MCCULLOUGH: No good deed goes unpunished

Nate McCullough

Nate McCullough

No good deed goes unpunished

All I wanted to do was give the dude his phone back.

Tuesday evening I found a newer BlackBerry in a gas station parking lot. My first thought was to leave it with the attendant, but I quickly brushed that idea aside, thinking that a two- or three-hundred-dollar phone might find its way into someone's pocket, and having put myself in the owner's shoes, I really wanted to put the phone back in his hands.

So I tried to find a contact I could use to get a message to the owner of the phone. But the battery was quickly dying, and there wasn't one "Mom" or "Home" or "Work" in the whole phone. I did manage to write down the number of the lost phone before the battery died.

So next I dialed the number for the phone's carrier, the name of which was printed on the phone and happened to be the same as my carrier. It was at this point that I began wishing I'd just left the phone in the parking lot.

Five phone calls. That's how many it took for me to get an actual person. It turns out there is no prompt in the ridiculous computer system for "I found a phone, and I assume you just want me to take it to your nearest store, but in this day and age, who knows what sort of gizmo or process you might have for alerting the owner, so I thought I'd just check. And no, I don't want to add any lines, buy any phones or do anything to make my bill go up in any way."

I hung up twice in frustration. The computer actually hung up on me twice (it seems corporations have figured out that we all know to just keep pressing 0 until we get a human, and they have taken steps to make sure that we can't use that trick anymore.) Finally, determined to get this phone back to its owner, I not-so-patiently made my way through the prompts to an actual person, who I promptly gave a piece of my mind about how hard his company made it to try to turn in a lost phone.

He told me he felt my pain, and then, in a shocking bit of honesty that bordered on rude, told me I should just be glad I got an American who spoke English.

All that just to find out that yes, I should take the phone to the nearest store. Which I did. And which, of course, had just closed.

I could see the clerks milling about inside. They saw me, but made no move to even approach the locked door. As frustrated as I was at that point, I can't say I blame them. I probably looked like a crazy person.

But again, I was determined to somehow get this phone back to its owner. So I waited. There was a customer inside who'd obviously been in when they locked the doors. Unless he was going to spend the night, I knew they'd have to let him out eventually.

So finally a clerk came to the door. I explained the problem, gave him the phone, and he said he would try to get the phone back to the owner. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say he was stunned that I was trying to return it. That says a lot about where we are as a society.

In fact, the whole incident says a lot: I didn't trust the gas station workers enough to leave the phone with them. The phone company doesn't value its customers enough to even talk to them. And the store's worker lives in a world in which someone doing the right thing comes as a shock. And no wonder, seeing as how hard we've made it to even try to do the right thing.


Anyway, I left unsatisfied and with no confidence that my effort would be successful. I'm going to check back with the clerk to see if he got the guy's phone back to him. But I have low expectations.

Meanwhile, if you lost a BlackBerry in Lawrenceville on Tuesday night and have yet to hear anything about it, I'll be glad to tell you where it is if you can tell me the phone number. Just contact me here at the paper.

Assuming you can get me on the phone.

Email Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.