably dead. Your car is locked away, pending huge fines. Maybe you were innocent. Prove it!I took these photos (and the prison cell above) on my recent trip to Alcatraz, Bodie, and Bridgeport. The frontier justice all seemed so antiquidated at the time, but now it just seems timely.

Enjoy this vision of the past — and start memorizing phone numbers for your future!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s