Careless in Beijing

BEIJING - “To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.” So spoke caustic Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance Of Being Earnest.

To paraphrase the great Wilde, “To lose one iPhone may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two looks like carelessness.”

I am guilty as charged.

If the first iPhone was lost through pure carelessness - it slipped out of my jacket pocket into the back of a cab here last August - I had mitigating circumstances for the second. Misfortune most likely struck, in the form of an invisible hand that reached into my jacket pocket with nary a rustle in the wind.

Well, if there were any, it would have been drowned out in any case in the hustle and bustle inside apparel store Uniqlo in Beijing’s Sanlitun, where I was shopping last month before Misfortune pounced.

I blame it on the cold. I had gone into Uniqlo to buy heat tech thermal wear to fortify myself for the coldest winter in 27 years.

I spent about 15 minutes inside, judging from the receipts I had from the Mango store I visited earlier and that from Uniqlo. By the time I finished paying at Uniqlo and reached for my iPhone to check what messages await me, I realised it was not there.

I felt a familiar heaviness in my stomach. Not again, I thought. I had just lost an iPhone barely a few months ago.When I went to the cashier to report loss, I was surprised that they asked immediately if I wanted to go and check the closed circuit TV tapes. Later when I pushed back a door in the Employees Only area on the third floor of the store, I realised why: another woman who lost her iPhone was already inside scrutinising the footage for sightings of a suspicious man who had gone near her.

In my case, I was too enthralled with racks of discounted clothing at the store to notice anyone lurking around me. My phone could have just slipped out of my winter jacket pocket again, one with no zip. Whatever happened, it is usually finder’s keeper here, and true enough, my phone was already switched off when I called myself a few minutes later.

A kind young woman working in the surveillance room admitted though that thefts happened often in the store, especially during the festive season. She couldn’t tell me the numbers but I gathered that cops turn up almost daily during this period.

Later a policeman came and took our details. He chided the workers at the store for not doing more to spot suspicious characters. Almost immediately after his reprimand, a message urging shoppers to look after their belongings was played on the public address system.

At least I still had my wallet.

On my way home in a cab, I listened to a radio programme about crime during the year-end period. During winter, people wore so many layers that it was hard for them to feel a thing when their wallets or phones were taken, said the host.

I certainly didn’t. At least not at the exact moment when my iPhone was filched.

But I sure felt something when I discovered the loss: pain and regret and annoyance with myself.

Now the question is, shall I get iPhone No. 3 and tempt Fortune (or test my careless self) again? Have I become smart enough to use a smart phone safely?

To lose one iPhone is misfortune. To lose two is carelessness. To lose a third is?

Just don’t let me get to iPhone No 4 or iPhone No 5.