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As Long as We Remember...

January 15, 2013

Tracking My Missing iPad Part 1

Earl 'Rocky' Mackintosh

Well, it’s that time of year when gifts of techy devices have changed hands in mass quantities. Today’s technology can make one feel like a 21st Century Sherlock Holmes.


With that also comes the increased possibility that your new Smartphone or tablet can all of a sudden just disappear in a flash. Whether misplaced, stolen or “borrowed” by a friend, it can be a near traumatic experience to turn around and find that the other half of your brain has vanished!


It was a few months back that I experienced one of those near death episodes during a trip to Chicago.


We flew into O’Hare with a number of friends very early one Thursday morning to attend a weekend wedding.


Hectic as always in the Midwest’s hub of travel with our luggage in hand, my wife Nancy and I jumped into a cab with friends Tom and Karlys for the half-hour drive to the Wyndham on North St. Clair Street.


Sitting in the front passenger seat, I pulled up my Maps app on my iPad to follow our route. The conversation was lively among the four of us, as our shady-looking driver maneuvered the car through the traffic.


When we arrived at the hotel, Tom and I decided to split the fare. He handed me his cash as I reached for my wallet. Unwittingly, I placed my iPad on the dashboard of the cab, settled up with our driver and jumped onto the sidewalk.


Ten or 15 minutes later, after we checked into our room, it dawned on me that I’d left my tablet in the cab!


In a calm tone, my wonderful wife saw my state of panic and said, “No problem … we will call the cab company and have it returned.”


Easy enough I thought … but this isn’t Frederick, Maryland, and I can’t just pick up the phone, call Blaine Young and ask him to sound an alert to his Yellow Cab troops.


Sherlock Holmes, I presume?


This is Chicago and – for the life of me – I could barely remember what the driver looked like, much less the name of the company he represented.


After contacting the concierge for help, I called Tom and Karlys to ask if they recalled anything about the cab. By melding our four minds, we pieced together that the colors of the cab were green and beige. But it was Karlys who seemed to recall the identification number on the side of the vehicle were some combination of two 1′s, a 4 and 7.


I shared that info with the concierge, who had checked with a central taxi cab lost and found system. With nothing reported in and the identification information not enough to help, it seemed all was lost.


It had been nearly an hour since I’d stepped from the cab, so I decided to go stand on the street corner to watch the cabs go by in hopes of matching the colors to a cab company. It didn’t take long before a green and beige cab with checkers pulled over across the street. The name of the cab company was right there on its side.


The concierge had given me the phone number for the central dispatcher. I called in and spoke with a helpful lady who was very willing to assist in locating a cab from that company with an ID containing the numbers 1, 4 and 7. After about 20 minutes, my new best friend Vivian called back to tell me that as far as she could tell there are no “active” cabs with such numbers belonging to that company on the streets of the Windy City.


It appeared that I had hit a stone wall.


I began to take an inventory of all that I had saved on that incredible tablet. It became so very clear how dependent I had become upon my iPad for my commercial real estate business, as well as my personal life. At my last count, I’d downloaded over 100 apps that allowed me to do everything from measure the interior dimensions of a warehouse to edit a PDF to record the next Washington Redskins game on my home TV. It had become a more reliable memory bank than my 60-something-year-old brain.


In a last act of desperation, Nancy and I decided to go back down to the hotel entrance and watch the cabs go by … just hoping our elusive cabbie may reappear.


Brilliant, my dear Watson!


Within a few minutes Tom and Karlys stepped out on the sidewalk on their way out to go sightseeing.


“Any luck?” asked Tom. “Nope,” responded Nancy, “not a good way to start off a long weekend.”


As they turned to walk away, Tom said in passing, “You know, I think there is a way to track those things on the computer.”


“Whoa,” I said, “I think I recall hearing something about that.”


I reached into my pocket, pulled out my cell phone and called my amazing assistant Sherri back at my office in Frederick, Maryland. “If anyone can figure this out, Sherri can!” I told Nancy as we walked back into the hotel lobby.


In her steady manner, Sherri listened intently to my dilemma and responded with a simple “Let me see what I can do.”


Ten minutes later, my cell phone rang with the good news. “I found it!” exclaimed Sherri. A bit stunned, I asked “What do you mean?”


“I’m tracking it on my computer as it moves away from your hotel,” she said.


Sherri had logged on to using my account information and clicked on the icon “Find My iPhone.” Since I had not turned off my iPad and left my mobile access enabled, it was a matter of seconds before it pin-pointed the location of the elusive devise. With a refresh of the map, iCloud updated the location, leaving the previous location marked with a pin.


My trusty assistant went a step further than just locating my tablet. She was able to remotely lock it by enabling the password feature, and add a message to anyone who opened the cover stating that the finder should contact me on my cell phone. She also activated an alarm that beeped every few minutes.


Feeling incredibly empowered and full of gratitude, I thanked Sherri and told her that Nancy and I would take it from here.


Scotland Yard to the Rescue!


The hub of MacRo, Ltd’s newly formed branch of Scotland Yard took roost in the business center of the Wyndham Hotel. I quickly logged on to iCloud, with Nancy and the intrigued concierge hovering over my shoulders mystified by this service provided by Apple.


Within a blink of an eye, a green dot appeared on a map of Chicago at the corner of North Jefferson and West Grenshaw Streets. A quick check of the location showed that it was about three miles southwest of our hotel. About a minute later, after refreshing the screen, a new dot appeared showing the location had moved only a hundred feet or so off the street. Another refresh showed it had moved another hundred feet and so on.


We were all mesmerized by the computer screen as I continued to click “refresh.”


A few minutes later I turned to my on-lookers and asked a very profound question: “Okay, so now what?”


Tune in tomorrow for the final episode: The Confrontation: "… a daring car chase and then a footrace down the back alleys of south Chicago…"


Rocky Mackintosh is the owner of a land and commercial real estate firm based in Frederick. He is also the editor of the MacRo Report Blog.



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