UWS Encounters: A Found Phone and an MTA Miracle

Illustration by Sasha Matthews.

“I spotted a phone on the ground”

In the early years of the 21st century, cell phones were rarely password protected. Sometime around 2004, walking down West 74th Street, I spotted a phone on the ground between two parked cars. Picking it up, I immediately wondered if there would be numbers marked “home” or “work.” No such luck, but I was able to access all the most recent calls. I began calling one after the other, finally enlisting help in contacting the owner by calling her husband’s phone. It turned out they were 20 miles up the Palisades Parkway, headed out for a vacation. The woman did not know her phone was missing! They immediately exited the Palisades, headed back into the city and met me in front of my building, where they handed me a huge bouquet of flowers and a gourmet chocolate bar in exchange for the phone.

— Harriet Rinehart Flehinger

“I beheld something I’d never seen before”

Leaving a doctor’s appointment on West 72nd Street, I saw an M5 (limited, no less) bus approaching the intersection of Broadway and West 72nd Street. I quickened my pace so that I could catch the bus and arrived at the stop on Broadway just as it was letting off one passenger.

The driver warned me that the bus was only going to 59th Street and Columbus Circle. I said that was where I wanted to go. I dipped my Metro Card and turned to pick out a seat, and then I beheld something I’d never seen before: a completely empty bus; I sat down in one of the single seats. To add to my pleasure the driver managed to make just about every red light between 72nd and Columbus Circle. I was in no hurry and this was a situation to be savored: silence, solitude — a bus of one’s own.

— John Lipman

The illustration for this column was done by Sasha Matthews, “a cartoonist, activist, and Shakespeare-obsessed” 10th grader from the neighborhood. (For more of Sasha’s work, see: http://rumblecomics.com/) If you’d like to try your hand at illustrating an Encounter, let us know at westsiderag@gmail.com. Like our writers, you’ll receive a WSR mug if your work is posted. And thank you, writers, for your submissions. Keep them coming: 150 words or less, real names required. A WSR mug will make a great gift — if you can bear to give it away!

COLUMNS | 6 comments | permalink
    1. Ellen Pundyk says:

      An current update to phone-finding:

      About 10 days ago, on my way home from work, I spotted a phone lying in the street at Chambers Street and Broadway. I picked it up and, like the previous incident on this page, I checked for emergency info and there was none. The phone was locked so I could not access any calls or other info. I could tell from some notifications displayed on the phone, however, that this apparently belonged to someone taking care of children, so felt it urgent to make every effort to get it back to the owner promptly.

      I decided to turn it in to the police, and the 311 operator advised it would definitely be best to turn it in to the precinct covering the location where I found it since whoever lost it would call the precinct covering that area. If I turned it in instead at an UWS precinct, closer to my home, they would likely not find it.

      So I made the trudge to the 1st Precinct at Varick Street and Ericksson Place (near Canal St. & the entrances to the Holland Tunnel), which covers all of lower Manhattan. I turned in the phone there about 7:00 pm, philosophically thinking I would never know what its fate would be.

      However, less than 2 hours later, now at home, I received a call from the officer at the 1st Precinct, telling me the phone’s owner had called, had come in and had reclaimed the phone.

      Nice to have something work out this way – and so quickly! (Clearly the owner really depended on that phone!)


      Thanks, Sasha, for the great illustration of an “old” flip-phone. Yes, it’s very much like the phone I found on the ground.

      • Scott Matthews says:

        ha, she’ll be happy to hear that! In fact, she googled to figure out what cell phones looked like back in 2004. Funny note: she was BORN the same year you found the phone. (-Sasha’s dad)

    3. DrM says:

      I’ve never lost my phone, thankfully. But I have lost or left my wallet somewhere 3 TIMES and it has been returned to me EACH TIME. Don’t ever let somebody tell you New Yorkers are rude or uncaring.

    4. Miriam says:

      New Yorkers rock! Thank you for being a good citizen and neighbor! And Sasha’s illustration is spot on. I still have my late 90’s flip phone. It’s just like the one in Sasha’s illustration.

    5. Nina says:

      I found a phone on West End Ave and 95th Street last week! Right on the sidewalk. I picked it up and consulted the doorman at the adjacent building to see if he recognized someone from the picture on the front. We were looking for ID. Just then, three kids ran up frantically asking if we found a phone, pointing to the sidewalk where I’d found it. One of them must have dropped it a minute or two before. What luck! The way it all played out, there was no question in my mind that they were the rightful owners.