As I walked into my friend’s Airbnb in London, where I was staying, he looked up from his computer and said to me, ‘I just texted you, impeccable timing’, to which I responded with ‘I’ll never see that message’.
About a few hours earlier, I had been walking in a park in East London with a new friend I had been introduced to, and after I said bye to her, there I was standing on the edge of the street calling a taxi on my phone.
The next thing I know I am no longer holding my phone. It had been snatched, clearly by a professional, who was on a bike and rode past me with laser precision to take the phone out of my hands.
As I stared at my empty hands, it took me a split second to acknowledge what had just happened. I looked up and saw the biker a good fifty meters away, speeding away. I had no chance to catch-up to him.
A few weeks earlier, a friend had told me something eerily similar had happened to her in London. At that moment, I thought of her and if it were not for knowing something like this does happen, I may have been flustered or confused. Instead, after acknowledging what had just happened, I moved to a place of acceptance. This was my new reality.
Someone who saw what had happened approached me to check-in to see if I was okay. I was safe and had no physical harm done, a reminder of what actually matters. I asked him where I could get a taxi and he directed me to the high street.
While hailing a taxi, the good old fashioned way, I began to reflect about what this experience had to offer me.
The first thought that came up was empathy. This is something that happens to many people, and now I would be able to better understand their experience. I recalled that even when my friend told me a few weeks ago that this had happened to her, I had an ounce of silent judgment, ‘you were being careless’. No judgment anymore, as I could relate.
The next was that this experience is a test of my mindfulness practice. I meditate. I talk about detachment. I preach that less can be more. And in this moment, I noticed myself without any anxiety or anger, and instead only acceptance. The practice is working, keep going, I said to myself.
I was curious about whether my digital identity would be stolen or my banking details would be compromised. As I was using my phone when it was snatched, the screen was unlocked, which means a conniving thief could access pretty much everything. I wondered if I would be inspired by a new business idea around personal cyber security and safety. Turns out, my identity and banking info was safe and I did not have any issues, only inconveniences.
After going through this list of what this experience would have to teach me, I naturally acknowledged that it would make for interesting material for my next blog post.
Now in the taxi, a long forty minute ride back into Central London where I was staying, I began to have a conversation with the driver. That itself was new, as normally I would be buried in my phone, listening to voice messages, responding to text messages and the likes. Without the distraction of my phone, I was fully present and engaged with this other human being in the taxi.
I asked him if he had ever had his phone stolen. He said no, however went on to share with me how many creative ways people try to avoid paying taxi fares. I had no idea. For example, apparently people will take him down one way streets, which there are plenty of around London, jump out and run in the opposite direction. He has no chance to chase them.
Even better, he shared with me a story of one guy who jumped out, and he successfully chased and got to, and when he confronted the guy to pay him, the guy said he had no money. He took the guy’s wallet, found a twenty pound note and took it. The fare had been fifteen pounds. The guy had the audacity to ask for change. We had a good laugh as he recalled this story.
My empathy was growing quickly, as thanks to this experience, I was connecting with and understanding more about reality.
Back to my friend’s Airbnb, after I remarked that I would never see his message, he looked up from his laptop with a confused look on his face.
My phone was just stolen, I said calmly.
Looking shocked, he stood up and came close to me. Are you okay?
Totally fine. I’m safe. Let’s take a walk to the Apple store.
As we set out, he shared with me his own experiences of losing his phone or having it stolen. Again, my empathy was growing.
We walked into the Apple store, smiling and laughing, and I approached the store attendant.
I need a new phone.
Okay, do you know which one you would like? He asked.
Yes, the same one I just had. My phone got stolen, so I need a replacement.
Are you sure? He asked with a puzzled look on his face.
Am I sure what? I asked, shooting him back an equally puzzled look.
It’s just that I have never seen anyone who had their phone just stolen come in here smiling and laughing. People are always in tears and angry.
Another validation that the mindfulness practice was working, I remarked quietly to myself. Also appreciation for the privilege that I enjoy where buying a replacement phone is a non stressful financial decision for me.
My friend and I started to debate the color I should get. I initially went for the light blue one, as it was soft and calming. Then I picked up the dark purple, the same color I had had for the past year. He approved both of them as suitable options.
Then I picked up the bright red phone, almost unconsciously, as I was curious to see his reaction. My friend’s face lit up, ‘that’s bold, I like it’, his expression had made the decision for me.
As we walked out of the store, with my new phone in hand, I began to remark to my friend about how interesting these past few hours have been, and how much I appreciate the richness of life for giving me these opportunities to learn, grow and connect.
This is how I learned to get a red phone