A few weeks ago, I went on a vacation with my newly wed husband, Dhruv to Grand Rapids, Michigan for his US Open Ping Pong match where he was going to play.
This was the first long vacation that we had taken post our wedding and we were looking forward to it. We had taken a flight from San Francisco to Chicago to spend two days at Chicago and were going to drive to Grand Rapids.
Chicago [29th-30th June 2014]
Around 6:15 pm we got a call from our Aunt and she asked us to leave immediately as the storm had already started at their place and the trains would get cancelled if the weather conditions worsen. We ran from where we were and were lucky to get into the 7:50 pm train as all the later trains were cancelled eventually. We reached our Aunts place in Morton Grove and had a quick dinner. The storm was predicted to pass by 9pm and we left immediately to pick up our rental car and were off on our way to Grand Rapids.
We thought the storm had passed and we started driving only to find that a second storm was yet to come along our way. It was raining hard, the wipers were not helping, roads were not visible, there was a long stretch of the road that was under construction and there were orange plastic pillars all over which we were unable to see because of the weather conditions. At times it would get super windy and the car would wobble while driving. The situation was terrifying but Dhruv and I decided to continue and reach Grand Rapids by night as his match was going to start the next morning at 9am which is precisely for what we had come for. So after a long stretch of what it seemed like a never-ending drive, we reached our hotel in Grand Rapids at 3:30am. We were off to bed in no time and left early for his match.
Grand Rapids, Michigan [1st-5th July 2014]
The match was at DeVos Place Convention Center in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. This was the first time I was seeing hundreds of professional ping pong players with over 100 tables under one roof. The first day was fine. Dhruv won a few matches and lost some.
On the second day, the matches were very close but he lost them in the end and was very disappointed as he felt he could have easily won some of them had he practiced a little more and after his match he just wanted to leave the Center. We decided to rest for a while in our room and then drove to the Grand Haven City Beach which was about 45 miles from where we were staying. The beach was clean, the weather was nice and breezy and the restaurants nearby intrigued us to indulge in some hot chocolate and popcorn. In the evening we drove back to the Center and Dhruv practiced so that he was prepared for the match the next morning.
Day 3 [The day he lost his iPhone]
So the third day when he played, he won the first match in the morning and was relaxed. We were free in the afternoon and Dhruv felt we should take out time from Ping Pong and visit a few more places so that I do not get bored. We went to the Millennium Park in Grand Rapids which was about 7 miles away from the Center. We tried some Yoga near the lake and then ran on the beach. Dhruv and I were really relaxed and he wanted to stay there for some more time however, I pushed him to go to the Centre and practice for sometime in the night. He was definitely not keen to go and he repeated that he did not feel like practicing that day, but being the wife here, I won and convinced him to practice! (not happy about it.. read below)
We reached the Centre at 8:30 pm when there were only a handful of people and Dhruv started practicing with the kids he knew from his league. Dhruv had handed over his car keys, the other racket and few more things as I was sitting next to where he was playing while watching them. Around 8:50 pm, I felt like taking a walk outside at the reception area and took with me whatever stuff he had handed over to me and informed him before leaving. The place was about to close in sometime and I went to the information desk to find out good places to wine and dine as Dhruv and I were in a mood to celebrate today. I got the information ticked on the pamphlets that she handed over to me and was about to finish my conversation with her when Dhruv arrived, all drenched in sweat and asked me for his phone.
I said, “I do not have your phone. You kept it with yourself when you were going to play”. He panicked and replied – “No, I do not have it. I looked all over the court before coming here and it was not there and I thought you had taken it along with you.” We both panicked and rushed to the place where he was playing only to find that it was not there. He then remembered taking it out of his pocket and keeping on the side of the court before he started playing. We checked all over again one more time and could not find. Everyone had left by then except for two people who had come there to clean the place and on asking if they had seen an iPhone they replied they were not aware of it and mentioned that if someone would have found it they would have given it to the registration at “Lost and Found” which was closed by that time. We kept trying to call and every time the phone would ring but no one would pick up. At one point we felt we should not call too much otherwise the battery would go off which would meant if someone walks past it, he wouldn’t come to know.
Disappointed, we came out of the hall to the parking lot and saw our good friend Anol who had also come for the tournament. He had an iPhone as well and he suggested we check it with the ‘Find my iPhone’ app. Since Dhruv had not installed this app on his phone we thought we would not be able to track it however he still tried searching on his phone. It said the phone is not connected to the internet and we were disappointed as Dhruv had a working data plan and either someone had stolen it or we felt we might have lost it at the beach where there was no network. At that time we were not very sure if we even got the phone with us from the beach and felt it might have slipped from his pocket while we were running or practicing yoga. We tried calling one more time and this time the phone did not ring at all which meant the phone was switched off. Now, we felt that either someone had it and has switched off the phone or the battery had died by now.
As a last resort, we decided to drive to the beach and see if we had left it there. By the time we reached there it was all dark and there was no one. The entrance gate was closed however we managed to sneak in through the gate to find our phone. There were a lot of scary sounds of nature and we could hardly see anything. We were horrified and after about 10 minutes of walking we gave up and decided to head back towards our car. We were freaked out and ran towards our car and the phone was the last think on our mind for the next few minutes till we got into the car.
We reached our room around 11 pm and by then all the neighboring restaurants had closed. Dhruv was very sad and in spite of forcing did not agree to order something and eat. After a while, when I was very hungry around 11:45 pm, Dhruv agreed he will take a bite and we ordered pizza from Dominos to fill our stomach. Around 12:10 am in the night, I tried dialing once again and alas! the phone was ringing. We were happy this time and tried to route through our laptop once again. However the next time, it was disconnected again. We felt that someone had taken our phone however were not sure yet. When the pizza arrived, he made me eat and did not even wish to see it and went to sleep.
I was aware that the police can trace a mobile phone through the SIM card as the same is used to trace criminals and called them. The man on the phone said they do not have the facility and hung up.
I felt helpless, I knew my husband was disappointed and I wanted to help and I kept telling him and myself that we ‘will’ get the phone.
Dhruv and I had a very light sleep that night and we kept getting up in between. At 7am in the morning, Dhruv took his laptop as usual to check his emails and news. I was in the shower when Dhruv screamed and asked me to come out immediately.
He had received an email which said -
“Dhruv’s iPhone last seen at Howard Street SE at 9:13pm” pointing at the fifth house in that street. We noticed that we received the email at 9:13 pm which was the time we tried searching his phone through Anol’s phone.
This place was about 3 miles away from Devos place where he was playing. We felt there could be two possibilities:
a) Either someone had taken/stolen the phone and it was in that house (there could be a possibility that this person was playing at Devos and had intentions to return to ‘Lost and Found’ the next day) OR
b) We might have left the phone in Devos place and there was a genuine mistake in satellite tracking, i.e instead of tracking Devos place, it tracked it to a place 3 miles away in Howard Street.
Whatever it was, something kept telling me that if I pursue this further, we will be able to trace our phone. Dhruv was still disappointed and at one point said “let it be, we will buy another one. That meant a loss of $900-$1000 as his phone was on contract and the previous one was billed on the same too.”
Anyway, I tried calling the police once again and said, “Look, we have been able to trace our phone and we want you to come with us as these guys could be professional thieves and carry weapons”.
The lady at the Grand Rapids police station readily agreed and mentioned that the officers will come provided we come with them and talk to the residence of the house ourselves as the police cannot question them since I was the one who had traced it.
Dhruv had his match at 9 am and I asked him to go to the match and leave me at the police station. Dhruv aggressively disagreed and said he will not leave me alone and will come with me. With my wet hair still dripping water, we rushed to the Howard Street. By the time we reached, there were two police vehicles parked in the adjacent street. The area looked shady. There was a man smoking in the patio of the neighboring house looking at us strangely. The policemen asked us to remain in the car and went to the door by themselves. All the windows were covered with curtains and we could not see anything through the glass windows from outside. When the officers rang the bell, no one opened the door for about five minutes which only added further to the mystery. After pressing repeatedly, an elderly African American couple opened the door. The officers went inside to talk to them. We were still outside waiting for them to come out. The man in the neighboring house kept smoking his cigarette while giving us cold stares.
After about 10 minutes the officers came out and said – They were an elderly couple and they could not have taken the phone. They said they only had an old cordless phone at home and another old handset that they hardly use. The officers checked around the house at the backyard from outside to see if they had thrown it outside out of scare but could not find anything.
Looking at the area we felt that they or the neighboring house must be having the phone but we could not do anything.
So we drove to Devos place so that Dhruv could play his match. While he started playing, I went to the ‘Lost and Found’ counter, the reception and the security office only to find that they did not have a phone. At that point of time, it occurred to me that the center must be having spy cameras and on inquiring with the security they said that they do have spy cameras which record continuously. I got a sign of relieve. Even if I did not get the phone, I wanted to know if it had been stolen and if so the person would have definitely been captured in the video.
I requested the security guys to check for me however they said they required permission from the owner or the main office to go back to the footage. They said they will get it done and asked me to leave. After waiting for sometime I went back to them and asked them the status. They said they had left a voice mail to the main office however chances are we may hear back from them on Monday. I said, “What! I am leaving Grand Rapids tomorrow and I need to see it today! Give me your main office or concerned persons number. I will talk to him”. The guy gave me a cold stare. He probably felt I was getting too pushy and wanted to laugh for asking the boss’s number however I did not care. I knew my husband was upset and I could not see him like this. I kept telling myself, you’re close to getting it. Do not stop now! You will find it!
The guy gave me some lame excuse and did not give me the number. I am an Entrepreneur and I know how to get my work done. I was not willing to “wait” just because some security officer was not willing to help me and only wants to laze around on his chair and eat.
We noticed there was an an option to lock the lost phone from Anol’s phone. This time, since we were convinced someone had stolen it, we decided to lock it and it asked us for an option to display a message on the screen. Dhruv had come to me for a few minutes in between the break and we decided to lock the phone and typed the following message to display on the screen:
“We have lost our phone. If you find this iPhone please call us at 650-305-XXXX (my number). The person who finds it will be rewarded $200″ and locked it.
I felt $100 was enough however Dhruv assured that it was nothing and only if we write $200, there could be a possibility for a person who has stolen or find it to call us back.
So once again I went to the reception desk to the lady at the information desk whom I was talking to last night. Both of them said ‘Judy’ is the main person to contact for permission to view footage and if she agrees I could see the footage. So I tried explaining another 5 people at the reception how we lost the phone and how important it was for me to see the recording. Some people laughed however an elderly lady agreed to help me and said she will talk to Judy. I was still running from one place to another trying different ways to get Judy’s number in case the former does not work. After sometime, the same elderly lady came to me and said she spoke to Judy and she is on her way to meet me.
Ahhh! a sign of relief. I was convinced I could get Judy to help me. I told myself, at least now I can go back to the security guy and throw on his face the permission letter from Judy. When Judy came to the reception and we talked, she looked concerned and went with me to the security office. The guy was surprised since I got hold of her before he could and gave me a dirty look as now he was forced to work rather than lazing around on his chair.
Since the Devos hall was very big and there were a lot of cameras to cover that area, Judy asked me to show her the place where he was playing last night so that she can check the footage on the cameras that were covering that area. We went there and she started talking on her phone to the officers. After sometime, she told me that the problem was that the person who knows how to see the video recording of the footage was not in office today and will be coming only on Monday. I was surprised and told myself, “How couldn’t the security guys know how to go back and see the footage. Even a kid who does not know how to operate their systems can figure that out. What are they even employed for! I was not allowed to go to their security room otherwise I was keen to google up and see how to do so. Anyway, Judy promised she will get the recording and mail me the CD on Monday.
I returned to Dhruv. By that time he had lost all his matches and we both sat disappointed on the side chairs. We did not talk for about 15 minutes until I got a call from a person. Since there was a lot of noise, I came out and the person on the phone said, “I have your phone. There is a message of $200 reward”. I said to myself “Wow! He has our phone. Some relief!” However when I asked his name and number he sounded very hesitant. Hesitantly, he gave me his address and contact information. The address was 601 Franklin St, Grand Rapids. On checking, we found this place was just two blocks away from where we went with the police in the morning. I was sure of one thing – something is going in that area and our phone has been in that area since morning.
At 11:18 am, I messaged Anol which said “Got a call. We are at 601 Franklin St. It is near the place where we came in the morning. He said he has our phone. If we do not call back in 15 minutes please call the police”. We did this to be on a safe side, in case there was some malicious activity.
When we reached the place we found it was a Boost mobile store. I called the police once again before entering the store as we were not sure what was going to come next. The police agreed and said they will be there in 5-10 minutes. When it felt safe, Dhruv and I decided to go inside and informed the only guy in the shop that we had got a call. He asked for our ID’s and then gave us our phone. Even though he did not say anything, it looked like he had called for the 200 dollars.
We asked him how did he get out phone and he mentioned that two teenage African American girls about 16-17 years old had come to him to sell the phone and on asking their ID’s they ran away from the door. When he saw the message that was displayed on the screen, he called us. The shops camera could not capture them as they never came inside.
Dhruv decided to give him $50 but I asked him not to swipe his card there as that area looked shady and asked him to give him cash instead. I went to the car and got whatever cash I had. It came to $30 and we handed it over to the person. I kept saying this loud – “The police is going to come and we want to take action against those kids”. He looked reserved and took the $30.
When the police arrived, they spoke to him in private. The policemen came out and Dhruv insisted he would like to take this further as the kids might have tried to break through his work email or something and due to confidential issues however the police now said, “You guys are lucky to have found your phone however now we cannot do anything since they were not captured on the camera”.
We called up Anol and shared with him the story. When we reached Devos place, we thanked everyone who helped us and shared the details. Everyone seemed happy and congratulated us for having found the phone and said we were lucky to have found it and persistence helped.
I asked Dhruv to treat me that evening for all the running around and we finely went the Wine and Dine restaurant that I had ticked on my list the previous night. We celebrated along with Anol that night and were relaxed and happy. The journey now has become a memorable one for all of us. Not just for the place but now because of the ‘Lost and Found iPhone’.
This post is not about business management, silicon valley or any technical information. It is only a personal story to highlight an important message – As entrepreneurs, the road to success is never a linear line. There are a lot of ups and down, there are moments when you think you are not proceeding any further, people may laugh at what you are doing and your friends & family may not believe in your work and suggest you to move on from what you are doing. However, if you truly believe that there is potential, you need to be persistent and make it happen. Majority of entrepreneurs give up when they are about to cross the struggle barrier and touch success. The ones who are persistent and stick by are the ones who enjoy success.
For example, personally had we not pursued the above further, we would have remembered our first trip as the one when we lost our phone plus the hassle of changing passwords and bank details. However now, we look at it as an adventurous one - where we enjoyed the beach, partied, won and lost at ping pong, made friends with four policemen and tracked back our phones.