Out of sight

Scariest thing that’s happened to me lately:

Tonight, my evening was about over. It was a half-hour to midnight. I’d left my friend, and was winding down a bit before heading home. I’d bought some CDs tonight (Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, Stereolab — two of those bands are playing at Coachella in a week, and I wanted to have some of their stuff for the drive down) and went to Starbucks’ to rip the CDs to my iPod.

I got my usual (tall soy chai latte), sat down at the table, pulled out the iBook, and once I got a signal, reached into the side pocket in my backpack where the iPod… wasn’t.

Roly-poly fuck!

It wasn’t there. The headphones were there, but no iPod. My confusion condensed into fear.

In a second, I mentally retraced my steps. I remembered riding the MAX, my backpack slung over my shoulder, the punks standing behind me — had they stolen it? It wouldn’t have been difficult; the pouch was open at the top, it would have been easy to slip it up and out…

If that was what had happened, then I was screwed. My contacts and credit card information, including PINs, were all on the iPod. It wasn’t just my music player; it was my PDA. And none of that stuff was protected with even a token password. That’s not possible on the iPod; a design flaw that I hadn’t ever given any thought to.

I hoped that wasn’t the case. In my mind’s eye, I saw two other possibilities: first, I had stopped by my office earlier and had been listening to the iPod at the time. That was the last moment I remembered having it; maybe I had left it on my desk, forgotten to put it back in the pack.

The other possibility was when I had bought the CDs. I had checked my backpack in at the counter. It was the only time that the ‘pack had been out of my physical possession. Maybe the iPod had fallen out. I had little hope of recovering it if that was the case. My opinion of human nature being what it is (cynical and angsty), I doubted that someone working in a music store who found an iPod would be eager to give it back.

First I checked my office. Of course, the whole time, I kept thinking of those punks on the train… The iPod wasn’t on my desk, wasn’t anywhere nearby, like on the floor or something. Argh.

Lucky for me, the music store I shopped at was open late, until midnight. I still had time to run up there and catch them before they closed. I power-walked through the streets, past the partiers and prom-night kids, getting yelled at by drunken teenagers who were able to scrape together the $80 it takes to rent a limo..

As I walked, I was thinking about my checking account and realizing that I had enough money to replace my iPod. Shit. $500. Five hundred fucking dollars that I could be using for something else, like my vacation or just about any-fucking-thing-else other than replacing a toy that I had lost, or had stolen, or had just had the bad karma to allow out of my life. I thought about having to replace it. I thought about the inscription on the back of my iPod: “It’s the best thing that you ever, ever had”. It’s a line from a Radiohead song… Radiohead is headlining at Coachella in a week… I wasn’t going to have my iPod for Coachella… my friends were going to find out that I had lost five-hundred-fucking-dollars and then turned around and spent another five-hundred-fucking-dollars on another one…

It was embarrassing. It was more than that; it was humiliating and financially ruinous and stupid and among the dumbest things I could do and yet I knew, of course, that I would do it.

I got to the store, stood impatiently at the counter. The sales guy saw my pack and started to hand me a claim chip for it…

“No,” I explained, “When I was here, earlier, and checked this in, something fell out.”

“Oh. What?”

“My iPod.”

He looked relieved. Not as relieved as me, but still, relieved. “Oh! Right! Here!” He turned and pulled it out from a shelf behind him under the counter. He must have been glad not to have the responsibility of tracking down the owner.

I’m pretty sure I swooned. All the adrenaline of the past twenty minutes suddenly left my body and I was near fainting. No, I am not kidding.

“That would have been an expensive thing to lose.” I don’t remember if it was me, or the store clerk who said this, but the words still echo in my ears a half-hour later as I post this.

I am never, never, letting it out of my sight again.