Fallen Soldiers

Feb 27, 2012

“La Virgen” in the background. I did a lot of praying this day and things worked out.

I experienced what I’ve been told is a miracle the other day.  I left my iPhone in a taxi when he dropped me off at the tennis courts to practice in the morning, and it managed to find its way back to me.  I realized that I had lost it about five minutes after the taxi drove away, and quickly started shuffling through every negative emotion available to me.  First came denial.  I just could not believe I had lost what I now understand has become, for better or worse, a part of my soul.  I dumped everything out of my bag onto the grass—the Jews leaving Temple were very confused—hoping that somehow it might appear out of some hidden crevice, smiling up at me mischievously.  Alas, I was not so lucky.

Next came anger as I ran back to the security guys at the entrance to find out if there was a way to track the taxi down.  They were not very helpful and did not seem to understand the seriousness of the situation.  I’ll admit I must not have been the easiest person to deal with at the time, for in my panicked state my Spanish abandoned me and for the most part I found myself frantically questioning the poor men in English with a Spanish accent or word thrown in here or there for style and so they could better understand.  I couldn’t help but figure that it was like a kidnapping, where the first fifteen minutes are the most crucial, and your chances of finding the subject decrease dramatically after you reach that threshold and the trail goes cold.

At one point I got the guards so riled up they decided to call the police and see what they suggested we do.  We dialed the Chilean equivalent of 911 but the police just laughed and told me that it must have been an expensive cab ride.  Haha…real funny.  Eventually I was able to wrangle a yellow pages directory—apparently they still exist—out of them so that I could call every taxi company in Santiago and have them all send out the alert over the radios that my beloved iPhone was in dire straights.  Unfortunately, there are approximately a billion taxi companies in the city and it didn’t matter in any case since we had picked up the cab off the street, meaning he was a private entity and not affiliated with any larger company.

I think I’ve been spending too much time studying here.

This is when despair set in, as I realized my cause was lost and that I was helpless to do anything about it.  The future just seemed so bleak as I contemplated a life without my iPhone.  Besides the camera and all the pictures that went with it and the convenience of having all the functions it performs for me, I felt guilty, as though I’d abandoned a friend.  Like I’d lost someone important to me.  I guess this just shows how ridiculously materialistic the world and especially I have become.  But the pain was real and I spent most of the day inconsolably grieving.  I had no motivation in practice; food had no taste and gave me no pleasure, and the next month of traveling without it seemed intimidating.  My phone was my connection to the world—to my emails, to my family, to my girlfriend, to Facebook…. What would I do now?  It didn’t help that Nick, as sympathetic as he was trying to be, decided to spend all afternoon playing Angry Birds and watching YouTube videos.  The agony was terrible.  I asked everyone around what they thought I should do and the unanimous answer was that I was SOL—shit outta luck—and that some taxi driver got a big bonus that day.

Finally, resigned and defeated, I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to skip my afternoon practice and return to the hotel to shower and take a nap so I could escape my misery for a little while.  Amazingly though, as I trudged up the stairs of our cute and crappy hostel that had no AC and smelled like the musky mixture of old plumbing and moldy shower curtain, the tiny little lady who owned the place came running up to me and asked in Spanish if I had lost a cell phone.  My heart skipped a beat and I figured my mind was playing tricks on me since I never could really understand the lady when she spoke to me.  But to my astonishment I had heard her correctly, and apparently the taxi driver had come by earlier asking if she had any tennis players staying in her house.

Most honest taxi driver in the world

As hard as it is to believe, after finding my iPhone in his backseat, rather than stealing all my data and heading to the nearest pawn shop as I had assumed he would, the taxi driver returned to where he had picked us up and walked up and down the street asking every hotel whether they had two tennis players as guests.  And somehow he stuck it out until he found our hole in the wall hostel.  He left his number for me to call him when I got back and even returned once more later that night to drop the phone off.  What a trip!  He must be the most honest and considerate taxi driver in the world and besides the twenty bucks I gave him for his troubles and kindness I hope his karma goes through the roof.  This means I will need to make some heroic efforts the next time I find someone’s wallet or something, but I am totally willing after experiencing the feeling of getting my phone returned to me after having given up on it.

I learned three things from this awful day.  First, I am crazy and need to rethink my attachment to technology and the comfort it gives me.  Second, I am irresponsible and need to learn to be a real human and take care of my things and myself.  And last, that it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day.  I know it shouldn’t be so amazing and unthinkable that a person would find a phone and make an effort to return it to its owner, but such a seemingly insignificant, unselfish act completely changed my existence and meant the world to me.  I can only hope to have the opportunity to return such kindness someday, maybe not specifically to the taxi driver but to the world at large.  I’m happy to say that this taxi driver renewed my faith in humanity and as hippy-dippy as it sounds, I feel it is small, concerted efforts such as these that really can make the world a better place.

Travelling, I’m sad to say—especially my travelling—gives ample opportunity to lose things and regrettably it is often your most precious objects that find their ways out of your life.  While basking in the glory of recovering my lost phone, I thought it would be appropriate to mention some of the various fallen soldiers that I have managed to leave behind over the years.  Maybe this will be some extra vision into the life of a travelling tennis player or maybe just some insight into my own particular clumsiness.  Either way, here is my list.  Sorry Mom, I know your going to hate this.

Innocence and beauty lost.

Things lost: hopefully you’ve all found good homes


Digital Camera: Stolen by the full moon party

Pictures of Thailand trip: Lost with Camera

Memories of Thai Trip:  Lost with Pictures

3 debit cards: Forgotten in ATMs

Handful of Favorite T-shirts: One on this trip

3 pairs of Nike sports headphones: One on this trip

Inhibitions Lost

Tennis bag and EVERYTHING in it: Stolen out of bashed window in girlfriend’s car. 4 racquets, shoes, ankle braces, sweatpants, etc.… How much crack does pawning used tennis stuff buy?

Half Dozen tennis matches: Very painful.  Snatched defeat out of jaws of victory

2 Turtles: One died in College and other was donated to aquarium in St. Louis

2 More Tennis Racquets: Left on train between terminals in Dallas airport

1 More Tennis Racquet: Left on roof of Israeli Tennis Center in Ashkelon

Countless other Tennis Racquets: Broken in fits of anger and stupidity

Dignity Lost

Inhibitions: Also stolen by Full Moon Party but in general mostly when drinking

Fortune in Random coins: Other country’s coins actually have value

Hats: Every one I’ve ever owned

Sunglasses: Same as hats

Dignity: Also when drinking, definitely once sobered up

Speed: They called me lightning when I was young

Girlfriend’s car: Turned out it was towed.  So did get it back thank God

My Cat Grahm: Gave to my Roommate to take care of.  Don’t think I can take him back now.

Myself: When it comes to directions, 80% of the time I’m wrong every time

Mind Lost

Mind: Quite regularly but I usually find it

Dad: Not my fault but lost all the same

Only digital picture I could find of him before he got sick. Thats my sister when she was little and the beautiful car she dropped off a cliff. I’ll let her put that on her list.

5 responses to “Fallen Soldiers”

  1. Dory Kanter says :

    That was great, Charlie. Lost and found – the story of life itself.
    Love you, Dory

  2. Morry Langer (and Mary Stapleton says :

    Hey Charlie- you make us laugh! Tell me if you go to Peru. Mary says –

    “My niece’s boyfriend’s brother competes in tennis too. They are from Lima. Sergio says to tell him if you go to Peru and I think he will give you sme tips. Sergio lives in Miami.”

    Cheers!! Mary & Morry

    • charliecutler says :

      Thanks Morry. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I don’t think I will make it to Peru on this trip but I will let you guys know if I do. If my mom hasn’t told you yet, Stef got a one year fellowship with an Environmental engineering company in San Fran. She starts in September and I will probably move down there with her. We’re very excited and talked about possibly living in Berkeley. We’ll see though there is still some time till then.



  3. feldenkraispdx says :

    Pretty funny, Charlie! How about the entire collection of DVDs you left on a train? Glad your iPhone found you in the end. Love, Jo

  4. charliecutler says :

    Thanks. It was pretty lucky. I think I’ve lost so many things over the years that i even lost the memories of most of them.

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