Last weekend I gave a set of directions that included the phrase: “Turn left where that restaurant I like used to be,” and I knew that I had finally become my father. My concern was reaffirmed when I had to ask a Genius at the Apple Store for help remotely backing up my phone’s data to “the iCloud.” (In my defense, I do have an above-dad awareness and lack of fear regarding what “the cloud” actually is.) I do have lots of dad-like qualities, though. My love of puns. My distaste for electronic music. My hairline. I really only have one attribute that keeps me from being an across-the-board Old Man. If robbed, I would rather have my wallet stolen than my cell phone.
Having a wallet that is more valuable than your telephone is the defining mark of adulthood. It indicates that your priorities are in the right place. An adult wallet has pictures of your family, a credit card or two, and enough physical money to cover lunch in a cash only restaurant. It’s not just a Velcro holster for your bus pass.
My wallet, honestly, isn’t especially valuable to me. I carry roughly enough cash to bribe my way out of a jaywalking ticket in Tijuana (between four and twenty-six dollars). I have a debit card and an Apple Store gift certificate with almost enough money on it to buy an iPhone case. It’s not even an expensive wallet. It was a hand-me-down from my dad, who got it as a gift and already owned a nicer wallet. In fact, it didn’t even occur to me that some people own expensive wallets.
If you stole my wallet, you’d gain access to my $500 credit limit and a 16 Handles frozen yogurt rewards card that I have used once. You’d make off with my AAA card, which would get you free roadside assistance, so that could be useful if you need a flat tire fixed in the time before I cancel my account. Oh, and you’d probably come away with six or seven of my business cards, so if you would like to rob me and then hire me to perform comedy or write something for you, that option exists.
I’d be able to remedy most of these problems within minutes, though, because I’d still have my phone. A couple of quick Googles and follow up phone calls, and my credit card/AAA membership/16 Handles member rewards placard would be nothing more than nail cleaners/locked door openers/cocaine separators with my name on them.
Having my phone stolen would be like losing my brain’s third hemisphere, which is embarrassing to say, but not unique. It’s crazy that stealing someone’s phone has become such a low-risk/high-reward crime, but it has. I’ve seen iPhones snatched by thieves on the subway, who then ran into the night never to be prosecuted. Thirty years ago, to abscond with a person’s telephone, you’d have to break into their home and pry it off the wall. Even then, all you’d have to show for your effort is… a telephone. To get any use out of it at all, you’d need to bring it home and plug it into your own wall. Its resale value would be maybe twenty dollars. Even the most desperate crackhead would have been better off pilfering a VCR the size of a human torso or a Clapper.
In 2013, if you steal someone’s smartphone, you’re acquiring that person’s entire life. You know where they live. You know who they hang out with. In many cases, you know what the people they have dated look like naked (in addition to what the owner of the phone looks like in the nude). The victim’s privacy is at the thief’s mercy. My worst fear (someone sending a naked picture of me to my mom) would be seconds away from becoming a reality… you know… hypothetically speaking.
If my phone got stolen, I wouldn’t even be able to discontinue my wireless service right away, because I wouldn’t have my phone. The culprit could make local or long distance calls to his heart’s content while I checked to see whether AT&T would talk to me over Skype. I guess I could also find another person whose phone I could borrow, which is embarrassing. I could use a payphone, but then everyone around would think my son had been kidnapped. If I had my phone and computer on my person, you could possibly steal everything else I own, and I’d probably feel better than if my electronics were stolen and everything else remained undisturbed.
That’s not how a grown person should live, like some sort of technology nomad. Granted, there are probably tons of people out there with more sensitive information in their Blackberrys (I always imagine that people with Blackberrys are more important than I am) than I have in my iPhone. But I imagine those people take greater precautions than I do. I bet they delete e-mails instead of letting them pile up in a landfill-esque inbox. They probably password protect their wireless devices, which I do not, out of the mind-bogglingly lazy desire not to punch in four numbers before I send a text message. I bet these people also back up their critical documents (contact lists, photographs nude and otherwise) in the aforementioned cloud or on a hard drive. They probably also have a consistent, double digit amount of money in their wallets. I am jealous of these people.
So if you’re thinking of robbing me, please spare me my cell phone and just take my wallet. My nine dollars is a small price to pay for the knowledge that a stranger is not, at this very moment, texting a naked picture of me to my mother.