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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Good Turn

Just another day to ride my bike to work. I've been trying to get the bike under me by 5:45 a.m. It's not that it takes quite that long to ride to work, but when I first started back in on it I was slower and I had to pad things for that. Then I realized how much easier the whole commute went when I left by a 5:45 instead of my old saddle time of 6:00. I've regained the lost speed, but everything is easier with the earlier start.

I actually mean to experiment with even earlier departures, try some experimental routes that might be longer but a pleasant deviation (I do this a lot in the evening when there's not a deadline to make), but mainly I've realized that there are a lot of stop signs and lights that don't involve nearly the waiting if I get that fifteen minute jump on the world.

I don't do it for flats, because I basically never have flats. I spend a little extra (about half again what I used to) for tires, get Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour tires with their blue 'Smartguard' layer. Stans' is probably fine, and I even know riders who swear by Slime, but I have over 5,000 miles on my front tire without a flat, got 3700+ out of the rear tire before this one. I ride through possibly the worst parts of town from a flat-hazard perspective, but this morning was the first time I've had a puncture since the beginning of May last year.

I was just about to flip the quick release to take the back wheel off after pulling a pretty decent sized finishing nail out of the tire, when a truck pulled up and offered me a lift. He wanted to know how far I was headed, but I had just left home so I accepted his offer and had him drive me a half mile back to the house where I had a floor pump, a way to hang the bike for easy access, and a new tire in case that nail had ruined the old one. I don't think it did, but I put a new one on just to be safe because now I was running late for work.

I rode hard once I had that flat fixed, but as I humped up Penn Valley Park, I saw something that made me stop. It was a phone. In an Otterbox case, something I've poo-poohed in the past as overpriced, but it turns out this phone had probably spent 24 hours getting run over by cars and it was still working. That was a surprise, I assumed when I reached for it that it would be dead. Then I swiped the screen thinking it would be password protected but it wasn't. Well, technically it wasn't, but everything was in Spanish.

The battery charge was pretty high so I looked about to see if it might go with someone I could see but there was no one. I took it on to work with me, thinking how to find the owner. Can't call him, I have his phone, right?

I tried to compose a text saying 'I found this phone, looking for its owner,' but the autocorrect kept changing 'found' to 'fomo' or something like that, all my English words swapped for phonetically similar Spanish. So on my computer I went to a free online translation site and entered something like 'I found this phone in Penn Valley Park and want to return it to its proper owner. I have no Spanish but I can tell the person who owns the phone is probably a Spanish speaker. I'm using a free online translator, so I'm sorry if my Spanish is painfully awkward. If you know the person this number is associated with, call or text back, or let him know I have his phone and want to return it.'

Then I transposed into the text message app on the phone, 'Encontré este teléfono en el Parque de Valle Penn y querer devolverlo a su dueño apropiado. No tengo ningún español pero puedo decir a la persona que posee el teléfono es probablemente un altavoz español. Uso a un traductor en línea libre, tan Perdón si mi español es dolorosamente torpe. Si usted conoce a la persona este número tiene que ver con, llamar o texto atrás, o avisarlo tengo su teléfono y quiero devolverlo.' I sent this to a bit over a dozen contacts he had listed by first name only (in my phone, if you are listed by first name only, you're a pretty close friend or relative most of the time, someone who might know a way to reach me other than the cell).

A few minutes later, the phone rang and I answered it, got Omar's girlfriend or wife, not sure. Her English was stronger than my Spanish, but that is damning by faint praise. She eventually figured out that I had her guy's phone and wanted to return it, and she was grateful but I was unclear how we were supposed to close the deal. She asked me to text my address to her, which I did, my work address.

An hour or two later, it rang again, this time it was the phone's owner calling from his work. The language barrier was again the issue, and I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to do Rosetta Stone or something because you just can't live in America these days and know as little Spanish as I do. Mom was right, she tried to tell me to take Spanish instead of French when I decided to go for a foreign language, and I didn't listen. I was in 8th Grade and the French teacher was really hot, and in any case I didn't really end up learning any French, I dropped that class like a bad habit when I found out I'd have to learn a new word for everything.

So fast forward to today, and we were having trouble figuring out the return of this phone. Omar finally gave the handset over to a coworker and I found out that while he was 'at work,' there was another 'at work' starting at 4:00, and as luck would have it Omar's second job is about two blocks from my work. A good eight miles from where I found the phone, so that's a pretty good piece of luck.

It felt so good to return the phone. I didn't meet Omar, I gave it to a bartender who saw me walk in, saw the phone in my hand and said, 'Omar? He'll be so glad to have that back.'

I'll bet. I guess I haven't technically met him but from what I can tell he's probably from Mexico and works at least two jobs in a place where he struggles with the language. I'm sure that Otterbox was a big investment for him, not to mention the phone, but talk about worth it when you need it. As cool as my Tardis cover is, I really probably should pop for an Otterbox for my own phone.

And the way these things go, the information in the phone is worth a lot more than the phone itself. I guess the guy in the pickup who rescued me from being late for work started it, and then when I saw that phone I had to try. `

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