ipad: isad, imad, ibad, iglad

cagney b&W copy

This is a story about wanting someone to do the right thing, and not giving a crap if they do it for the right reason.

My 7 year-old daughter is obsessed with my ipad. It is how I get her to wake up cheerfully in the morning. I am not proud of this. But I am not ashamed either. (I have a 15 year-old who reluctantly attends seminary. I cannot have too many battles before breakfast.) I bring it into her room and she hears the click as I woosh it on and sees the red glow of Netflix and she perks up and starts her day with a smile and Horseland. It has become her “ipal.”

8:20 a.m.  It is time to go wait for the bus and she knows she must leave the ipal behind. But two weeks ago, while I was putting her lunch in her backpack and told her to wait on the front porch, she sneaks the ipad under her coat. Once at the end of the drive where we wait, she insists she needed an extra snack. Perhaps she thinks she’llget to finish her show if I go inside. As I come back out I see her getting on the bus. I wave to the back of her head and go back inside.

3:15 p.m.  My peanut gets home and runs upstairs. “Mom,” she says very seriously, “where is the ipad?” “Wherever you left it this morning I guess.” She fidgets. “Um, I left it outside. In the bushes. Sticking out of the snow.” I feel sick as we head to the driveway and I KNOW what I will not find. We live on a busy street where anyone seeing an ipad sticking out of the snow at the end of our drive could snatch it. And did I mention that it was trash day, and the empty cans and blue bins stood a foot away from us. She points to an ipad size indentation in the snow by the mailbox. “Right there,” she said. When I asked why on earth she put it in the snow she says, “Well I knew you’d be so mad if I took it to school.”  I shook my head at her first grade logic. “Mom, I am so so sorry. All day I had a bad feeling in my stomach and I wanted to go to the office and call you so you could go get it, but I don’t think they let you go to the office unless your sick or in trouble.” Deep sigh. I gave her a big hug and reassured her that I wasn’t mad at her. One of the sucky things about getting older is you get to experience more sadness, more loss, more pain. But a benefit is that this level of suckiness can give you perspective and compassion. I love my technology and was delighted when my husband’s company upgraded him to a fancy ipad and I got his old one. So I was sad but not prepared to go nuts. Lets be clear that in the pantheon of loss, this was not worthy of deep anguish.

3:30 p.m. As I am on hold with the town getting the name of the waste management company, it occurs to me to use the “find my iphone” app which links all our devices and can track them via GPS. I proceed to a) locate it, b) lock it, and c) send a “please call/reward” message.  I tell Nikki at WM headquarters what has happened. She says no one has said they found an ipad. I tell her the intersection where the GPS places it in Somerville.  She tells me to file a police report, takes my number, wishes me luck.

4:00 p.m. I am sitting at the police station giving a report. I show the officer where the ipad is. He says he’ll call the Somerville police but that all they will do is drive to the location and see if the ipad is sitting there on the ground. Honestly. Where are Cagney and Lacey when I need them?! Maybe, he offers, his captain will let him drive around the area and knock on doors, but probably not.  Frustration sets in. What my daughter did was stupid, but that the police were not going to do anything seemed more stupid. I am officially mad.

4:20 p.m. I call my girlfriend Jen to update her on the ipad saga. She too is mad and insists I pick her up so we can drive to Somerville to “try to get a visual on the suspect’s home.” She watched NCIS. And Castle. So we leave our uptight little Boston suburb, a place so persnickety it refuses to let the subway or most chain stores into our hallowed grounds. We start referring to ourselves as Cagney and Lacey and wonder if we sent the loud pinging noise via the “Find iphone”app if we could hear it if we knocked on doors. I’m feeling baddass as we drive through Cambridge and head into the hip part of Somerville, all funky ethnic restaurants and hippy chic shops. But where the GPS leads us is neither funky nor chic.  The houses and apartments are run down and my minivan feels conspicuously out of place. When we stop in front of where the blue dot is, a dark house sits that seems to be giving me the finger. Jen informs me that we are not to leave the car; she reminds me we are Cagney and Lacey, not Thelma and Louise. We will not die for an ipad, and for sure not a first generation.

4:50 p.m. Officer O’Leary calls and says that he spoke to the WM company and they think it might still be on a truck, to call in the morning. I keep checking the locator. It’s here but there are no trash trucks around. So I do a Google search and discover that one of their offices is just a half mile away.  I doubt that the GPS might be off by the much but we head there anyway. The guy at the booth informs us that it’s a giant trash warehouse. All trash has been dumped and consolidated. No trucks are there. My ipad, if in a truck, is gone. He smiles at this. I see through his scraggly beard that there are teeth missing. We have lost our bravado, realize how stupid we were to think we could have, what, knocked on a door and demanded of a stranger, “Hand me my ipad!” Cagney and Lacey no more, we return to our sleepy town.

9:00 p.m. Bea enters my room and says she cannot sleep. My husband asks what is keeping her awake. “Guilt,” she says, clutching her stomach. I put her in our bed and cuddle her. I can’t sleep either. I am embarrassed at how sad I feel about the whole thing. I refuse to pray for the ipad’s return because I know my prayers are powerful and it feels wrong to waste faith on an Apple product. I want to be better than that. Instead I pray to understand why I am so upset.   I decide it’s because my life feels out of my control.  Just as I knew the spot where my lost item was, but could do nothing to retrieve it, so too I often know what the problems are in my life, what it would take to fix them, but don’t have the tools necessary. I toss and turn.

2:00 a.m. I check the GPS app one more time. It is still at the dark house. I fall asleep feeling helpless.

7:30 a.m. My husband wakes me up and says that Nikki from WM has called. The ipad has been found. Call them. I talk to Nikki and this is what she says: the trash guys didn’t take the ipad, the recycling guy did. He saw it in the snow and thought it was newspaper (the cover looks like an old map). He put it in the truck, which began having mechanical trouble. So instead of dumping his truck he takes it to the main location to await a mechanic. He hears an ipad is missing, looks for it and finds it. Voila. A miracle. It will be waiting for me at Nikki’s desk.  I check the GPS and the blue dot is now several miles from the dark house, now over by the Target I go to sometimes. I know I’ve just been fed a story but I don’t care. I need the ipad back so that I can maintain the illusion that my life is in order. And so that Bea can stop having that sad look on her face like she knows she’s let me down.

1:00 p.m. I arrive at the office, located under a giant overpass. There are several men in the parking lot, but no broken recycling trucks.  I bring with me a dozen donuts and two gift cards to Duncan Donuts. I hand one to Nikki, thanking her for her help. She hands me my ipad and shows me that it is not broken or damaged in any way. It’s screen is amazingly clean and fingerprint free. I hand her the other gift card and ask that she give it to the worker who found and returned the ipad.  I am so relieved that I start to buy into the fiction that we are acting out. Yes it could be mistaken for newspaper. Maybe they moved the truck. GPSs can be off. In a final gesture of gratitude to Nikki, I offer to write a letter to the manager or whomever to let them know how helpful she has been.  We Mormon women write a mean thank you note and know how nice it is to have thankless jobs recognized.  Nikki stops smiling. “No,” she almost shouts. “No letter. You have your ipad.  We’re all set.”

1:10 p.m. As I get in my car, the men in the lot are now obviously staring. “You get your ipad?” one asks.  I smile and say yes, and ask if they were the ones who found it. They are quick to deny any association with the item. I tell them to go get a donut before they are all gone.

1:30 p.m. Driving home my inner Cagney & Lacey return and piece together what must have happened. It couldn’t have been hard, once I gave Nikki the cross streets shown on the Find iphone GPS, for her to look at the roster, see which dump truck had my route, and figure out who lived where the blue dot was.  I’m sure a call was made where she informed him that a report had been filed with the police, but if the ipad was on her desk in the morning, all might be forgiven.  The ipad was easy pickings, sticking out of the snow. Of course someone snatched it. But once I’d locked it, reported it missing, and gotten his work involved, keeping it wasn’t worth the trouble. A story was cooked up and I would be expected to swallow it.

And I don’t care. I don’t care that my trash guy only gave back the ipad because he got caught. Of course it’s ideal for all of us to do the right thing for the right reason. Kids should apologize to siblings because they feel sorrow and not just because they’ll get a time out if they don’t. Spouses should remember birthdays without needing post it notes left by the birthdayee. Visiting teaching should be done because we care and not because it’s the 31st and we feel guilty.  But sometimes even the imperfect victories still feel good, and honestly, being mad is exhausting. Life is messy–I’ll take what I can get.


  1. I’m glad you posted this, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I had a similar moment yesterday. I was proctoring an exam and when I gathered everything (including the enormous stack of exams) I accidentally left my kindle in the classroom. I realized this in the middle of a meeting and was sick at heart. Did a student take it? Could they now access my amazon account? Not to mention the fact that it was a Valentine’s day gift and how do I explain to my husband that the thing I so desperately wanted and he so generously gave me I have lost only a month later? I was almost in tears when I came back to the classroom and it was right there. The professor proctoring the next final said “they aren’t that expensive any more, so not a big deal.” Umm it is a big deal. It is expensive to me, and it means a lot to me. And I was sick sick sick to think I had lost it through my carelessness.

    The other reason is that i think you’re right. Doing the right thing for any reason at all is better than nothing. So often as members we get told that we must joyfully and cheerfully serve and it doesn’t even count if you aren’t Pollyanna about it. I say balderdash. If I grumble my way through cooking dinner for someone and bring it to their home feigning cheer, are they not still fed? I might not get the joy and peace from it, but they still got food. So it was well worth it. And I find that God is good and kind and often rewards me for the tiniest change of heart. I had a horrible attitude throughout but at the end thought “well maybe that was worthwhile and I am glad after all” and I am filled with peace and joy after all. So…attitude is good, but isn’t everything.

    • Em don’t you love little tender mercies? The truth is we are all careless at times and what a relief to have others cover for us. Perhaps “things” shouldn’t carry such emotional weight for us but they do–your Kindle is a Valentine. My ipad is a manifestation of my spouse’s affection for me. Love your idea that “I find that God is good and kind and often rewards me for the tiniest change of heart.” Let’s embroider that on a pillow, shall we? Here’s to things lost and found.

  2. ” Lets be clear that in the pantheon of loss, this was not worthy of deep anguish.” I need to remember that as the kid grows older and invariably destroys things I care about. You are a wise parent.

  3. I really like this post . I myself am guilty of doing the right things for the wrong reasons more often than I would like to admit…sometimes I go to church on Sunday just so I won’t have to come up with a reason why I didn’t show up. And *usually* once I am there, I remember why I like going.
    Sometimes doing good things for the wrong reasons can get us through until we are strong enough to do good things for the right reasons.

    Edited by admin 3/20/13

  4. I am pretty sure you win the “best title” award. And that you also win the “persuade others to empathy” award, because I most definitely felt all of the feelings described in your award winning title.

    I also think that you are actually a pretty remarkable woman for simply feeling gratitude to have it back, despite everything. I would have longed for an explanation. Even if it was simply, “I’m really sorry, I thought you were throwing it out, but when the company explained an ipad was lost, I knew that you weren’t…”

    But, I do think you are right about God. When I was on my mission, my president quoted the verse in the Doctrine and Covenants about how there is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven, and how blessings are tied to those laws. He told us that we would receive blessings for being obedient even if we didn’t know why (like Adam and the altar and the angel), or even if we didn’t want to be obedient, but were anyway. I remember being kind of annoyed, because I have always preferred the verses, “God looks on the heart,” and our intentions, rather than what we simply do, but there is actually some comfort in it which you highlight well.

  5. This is beautiful, Heather. I can see myself in this in so many ways– afraid to pray for something that i think is not worthy of a prayer, the injustice of the whole situation-and yet, the beauty of your 7 year old’s heart, and then the deep need to understand what is really going on in our own heads. (frusteration at our own imperfections?)

    Then the blessing– just as President Kimball taught in the Miracle of Forgiveness about helping someone to learn of the blessings associated with replacing dishonesty with honesty. Understanding that a letter of gratitude might end up getting someone fired should the thing go further, so backing away.

    I love the example you set for your child, and for me. Thank you.

  6. I loved this story, Heather–thank you so much for sharing it! I have a tendency to be very introspective about my own intentions and why I do what I do and what drives me. And frankly, i think that kind of introspection can sometimes be overrated. Sometimes we do things for the simple reason that it’s easy and it keeps things humming along and it’s just not worth changing at the moment, all things considered, thankyouverymuch. I love your message that good enough is good enough and that motivations are not everything.

    Life is messy, I’ll take what I get, indeed.

  7. I think the donuts and the gift cards were a generous, beautiful gesture. Plus you tell a story a zillion times better than I can.

  8. It struck me too is that it’s not just the author who is doing the “right thing for the wrong reason”. So was the thief, if her analysis is right. He returned it. Compelled to do so, but done nonetheless.

    Reminds me of Alma’s discussion of being “compelled to be humble”. Though not as noble as voluntary humility, it does bring its own set of blessings and assistance and, as unlikely as it may be, the potential seeds for change.

    The question I find myself mulling: what is the balance required between getting mad and persuing justice vs letting go of lost/stolen material things in my own life and simply dealing with the consequences of that loss? Some situations require emphasizing one and some the other. How does each choice affect my peace/compassion/integrity/courage?

    I think it’s something that each individual has to answer for herself. It’s been interesting to ask myself that.

  9. I enjoyed all of this, but honestly what touched me the most is how when Bea confessed, you hugged her and reassured her you weren’t mad. That is a good momma moment.

  10. Life is messy – indeed.
    I love the “small victories” that life brings us amid the mess.
    This article is a great reminder of this.

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