Lambs to the Slaughter: Bag theft, Apple iPhone and Find My Phone
I came rather late in life to the keeping of a regular diary. But it certainly wasn't for the want of trying. In common with most people, and, I imagine, a majority of readers of Macfilos, I find the idea of a journal attractive. Yet it is one of the most difficult things to keep up. How many times have we started on January 1 with good intentions and a blank diary? How many times have we fallen on our pen before the end of the month? This, we always say, will be the year when we start to chronicle our daily doings for the rest of our lives. It seldom is.
Then, some seven years ago, I downloaded a wonderful application called Day One. It works on Macs and iPhones and iPads and, at its most basic, provides the bank slate on which to record the events of the day. You can add photos and all sorts of stuff, but I seldom do more than describe what I’ve been doing — usually very mundane happenings, but they can be surprisingly interesting in future years.
One of the attractions of Day One is that every morning it presents you with an “on-this-day” view where you can see your entries for the same day in previous years. I go back six years already, so it becomes an entertaining diversion over breakfast. However, I’m not so sure if I had 50 or more years of journalling I would plough through all that. On the other hand, it would be a valuable record. How often to we ask ourselves what we had been doing this time last week, never mind this time five years ago? And it's a useful reference for "when did I last do that" or "when did I last visit old Aunt Jane"? Day One will tell you with a simple search.
This brings me to today, 10 February 2018. Day One has just reminded me of a strange event that is worth recounting. On this very day in 2012, it was a Friday, I was minding my own business reading the news on my phone over a fast-food salad in the southern Athens sea-side suburb of Glyfada. My bag, containing iPad, MacBook and other useful items was sitting on the chair by my side. Only it wasn’t. It had disappeared, even though the upper floor of Goody's restaurant was almost deserted.
Panic set in, as it does on such occasions. What to do? I saw no hope of finding my bag, so the sensible thing was to go to the police station to get a theft report to assist in the insurance claim. I didn’t expect much from the Greek police. But, as it turned out, I was wrong. I got more than I bargained for.
Now then, what's all this about?
The desk sergeant at the local Glyfada Astynomia station was all ears as I described my misfortune. I pulled out my iPhone to check on the serial numbers of the missing equipment but then thought of Apple’s then-new “find-my-phone” application. Once we'd powered up Find My Phone, Sergeant Hanis and I immediately saw my lost iPad on the map. It had moved 10km north, an exercise in fleet mopeding, I suspect, into central Athens and was currently on its way across Constitution Square, opposite the parliament building. A quick call to the police in the centre and two constables set off in pursuit of the iPad. We directed the search from my phone, left here, right there, straight on. Eventually the iPad (and, of course, bag and MacBook) disappeared down Ermou Street and ended up in the Monastiraki flea market.
Ten minutes later came the call. The miscreants had been apprehended red-handed in the act of selling my goodies. Thirty minutes after that, the patrol car arrived in Glyfada, blue lights a-flashing, and two miserable individuals in handcuffs were marched into the station. They don’t mess around in Greece. I was reunited with my bag and all its contents. I made a statement and went off feeling most pleased — and most impressed with the unexpected efficiency of Mr. Plodopoulos.
This police triumph came against the backdrop of increasing levels of demonstrations and violence in central Athens in 2012. In fact, as my iPad and bag was being tracked through Syntagma Square there was a major demonstration taking place. All the more remarkable that the local police were prepared to put themselves out to return belongings to a foreign citizen.
In the clink
Apart from providing Macfilos with an interesting story — and irrefutable proof of the value of Find My Phone — there was a sequel. Some three years later in 2015 I received a summons to appear in court in Athens as a witness. However, since I was then in London I couldn’t attend. Instead, I swore an affidavit at the Greek embassy and thought no more about it. But I often wonder what happened to my thieves — one of whom was from Morocco, the other from Afghanistan. Could they have been languishing in jail all that time waiting for the notoriously slow Greek legal system to process their case? Whatever, I bet they won’t forget Apple and Find My Phone in a hurry.
Tech Note: This remarkable recovery worked only because the stolen bag contained one Apple device with cellular connection — in this case the iPad. If I hadn't had the iPhone in my hands at the time of the theft it would have been possible to connect with Apple's Find My Phone from any web browser. I've thought for a long time that all ultra-portable laptops, such as the MacBook Air and MacBook, should have cellular connectivity. Apart from the sheer convenience, this would make it easier to find a lost computer. I can't understand why Apple, of all companies, has not incorporated a SIM card.