Finneran: The Day the World Disappeared

Friday, December 14, 2018


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The world disappeared the other day. It was a frightful day.

Here’s how it happened………….

I was in a cab on Sunday night, returning from a long weekend of golf in Miami (no, I was not in attendance at the Patriots game; rather, I was losing golf balls in the water hazards of Florida at four different courses).

I bantered a bit with the cab driver, complimenting him on the music he had on (beautiful Turkish instrumental music it turned out). I also texted my wife—twice—that I was on my way, that I had my keys, and that, at that late hour, I’d let myself in.

The cabbie told me the fare and I fumbled through the last of my cash, that which I had not lost on the golf course. The cabbie got a generous tip for his service and he departed. It turns out that he took off, accidentally, with my cellphone! I had left it on the back seat of the car while counting out cash and hoisting my golf bag over to the front stairs.

The next morning—Monday—the nightmare dawned on me. No cellphone! I searched high, I searched low, I had my wife and my daughters call the phone so that the ringer might help us locate it somewhere in the luggage or the house. It was not to be found, anywhere!

The world came to an end, then and there.

I had no way of checking my appointments. No way of reaching clients. No way to communicate with anyone. I was reminded of the old days---pre-cellphones---when we all functioned quite well. But here’s the difference between then and now:

Landlines are gone. Rolodexes are history. Card files are in landfills. Pocket calendars are in museums. There are no pay phones anywhere. And, worst of all no one remembers phone numbers anymore.

That last fact—remembering phone numbers—was an art form for many folks, particularly city kids.

Every normal city kid had some aspiration to be a “numerologist”—i.e.—a bookie. We knew numbers, we played numbers, and we never forgot phone numbers. We all could have gone to MIT where the math prodigies would have applauded our numerical prowess. Some city kids could have chaired the Math Departments at Harvard and MIT. Such were our skills………………..

I kid you not when I tell you that we are now completely, utterly, hopelessly dependent on that amalgamation of computer chips which we carry around in our pockets.

Don’t doubt me on this. Try it yourself……….try functioning on any given day without it. Try finding a landline. Try finding a payphone. Heavens, try finding dimes or quarters to use in a pay payphone! Try coordinating with clients or kids or spouses regarding who is supposed to be where. Every contact, every appointment, every phone number is in that little black box and it is the only tool left that brings it all together.

For about 24 hours I cursed in frustration at my stupidity and my utter dependence on that tool. More than once I thought that I had achieved a happy and productive existence for more than a half-century, without the need for any cellphone, capably navigating a very busy life. Now, I was as dependent as a newborn on this little encyclopedia of data. How pathetic I’ve become.


It turns out that my wife is very smart and the cabbie is very honest. The cabbie called it into the police when he discovered it later in his shift. My wife had already locked up the data, tracked the location, and called the BPD’s Lost Property Unit. A friend at the Department delivered that precious tool on Monday night. What a happy ending! The world, my world, reappeared then and there.

God is good. Wives and cab drivers too. I’m back in the saddle with my cellphone at hand, dependent unto death, ‘til death do us part.

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Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio.


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