"Keep a Journal: How else are you going to get a good look at who you were?"

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Good Samaritan time...

I found a Motorola Timeport "flip-phone" by the side of the road a few km east of the Tswassen Ferry Terminal.

The phone was in a puddle, but was otherwise intact and apparently un-damaged.

Hmmm. I need to back up a bit. I was down in Tswassen to see my good friend the eye doctor (pun intended); Dan Davies of Iris Optical. I had made the appointment with Dan mostly to get a signature for my Passport Application; but I found soon after that I could get all the necessary signatures and attestations at Church. After all, the people there know me, and my Bishop is actually qualified (on a couple of counts) by Immigration Canada's criteria. So I didn't actually have to keep the eye appointment.

But I did anyway; I haven't seen Dan in a while, and this gave us an opportunity to catch up.

As I was riding my bike that day, I figured out a way to keep the appointment by riding my bike from work in Richmond down to Tswassen.

The only hitch was that the appointment took a bit longer than I had anticipated, and I cheated a little: I grabbed a community shuttlebus from Ladner on the way back.

It was on the ride back from Tswassen to the Ladner bus exchange that I found the phone. I find a lot of stuff on the roadside...before this phone it was a pair of Foster Grant "Patriot" sunglasses (I already found - and lost again - a pair of FG "Ironman" shades two years ago). I think this tendency for Found Items is another simple advantage of cycling: you're not travelling so fast that everything goes by in a blur. You have time to see things.

Anyway, back to the phone.

It was dead. My first inclination was to just leave it where it was, but even though I already have a basic cellphone (which we no longer use, and hardly ever used), I am an unrepentant packrat and cannot bring myself to throw away things that might be usefull. Besides, this phone was much nicer than our old one.

Here's a pic:

Now, that's not really it...that's a photo I pinched off of Ebay. The Timeport I have has the "BMW" logo where this example has "Mercedes". I just didn't feel like hauling out the digicam to take a picture. My bad.

After about a week, during which I all-but-forgot that I had it in my backpack, I took the dead phone to one of the few used cellphone shops in Surrey that deals in old Motorola handsets. I managed to talk the counter rep into loaning me a new battery to see if the phone would power up and - surprise! - it did. There was only one number in the "phone book", and it was an inactive number. Several of the numbers in the "last 10 dialed" were a little...scrambled, but the shop rep used the "master clear" feature to clean 'em out. The phone's own number, however, still came up; so I wrote it down and (somewhat reluctantly) gave back the loaned battery.

By sheer coincidence, Laurie and I were shopping at the Talize thrift shop in our neighborhood the next day. The kids had been shuffled off to Camp Squamish and grandma Trudy's house and Laurie and I were enjoying some "us" time. I found a Motorola StarTAC car charger...for 3$.

I didn't buy it then, I was waiting until 6PM so I could again try to call the Alberta number that came up on the phone. However, when I finally got through, the person at that number could not recall ever losing a cellphone, so that was a bust.

So I rushed back to Talize before they closed and bought it...used it to give the phone a full charge.

I did a little research on the Timeport. I visited the Motorola website and DL'd a manual for it. I read some old review articles on the StarTAC, which was the model preivious to the Timeport. (the Timeport takes StarTAC batteries and uses the same charger). Did you know that PCWorld rated the StarTAC #6 on the list of the "50 greatest gadgets of the last 50 years"? Other reviews were just as positive: "you can drop it, drown it or freeze it and it almost always comes back".

With a full charge, I felt no qualms about messing around with my new toy...I didn't actually make any calls; unless and until I registered the phone with a service provider, it wasn't technically mine to use.

That's when I ran across the free helpline number.

The name on the phone came up "Han"...well, it did before I erased it. When I dialed the "free helpline" I got a recorded message from TELUS; in English...and Chinese. Telus in BC doesn't use the Timeport (Bell mobility does?) according to the phone shop, and their rep couldn't find the owner in either Telus' or Bell's BC client database from the serial numbers on the back.

Hmmm...Telus phone, Alberta number, missing for almost three weeks (the last number dialed was june 10th) and a Chinese voice message programmed in for a user named Mr. "Han". Hmmm...

So I sent an Email to Telus in Alberta. After a couple of days emailing back and forth, I sent their rep all the ID and model numbers I could find, and he matched one of those ID numbers to the "403" number that the phone had listed as its own.

And put me in touch with the owner.

The original owner...

Mr. M called me this evening to explain that the phone had been a bonus included with the purchase of a BMW car a few years ago. The car had been sold again, and the phone was sold along with the car to a new owner. This goes along with what Telus told me about the phone's original owner having cancelled their service contract in 2005. So the phone has changed hands at least once since then. I don't know why the phone's new owner didn't register the phone with Telus...if he even used the phone at all. I admit it puzzles me: why would Mr. "Han" bother putting his name into the phone if he didn't actually use it? Why wouldn't he inform Telus that he was the new owner if he was using it?

Mr. M says he will make some inquiries with the BMW dealership and see if he can find out who the car (and phone) was re-sold to. In the meantime, he and his wife technically are no longer the "owners" of this phone.

And I still don't know who is.

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