Easy come, easy go. Last Saturday morning AT&T discovered they had been overcharging me for the past couple of years, and so I would be getting a rebate of quite a few hundred dollars.
Later, as I sat down outside my local Starbucks, coffee in hand, I thought: “I never seem to hear of people stealing mobile phones any more.”
Ten minutes later a young guy suddenly lunged at my iPhone, in front of me on the table, grabbed it and ran like hell.
I chased him round the corner – probably a bad move, because he could have had a gun. But he was fit, he was fast and he was gone.
A woman came down the street from the car park and said she had seen him jump into a car driven by a pal and speed off.
As thefts go, it was painless. No violence, just the inconvenience of disabling the phone and changing passwords.
I had not password-locked the phone, nor set up a tracking device. Probably didn’t matter. The thief, or his paymaster, would take out the SIM card and reset it to zero.
I didn’t have theft insurance either, and a call-centre charmer sitting somewhere in New Jersey was adamant that a replacement would cost $650.
The police officer, Eric Butler from the Field Operations Division, was prompt, polite and efficient. After he had got all the details, he warned me that there was very little chance of recovering the phone.
“I’m only going to try because you have given me a few facts to go on,” he said. The lady from the car park had got the registration number, an Arizona plate.
“If we see any black sedans with Arizona plates it’ll give us a reason to stop them,” officer Butler explained.
And yes, phone theft was more common than I had fondly imagined. People often have them snatched out of their hand as they are walking along the street – a more traumatic experience than I had suffered.
Of course the rest of the afternoon was a write-off, between talking to Apple and to AT&T. Mr Butler had wanted the phone’s IMIE number, which I had never heard of before and was a little tricky to obtain without having the phone. Security, you see. But I got it, and a string of other numbers too: serial, SIM, social security.
If the thieves were hoping for some hot music on the built-in iPod, they were disappointed: just Beatles, Stones, Roxy Music and a huge collection of Desert Island Discs.
I had just been listening to Sue Lawley interviewing Lenny Henry in 1989 about his days in the Black and White Minstrel show. That was before Dawn French raised his consciousness.
I was unlucky. The Pasadena theft rate is only 21 per 1,000 residents or 2.1%. But let’s have none of that rose-tinted nonsense about Pasadena being a particularly safe city. That is slightly above the US national average of 20.
It is, happily, on only about half the national average for murder and rape, but is dead in line with the average for assault.
The UK has fewer robberies – only 16 per 1,000 – and fewer murders, but more violent crime.
I couldn’t get a figure for how many thefts there have been of a iPhone 4S with a rather vivid Kate Spade-designed case in pink and black with large white spots. Not many, I suppose. I wanted a case that I could easily see, you see.
Mind you I’d dropped it a few times, so it was looking rather battered. Just like I felt after all the hassle.
And then there was the reckoning. On Monday morning I went to the AT&T store and joined a line of customers looking particularly sorry for themselves. Sure enough, they had all had their phones stolen over the weekend.
“Me? Out of my back pocket in a club. I thought this girl was groping me – then she vanished, and so had my phone.”
My Starbucks tale seemed pretty drab by comparison.
And, this being AT&T, you can’t just buy a new phone and carry on as if nothing had happened.
OK, it wasn’t the $650 that Miss Cheerful Call-centre tried to winkle out of me.
But on top of the $199 for the phone, and another $50 for a case that will survive a nuclear attack, I had to take out a new contract. I signed away $311 immediately, plus another $20 a month for the rest of my life. If I’m lucky.
Oh, and my phone number has to change in November next year. Don’t ask.
Thank you, Mr Thief. A sharp lesson to keep my phone in my pocket in future.