Today’s technology can make one feel like a 21st Century Sherlock Holmes
Well, it’s that time of year when gifts of techy devices change hands in mass quantities.
With that also comes the increased possibility that your new Smartphone or tablet can all of a sudden just disappear in a flash. Whether misplaced, stolen or “borrowed” by a friend, it can be a near traumatic experience to turn around and find that the other half of your brain has vanished!
In Chicago for some fun with friends
It was a few months back that I experienced one of those near death episodes during a trip to Chicago.
We flew into O’Hare with a number of friends very early one Thursday morning to attend a weekend wedding.
Hectic as always in the Midwest’s hub of travel with our luggage in hand, my wife Nancy and I jumped into a cab with friends Tom and Karlys for the half hour drive to the Wyndham on North St. Clair Street.
Sitting in the front passenger seat, I pulled up my Map app on my iPad to follow our route. The conversation was lively among the four of us, as our shady-looking driver maneuvered the car through the traffic.
When we arrived at the hotel, Tom and I decided to split the fare. He handed me his cash as I reached for my wallet. Unwittingly, I placed my iPad on the dashboard of the cab, settled up with our driver and jumped onto the sidewalk.
Cooler heads do prevail
Ten or fifteen minutes later, after we checked into our room, it dawned on me that I’d left my tablet in the cab!
In a calm tone, my wonderful wife saw my state of panic and said, “No problem … we will call the cab company and have it returned.”
Easy enough I thought … but this isn’t Frederick, Maryland and I can’t just pick up the phone, call Blaine Young and ask him to sound an alert to his Yellow Cab troops.
This is Chicago and for the life of me, I could barely remember what the driver looked like, much less the name of the company he represented.
After contacting the concierge for help, I called Tom and Karlys to ask if they recalled anything about the cab. By melding our four minds, we pieced together that the colors of the cab were green and beige. But it was Karlys who seemed to recall the identification number on the side of the vehicle were some combination of two 1′s, a 4 and 7.
I shared that info with the concierge, who had checked with a central taxi cab lost and found system. With nothing reported in and the identification information not enough to help, it seemed all was lost.
It had been nearly an hour since I’d stepped from the cab; so I decided to go stand on the street corner to watch the cabs go by in hopes of matching the colors to a cab company. It didn’t take long before a green and beige cab with checkers pulled over across the street. The name of the cab company was right there on the side of the vehicle.
The concierge had given me the phone number for the central dispatcher. I called in and spoke with a helpful lady who was very willing to assist in locating a cab from that company with an ID containing the numbers 1, 4 and 7. After about 20 minutes, my new best friend Vivian called back to tell me that as far as she could tell there are no “active” cabs with such numbers belonging to that company on the streets of the Windy City.
It appeared that I had hit a stone wall.
I began to take an inventory of all that I had saved on that incredible tablet. It became so very clear how dependent I had become upon my iPad for my commercial real estate business, as well as my personal life. At my last count, I’d downloaded over 100 apps that allowed me to do everything from measure the interior dimensions of a warehouse to edit a PDF to record the next Washington Redskins game on my home TV. It had become a more reliable memory bank than my sixty-something year old brain.
In a last act of desperation, Nancy and I decided to go back down to the hotel entrance and watch the cabs go by … just hoping our elusive cabbie may reappear.
Brilliant, my dear Watson!
Within a few minutes Tom and Karlys stepped out on the sidewalk on their way out to go sightseeing.
“Any luck?” asked Tom. “Nope,” responded Nancy, “not a good way to start off a long weekend.”
As they turned to walk away, Tom said in passing, “You know, I think there is a way to track those things on the computer.”
“Whoa,” I said, “I think I recall hearing something about that.”
I reached into my pocket, pulled out my cell phone and called my amazing assistant Sherri back at my office in Frederick, Maryland. “If anyone can figure this out, Sherri can!” I told Nancy as we walked back into the hotel lobby.
In her steady manner, Sherri listened intently to my dilemma, and responded with a simple, “Let me see what I can do.”
Ten minutes later, my cell phone rang with the good news. “I found it!” exclaimed Sherri. A bit stunned, I asked “What do you mean?”
“I’m tracking it on my computer as it moves away from your hotel, ” she said.
Sherri had logged on to iCloud.com using my account information and clicked on the icon “Find My iPhone.” Since I had not turned off my iPad and left my mobile access enabled, it was a matter of seconds before it pin-pointed the location of the elusive devise. With a refresh of the map, iCloud updated the location, leaving the previous location marked with a pin.
My trusty assistant went a step further than just locating my tablet. She was able to remotely lock it by enabling the password feature, and add a message to anyone who opened the cover stating that the finder should contact me on my cellphone. She also activated an alarm that beeped every few minutes.
Feeling incredibly empowered and full of gratitude, I thanked Sherri and told her that Nancy and I would take it from here.
Scotland Yard to the Rescue!
The hub of MacRo, Ltd’s newly formed branch of Scotland Yard took roost in the business center of the Wyndham Hotel. I quickly logged on to iCloud, with Nancy and the intrigued concierge hovering over my shoulders mystified by this service provided by Apple.
Within a blink of an eye, a green dot appeared on a map of Chicago at the corner of North Jefferson and West Grenshaw Streets. A quick check of the location showed that it was about 3 miles southwest of our hotel. About a minute later, after refreshing the screen, a new dot appeared showing the location had moved only a hundred feet or so off the street. Another refresh showed it had moved another hundred feet and so on.
We were all mesmerized by the computer screen as I continued to click “refresh.”
A few minutes later I turned to my on-lookers and asked a very profound question: “Okay, so now what?”
It was another call to Vivian at the central taxi cab dispatching office and her disappointing response of no luck that made it clear: We needed to take this matter into our own hands!
The first thought was for me to get in a cab and head to the site with Nancy feeding me the updated location of the iPad from our command center. I imagined a daring car chase and then a footrace down the back allies of south Chicago … ending in a successful retrieval after a heated exchange of words, fists and maybe weapons … just like in the movies!
That thought was quickly dashed as I caught hold of my senses, realizing that I am neither Spiderman nor one of those super sleuth characters that garner high TV and movie ratings. Such an escapade could actually be dangerous! Chicago does hold the reputation of having one of the highest crime and murder rates in the USA!
So … do we call the police? Hmmm? No, this idea may be more ridiculous than playing Spiderman. Think about it: a city of 2.7 million people covered by 12,200 officers within a 237 square mile area. Making a request through layers and layers of bureaucracy to find my missing iPad? This could take days or weeks and besides, my battery would be dead in about 6 hours.
Several more minutes had passed as the refreshing feature had been clicked religiously during our brainstorming session. A clear pattern had emerged. It appeared that our cab driver or whomever was now in possession of the iPad was getting in and out of the taxi cab, as the green dots were literally showing up within one block in all directions from the corner of S Jefferson and W Grenshaw!
Calling All Cars …
Watching the screen allowed us to realize that the answer to our retrieval plan was right before our eyes!
I zoomed-in on that now familiar intersection, switched to a satellite view and added layers displaying street and business names. Lo and behold, the most recent dot was sitting right in the parking lot of Winner’s Edge Marathon gas station. With nearly two dozen pins now on the screen, my iPad had had more of a taste of Chicago than I that morning. It made its way in to some of the city’s “finer” dining establishments: Manny’s Coffee Shop & Deli (Home of Chicago’s Best Corned Beef, mind you!), Atino’s Pizza & Deli #2 (Home of the $4.99 Jumbo Slice!) and it then topped things off at the rear delivery dock at Binny’s Beverage Depot!
As Nancy looked on, she asked, “Can you find the telephone number for that gas station?”
Well, sure! I did a quick search on Google for Winner’s Edge to get the number, and Nancy volunteered to make the call.
“Hell-o, my name is Nancy and I am calling to make a somewhat unusual request,” she said. “I am trying to track down my husband’s iPad. Would you mind telling me if there is a green and beige colored taxi cab parked in front of your office?”
Without hesitation the manager at the station quickly got sucked into the intrigue when she answered with an enthusiastic ”Yes.”
“Does the identification number on the side of the cab contain a combination of two 1′s, a 4 and a 7?”
“Yes,” she said as she recited the four digit number.
“Is there a driver in the cab?”
“Yes’” was again the manager’s response.
“Would you mind going out and telling the driver that my husband’s iPad is in his vehicle?” asked Nancy.
“No problem,” she said. “I’m actually on a cordless phone, so I’m walking out to the cab right now and you can talk directly to him.”
A moment later, Nancy hears a cautious “Hell-o” on the other end of the line.
Without saying how we had located him, Nancy, now in full character of Sherlock Holmes, said, “You dropped my husband and me at the Wyndham Hotel about an hour ago. Unfortunately he left his iPad on the dashboard of your cab. Would mind returning it to us, please?”
Clearly startled by this curious encounter, the cab driver quickly stated that there is no iPad in his vehicle.
With a quick and firm response, Nancy said, “I’m sorry, sir, but we have been tracking the device for the last 30 minutes from our computer here at the hotel, and we know where you have been during that time. I think if you look more carefully, you will see it.”
A Subtle Threat wins the Day!
There was a short pause and no response from the driver, she continued, “After seeing where it has been, we will have to consider the iPad stolen property … and I am inclined to report this incident to your superiors, as well as the Chicago police … maybe you can see it now?”
“Oh, yes, here it is!” was the response from our red-handed friend.
“I can get it back to you in about fifteen minutes. Will that be all right?” he asked.
The concierge lead the three of us in a high-five, as we savored the results of Nancy’s subtle threat.
As a precaution, I called my other new friend Vivian at the central dispatching office to inform her that we had located that elusive cab, and the driver confirmed that he was in possession of the iPad. I gave her the cab ID number, and she told us that this driver had gone “off-duty” a few minutes after he had delivered us to the Wyndham; thereby the reason she was not able to locate his cab from my earlier calls.
At about half past eleven that Thursday morning our cab driver pulled up in front of our hotel. Acting as if it was all a simple act of lost and found, he handed my iPad to me with a faint smile. I said “Thank you” as I handed him a small tip of appreciation for returning the other half of my brain. Yes, I tipped the guy … innocent until proven guilty, right?
All in a few hours’ work at the Chicago branch of Scotland Yard manned by the sleuths of MacRo, Ltd. and its incredible compatriots, the Case of the Missing iPad was now closed! After our exciting weekend in Chicago-Land it was back to closing out the year with the Land and Commercial Real Estate deals we had on the books.
I must say, we did have fun on that little adventure!
The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He also writes for TheTentacle.com.