Feb 202014

Found cell phone in taxi

What would you do?


Where is sage advice when you need it? St. Jerome by Caravaggio

Where is sage advice when you need it? St. Jerome by Caravaggio

Moral Dilemma

What would you do if you found a Blackberry in a taxi?  We live on our cell phones.  Aside from losing a passport or a wallet, a cell phone is one of the things you would give an arm and a leg to get back.  The loss can range from being a huge inconvenience to losing all of those memories and pictures that you forgot to back up.

Last week, in a morning haze, I went to Central Park to exercise.  When I opened the taxi door on the the corner of LaSalle and Broadway, a shiny Blackberry fell on the icy ground.  I picked it up and got into the cab.  The taxi driver had a tough time understanding, “72nd and Central Park West,” which normally does not matter.  But as I sat there with the phone, I felt like giving it to him might be a long-winded way of returning the phone.

NYC Police Car and NYC Taxi.

NYC Police Car and NYC Taxi.

Taxi Cabs and Police Cars

It would not take an automobile expert any time to realize that taxi cabs and police cars are the same in NYC.  The only difference in the cars are the paint jobs.  Perhaps it says a lot about how the NYC Taxi Commission views their customers.  But for anyone who has taken a cab in NYC, you know that the seats seem to eat things from your pockets.

NYC Taxi’s have claimed many possessions of mine.  The hardest loss was an Arc’teryx jacket I left as I hopped a train from Penn Station.  Once I lost a cell phone, but it was a work phone so I was actually a little happy to have lost it.  Either way, it is no fun to lose something in a cab because things do not always make their way back to you.  Admittedly, I had some sympathy for whoever lost this Blackberry.

So what do you do? In the short ride I had from my apartment to 86th street, my pre-coffee brain thought of (4) options:

1.  I could leave the phone on the seat and let the next person find it.  (Certainly an option, but kind of a d**k move to just slough the problem off on the next person)

2.  I could give the phone to the driver, let him know someone left it and call it a day.  (Had the guy been able to muster out more than a few words in English, this might have been an option.  But considering that I was almost guaranteeing the phone’s owner either an enormous language block or the hassle of retrieving it from a taxi garage in Queens, this seemed like a passable option that would probably require a few hours of work on the part of the owner.)

3.  I could keep the phone with me and arrange to meet the owner.  (This seemed like a good option.  It might be a pain on my part, but at least I could be confident they would get the phone back.  The gesture would never lead to the retrieval of my Arc’teryx jacket, but I would be happy to have made the effort. Do unto others or however that expression goes…)

4.  Or lastly, I could personally deliver the phone, in a cab, at my own expense, clear across town when I had a 10:00am meeting, to a less than pleasant owner, taking on an additional $50 cab fare and losing an hour and a half of my morning to crosstown traffic.

Decisions, decisions…

I chose option 4. Why?  Let me explain.  When the phone finally rang, an accusatory voice said, “You have my phone, where are you?”  The conversation went something like this:

“Why do you have my phone?”

“You left it in a cab?”

“Well I need it, it’s got all my emails and travel on there…I live off my phone, why do you have it?”  (at this point I’m thinking, wow, this is one of NYC’s finest self important a**holes who says stuff like “Do you know who I am?!”)

“Because you left it in a cab, the cab driver hardly spoke English, and I figured it would be easier for you to get it back from me than him.  Where do you want to meet me?”

“Where are you?”

“I’m on 86th and Broadway. Where would you like to meet?”

“Well I’m at home, I’m not dressed, I need the phone for work, I’m gonna be late.”

“Ok, so where would you like to meet?”

“I’m at 64th and York. I don’t have time to meet, but I need that phone back.”

“That’s clear across town from where I am right now.  Can you send someone to pick it up?” (I figured if someone is THAT important, they can send someone else to get it.)

“I don’t have a DRIVER, I need my phone.”

“Yes, I gathered that, and I’m trying to find a way to meet you, but understand that I have a day, no different than yours.  I’m trying to help you, but at this point all you are telling me is that you need to get dressed and go to work.  Where can we meet?”

At this point, the woman on the other end of the phone is near hyperventilating.  No good deed goes unpunished right?  The idea flashes through my head that this is not my problem.  I can walk into the bank on the corner, give them the phone and they can sort it out.  But against all better judgement I said: “Here, I will tell you what, I will get in a cab and bring it to you…what’s that address again?

She gives me the address and $23 later I am at her door.  I convince the cab driver to wait for me.  It’s rush hour and will be next to impossible to catch a cab on the east side.

When I go inside, the frantic owner is a little less frantic and thankfully dressed.  She says that she only has $30 dollars on her, but we can go to the ATM.  I tell her not to worry about it.  The cab driver has been waiting for five minutes (about 3 months in most cabbies’ brains.)  She asks about the fare, I tell her it was $23 before I got out, it will be around $50 by the time I get home.  She insists we go to the ATM.

What form will the Goddess Fortune reveal herself?  Allegory of Fortuna by an anonymous Dutch artist.

What form will the Goddess Fortune reveal herself? Allegory of Fortuna by an anonymous Dutch artist.


She gives me the $30 and I tell her to forget about the rest.  It’s my treat.

“Why?” she asks.

“It’s…well it’s just my treat,” I tell her.

Back in the cab, I give the $30 in cash to the driver on top of the fare.  When he drops me off, $52 later, he thanks me again for the tip.  She got her phone, he got his tip and I have been running around uptown for almost two hours and am down fifty two dollars.  I’d say I did pretty well on the deal.

Living in New York City is a strange experience.  Some days it feels like the stars align in a magical way and other times the city sneaks up on you, pushes you from behind and kicks you in the nuts for good measure.  Somewhere between reality and illusion, that Friday came and went.  I still can’t say why I brought her the phone back.  I can assure you that I’m not a good Samaritan; that’s my mother.  She would have bought the lady a new phone, made her lunch, given her a hug, and offered to pick up her dry cleaning bill for the week.  I just felt like it would be better if I brought it back.  I can’t explain it and I guess that’s ok.  Not everything needs to make sense.  When Andrea texted me later, after getting her wits back, she sent me the text below.  All I can say is I’m glad it worked out.  #NYCSTORIES

We will wait and see what good fortune lies before us, right?

We will wait and see what good fortune lies before us, right?

Best-Adam Marelli




  20 Responses to “Found Cell Phone (NYC Taxi)”

  1. As to the return of the cell phone….you did good! Sometimes we do what we know is the right thing regardless of the inconvenience and expense to us – one may never get the opportunity to do it again, or undo a bad decision.

  2. Everyone who reads this will know what a decent person you are. I think that’s about all you can expect. And we already knew that really.

  3. You went way above what most anyone else would have done in your case Adam. I don’t know if I’d have the patience when the cell phone owner was giving you a hard time when you were just trying to do all you could to help. But since I don’t live in such a big city like NYC maybe this more norm.

    • Duane,

      It all depends. A day or so after this happened to me, a cousin of mine, had an incident in NJ where a woman broke part of his side mirror. When he asked people on FB if he should fix it himself (which he figured would take $30 and an hour and a half) or file a claim to her insurance…most people said things like “Yeah F*** her, make her pay.”

      Seemed pointless to drag it out, in spite of the fact that the woman handled it poorly. Im imagine Andrea was happy that it got back to hear asap. And I figure, so what if I lost a little time and money…started her weekend off well and a few people probably got a good laugh out of the story. That’s enough for me.


      Struck me as odd

  4. Well done.

    I think I get it. It’s partly about doing the right thing, but mostly about seizing life. This is a thing that can be done, it is within my power to do it, it is a good thing to do, therefore I will do it. Plus, I get a story out of it!

    • Hi Andrew,

      You are right…its always good to come back with a story. How it worked out tends to be less important as the years roll on, but the story is the fun part.


  5. Adam, there’s no replacement in doing good deeds. Just do it. Keep clickin’…

  6. Adam so much I do not like about this story, stupid really

  7. Adam- buy yourself a trophy… Funny how the taxi in the pic is an undercover police car. The author should have at least used a real taxi cab and not an undercover police car. Plus taxis are 5 inches longer than police cruisers. Get your facts straight!

    • Hi Floren,

      I had the author update the picture so that you can have a real “5 inch longer” taxi to compare with a police car. I imagine that distinction must be wildly gratifying for you.

      Do you know any good trophy shops?


  8. Great story, nice flow and dialogue, it even has a great message. Thanks for sharing your internal dialogue. It is good to do even when we are not positive what it means or how it affects us.

    Cheers Adam.

  9. Adam-
    Don’t mean to rain on your parade, but that’s also not a real NYC Taxi.
    No NYC Taxi medallion has the letter “Z” in it.
    And 5 inches may not mean much to you but it makes a huge difference to passengers and to your significant other.
    Plus or minus 5 inches in height or length is a big deal.

  10. Sometimes I just shake my head in disbelief after reading comments like “Floren” ..

    • Par,

      I totally agree…there are so many things off with Floren, who ever he or she is, that I hope its not too much of a disservice to everyone else to have to read it.

      But if that is the take away that he/she came up with for the article, I have a feeling that this site is the least of their problems.

      Thank you for being a sane reader Par.


  11. Good of you, Adam, but I think you missed an opportunity to do a more valuable service. Perhaps I did too many years of “social work,” but I would have told her what good fortune it was that she now knew where her phone was, that she now had the cab number and that she could arrange with the taxi company to retrieve her property. I’d assure her the driver now had the phone and wish her well.

    The greater good would be that she might learn a lesson about consequences of actions. While I’m all for helping one another, I always recall the tempering advice of a legendary social activist, “The best helping hand we have is the one at the end of our own arm.”

  12. Well done Adam. Karma is on your side!

Add Comment Register

 Leave a Reply



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>