Last night Allan returned home in a panic after running errands and visiting clients in Mareazul, maintaining he had lost his iphone. On the way home he had briefly stopped by the beach at 110 Street, had used his phone momentarily, and then had exited the vehicle for less than a minute, and then turned the car around to head home. Within seconds he realized the phone was missing and immediately stopped, searched the car and the beach but came up with nothing. Needless to say Allan was a bit stressed out and angry with himself when he came home and asked for my help.

We live by our phones in Playa del Carmen, and to replace one would cost over $500 USD. I've often said if I could marry my phone I would. It not only keeps me connected to work in terms of email and telephone, it provides invaluable applications like conversion tools which I use for cooking and measuring since Mexico uses Celcius and centimeters and I'm used to Fahrenheit and feet. There's a Spanish dictionary which I use all the time, and when I have to sit in line at the bank for 1/2 hour there are games to keep me entertained. Besides the internet our second most valuable tool for our business are our cell phones. A loss of one is devastating to our productivity.

Luckily we have enabled on our phone the iCloud system which uses GPS to pinpoint its exact location. As long as the phone is on, the iCloud program has not been disabled and the phone is in an area with cell service, I should be able to locate it within a matter of meters online at Unfortunately the phone could not be located online and was ringing directly to voicemail, a good indication the phone had been shutoff by someone who found it. I decided despite the late hour both Allan and I should head back to the beach and look for the phone.

It was now dark, but sporting flashlights we searched the small area where Allan had been but came up empty handed. As we were leaving the beach I tried calling the phone again and surprisingly a local Mexican man answered. He sounded very uneducated in his language and manner of speech. I explained in Spanish I had lost my phone and asked where I could find it. He immediately hung up and would not answer my calls. He sent me a text saying he would call in a minute, but he never did. I then sent a text explaining I would give him a reward for finding it and asked where I could pick it up. He did not respond.

Now that I knew the phone was on, it was searchable online via iClould so we raced home, went online and sure enough we pinpointed the exact location of the phone. I could also remotely erase the phone or lock it, but decided not to as I did not want to alarm the person who had the phone. I wanted him to feel safe with it and not let him know I was coming for it nor that I knew where it was. It would buy me more time. For all we knew he could take out the SIM card which would disable iCloud, he could move from his current location or just shut the phone off.

Allan and I hopped in the car with my laptop and enabled the hotspot application on my phone so it could share the wireless connection with my laptop so I could stay connected. The address was not far from us, but was about 4 miles from where the phone was lost. Within 5 minutes we were at the location, a depressed city block in the Ejido, where mostly lower middle class Mexicans live. One side of the street was an abandoned lot and the other had several 2 level, run down homes. We drove slowly along the street, constantly refreshing the iCloud program until we were right outside the building. We contemplated calling the police but decided to give whomever had the phone a chance to return it.

I noticed outside this two story building there was an iron gate with 2 younger dark haired Mexican women sitting just inside. The gate was open but it was quite dark inside. The gate separated the street from a dark alley with apartments on either side and stairs at the far end which led up to a second level.

I was quite apprehensive as I approached and explained to the women that I was looking for my lost phone which my computer indicated was here. The alley I was in looked like it was out of some Kung Foo movie where the star enters a dangerous dark alley only to be confronted with trouble. I was a bit scared of possibly being attacked or robbed. It was dark and the location was very poor and run down. A chubby dark haired woman and a man with mustache and shaved head who had been laying in a hammock approached and in a very friendly yet concerned tone explained that it was all one family that lived there and no one had my phone. I explained that the phone had been lost on the beach and I had a program to track the phone and it was definitely there. "Was there anyone who recently at the beach I asked?"

I kept calling Allan's cell phone to see if I could hear it ring, but it didn't make a noise. I clarified all I wanted to do was find my phone and that I would give a reward of $500 pesos ($40 USD) to the person that had it. If it was not returned I was going to call the police. I made clear I knew it was here, and I walked further into the dark alley, continuing to call the phone. As I approached a wall at the far end of the alley one of the women at the entrance said someone had my phone. She pointed upstairs to a dark haired Mexican man who said he had it. I was instructed to walk up the concrete stairs at the far end of the alley.

One of the women accompanied me to the top of the stairs but I would go no further. The man was at the far end of the alley, about 20 feet from me, but there was no hallway up here. The side I was on was all roof, but the other was another level of apartments. Separating both sides was a large gap which was could only be crossed by jumping or walking across 3 boards which had been causally placed across. There were several faces peering out the doors and my instincts said not to go any further. The woman next to me told the man to come to us, that I was not going to do anything to him.

I got out of my wallet two 2 hundred peso notes and a hundred peso note and handed it to the man who passed me the phone. He then surprised me by giving back $100 pesos, acting like he didn't want it. The phone had been taken out of it's red case and then put back in backwards so the screen could not be seen. It was like they where taking off the case to see what kind of phone it had been and rapidly put it back on when I came by. The man said he could not figure out how to use the phone.

I checked the call log and saw he had made several calls, all to my friends. Was he trying to give the phone back or did he not know how to use it? How did he manage to text me? I asked where he found the phone and he said on the sand. He had been drinking on the beach and picked it up.

Allan got his cell phone back in perfect working condition. There were no long distance calls which might have run up his bill. I felt incredible, having used technology and satellites to track the phone and actually find it. I felt so proud and relived, it was if in one hour I had save us $500 USD, and that no matter what i did good or bad from hereon out I would be excused since I had found Allan's phone. Imagine loosing your phone in a city and being able to find the exact home where it was taken to and get it back.

I was also pleasantly surprised at how nice and accommodating everyone was at the apartment building. Without their help it might have not gone so easily. The gentleman that had my phone was also very nice. I think he probably would have kept the phone or sold it if I had not come, but in the end he took the easy $400 pesos from me. Considering where he was living and his admitted heavy drinking that's probably twice what he makes in a day. In the end everyone was happy - especially Allan!!
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