I Value My iPhone More Than My Personal Safety

To me, it’s always been just a cell phone. At least that’s what I thought until someone snatched it out of my hands.
Publish date:
August 15, 2012
mugging, iPhone, the gift of fear

I’m not much of an iPhone freak. I’ve never camped out for days in front of my local Apple store. Never badmouthed less superior smartphones.

To me, it’s always been just a cell phone. Something I could use to check email, send text messages, listen to music and every now and then, make a phone call or two. At least that’s what I thought until someone snatched it out of my hands.

I was on a subway train in Atlanta using my it's-so-not-that-serious cell phone to listen to some not-so-serious music. This iPhone, my third in four years, was a birthday present from my iPhone groupie boyfriend. My previous iPhone, being timed for self-destruction and all, had lost the only three buttons it was supplied with. I had my newest edition tucked safely inside my bag when a young man came and sat in the seat behind me.

“Excuse me ma’am, could I use your phone to call my friend? I need to know what bus to catch when I get off at the next stop.”

Use my iPhone? Had he blown a fuse? I never let anyone use my phone, let alone complete strangers on subway cars that could easily run away with it.

Because it’s not like I was unfamiliar with incidents of stranger danger on public transportation. There was the time some creeper stuck his hand up my skirt on the 6 in New York. Then there was the time some other creeper rubbed his naked penis on my butt on the Metro in Paris.

And besides, I’m from West Philly. I say this in the way people on the verge of spazzing out announcing where they grew up as a warning for why they’re not to be fucked with. I learned the proper way to avoid crack vials before I learned to say “please” and "thank you." Basically I'm the definition of street smart.

But something about that young man’s soft southern drawl made him seem totally not that threatening. He called me “ma’am,” for crying out loud. So I settled on a happy medium between trusting my gut instinct and trying to please a total stranger: I’d make the call for him, and watch him like a fucking hawk.

I tapped in the numbers as Mr. Southern Cutie Pie recited them. But as the train approached the next station, the call dropped almost as soon as it started ringing. That would have been a great opportunity for me to thank fate for intervening. But noooo. I decide to give it one more try.

And as soon as I looked down at that blasted “Try Again” button, he snatched my iPhone and ran out the train doors.


Now, as you might recall, I’m from West Philadelphia. (You’re dying to sing the theme song from Fresh Prince aren’t you? Don’t fight it.) One of the cardinal rules of street safety is this: If someone robs you, give them what they ask for. Don’t argue, don’t fight, don’t fuss. A stolen item is much easier to fix than a bullet in the ass.

I knew this.

But when my precious precious iPhone was out of my hands I just didn’t care. That was my iPhone, and I was going to get it back.

Now I don’t know if it was my cheetah-esque reflexes, or maybe it was the fact that my subconscious prepared me to run because it knew this shit was going to happen, but the nanosecond that motherfucker was out the door, I was right behind him.

You know, it’s amazing how fast your mind can process thoughts, especially when you have adrenaline shooting out of your eardrums. In the 20-second chase across the subway platform, up the station’s stairs, and 12 feet into College Park, I thought of about a million and four reasons why my life sucked now that I no longer had an iPhone. And each of those thoughts propelled my legs to move just a little bit faster:

1. Oh my God, I don’t have an iPhone anymore! As if I don’t have enough issues with my personal identity.

2. Shouldn’t Siri have some kind of anti-theft judo combat system or something? Siri activate!

3. Am I really keeping up with him? Those biweekly circuits on the treadmill are totally starting to pay off.

4. Smart move wearing my sneakers on the train and putting my heels in my bag. Mom in the 80s would be so proud.

The possibility of him turning around and putting a bullet in my head, however, didn’t even occur to me.

Despite being dangerously out of breath, I summoned enough oxygen to yell, “Heeeeeelp! Stop him! Somebody stop him!”

Having pronounced chivalry officially dead three years before, I didn’t really expect anyone to come to my rescue. I just wanted to sound enough like a lunatic that people around us would keep their eyes on the sideshow.

Sure enough, all that shrieking got everyone’s attention, including the metropolitan Atlanta transit police, who were waiting patiently outside.

After 20 of the worst seconds of my life, my beloved iPhone was back to its rightful owner and I vowed to never ever let anyone touch it ever again.

I don’t care if a pregnant woman breaks her water in the middle of the street and needs to call an ambulance, she’s going to have to waddle to the nearest payphone.

So the lesson learned here is clear: Always trust your gut instinct. Never talk to strangers. And Androids totally blow.