Since the beginning of the war, I have parted with every piece of technological equipment I own. The morning the Israeli bombing started, my laptop gave up every sign of life. Two days ago I lost my video- and photo camera. I forget my USB memory stick at the Internet cafe every day, which exasperates the owner who rescues it after I leave. And yesterday, while rushing to a meeting from the site of the lighthouse bombing, I left my cellphone in a cab.
I noticed immediately when I reached into my bag to preemptively silence the damn thing that it was gone, missing. Having resigned myself to the loss of all other devices (I am lucky to lose a camera rather than a limb or loved one, I tell myself) and tiring of the meeting, I decided that I would fight to reverse my fortunes and reclaim my phone, by any means necessary. An American man known amongst my friends as "steroid activist", in reference to his obscene muscle bulk always on display in sleaveless sweatshirts, was holding a moving oratory about reclaiming "our land, our people"; I poked him in the side and asked to use his phone. Irritably, he complied.
I called my phone. It rang twice; a young man answered. I embarked on a frantic plea for the return of my phone, elaborated how grateful I would be, and offered to part with swaths of cash because it is all I have to communicate with the rest of the world in these difficult times. Expecting him to demand a sizeable ransom in exchange, as has happened with other persons who have lost their cellphone, I was suprised that he was eager to return it immediately, at my convenience. He said he had called some numbers in my phonebook to report that he had found it. I thanked him profusely, and we agreed to meet at Starbuck's on Hamra Street, even though he was at the other end of town. He said his name was Ali; I told him I am German, to avoid saying, "I'm blonde" on the phone to a stranger, in a room full of activists. I fled the meeting and hopped a cab to Hamra.
There I waited for fifteen minutes, pacing around in the sun, inquiring of every man who passed if his name was "Ali". I encountered two Ali's; neither of them had my phone. Finally, a well-groomed teenager who I took to be no older than sixteen approached me and handed me my phone. He smiled shyly and avoided eye contact as I repeated how very grateful I was and asked if I could invite him for juice or a fruit cocktail across the street in return for his kindness and generosity. He declined. We parted ways.
Five minutes later, I received a text message from Ali-- evidently he procured my number while my phone was in his possession-- which read:
"Hi, it's ALI. I don't know your name. If you ever need any help, call me :)"
I responded, "Thanks again, Ali. I won't forget your kindness. Emily"
Two minutes later: "Hehe this is the habits of the south of Lebanon people. If u like to have a new best friend am here ;)"
Followed 15 minutes later by: ":O I felt that u seems angry becoz of the 2nd message. I meant I want to be a friend for u like ur brother. When u need to talk to someone I'm here:)"