Carolina Travel Girl

My Lost iPhone…and the Goodness of Humanity

How I Lost…and Found… my iPhone in an International Airport

I have a natural tendency to misplace things. And I am also one of those people who will make a little mental note to put something away in a ‘safe’ place and then entirely forget where that safe place is. Sometimes life is full of little surprises as I come across hidden items that I thought may have been lost forever. Whether something is misplaced temporarily, or may be on its way to being lost forever, there is always that moment when the sinking feeling sets in…oh no! I’ve lost it.

Such was the feeling I had recently in the Vienna Airport.  I was returning to Vienna for a two day stopover after attending a FlyerTalk Do in Hamburg and I was understandably a little tired. I had fallen asleep on the Hamburg to Vienna flight, waking up only as we landed. I was in desperate need of a restroom as I left the plane, but decided to wait until I was a little closer to the baggage area.  What was at first necessary then became urgent. I dashed into the women’s toilet, dropped my backpack on floor (as there was no door hook) and breathed a sigh of relief at having averted ‘that’ disaster.  I gathered my things, washed my hands, and headed out to collect my bag from the baggage carousel. As soon as I passed through Customs, I reached into my jacket pocket to retrieve my iPhone but it wasn’t there. A quick search of my handbag and frantic rummage through my backpack followed by a complete self pat-down confirmed my worst fears…. I had left my iPhone in the toilet sitting on top of a very tall toilet paper dispenser. And, as we all know, once you have passed through that exit door at Customs, there is no going back.

So what did I do when I realized my iPhone was not in my possession? My first thought was to get help (not entirely true…my first thought was to throw myself onto the floor and have a tantrum, however….), so I headed to the Customer Service Desk on the lower level. While appropriately and professionally sympathetic, all the people at the desk could do was hand me a card and suggest I call the Lost Property Office in the morning. In the morning! Did they not realize just how important this little data package was? At that point, I used my UK pay-as-you-go phone to call my husband in the States who, in turn, called Verizon to have the phone deactivated.

I headed upstairs with the thought that maybe I could purchase a refundable ticket and make my way back through security. On the second level, however, I was approached by Sabine Schipfer, an airport employee who must have seen the look of near panic (and tears) on my face.  I explained the situation to her and after ascertaining which toilet I had been in and the fact that I could identify the young lady who had been cleaning the toilet area when I was there, she immediately made some phone calls to the custodial staff supervisor.  She then asked me to wait and headed down to the toilet I had visited, spoke directly to the girl who had been cleaning, as well as her supervisor, but unfortunately they were unable to find it. She was really great, however, and we parted with a hug. I now had two cards with the Lost Property number on it.

It was only then that I remembered my iPad and my Find My iPhone app.  I opened the app only to realize that the only device it was going to find was my iPad, as I had deactivated my phone. I did, however, go through the steps of locking it and setting it to make a sound and posted a custom call-back message if turned on. (Yes, I am one of those people who rarely use a passcode except when traveling… and this trip, I had just forgotten to do so.) I made my way to the hotel in a rather blue funk. It was raining dismally and I had lost my iPhone. Later in the evening after mulling everything over, I called Verizon (1-908-559-4899 when traveling outside the US) myself and spoke with a wonderful young girl named Christy. As I was using my pay-as-you-go phone, she called me back in my hotel room. She checked and as there had been no further activity on my phone during the 45 minutes or so from my leaving it and deactivating it, we both took a leap of faith that it might have been found and decided to reactivate it.

This Little Girl Helped Identify my Phone

Precisely at 9 a.m. the next morning, I called the Lost Property Department at the airport to ask if someone had turned in an iPhone the day before.  I was asked to describe it and the screensaver, which happens to be a picture of my Dachshund wearing a red hat. Miraculously, it was there!  It had been found by a woman who turned it in to an airport employee. A quick trip back out to the airport on the CAT express train and by 9:30 I had my phone back in my possession + a nice reference for the iPhone repair San Diego. I stopped by the information desk when I realized the same person was working as the night before – we laughed and shared a high five. I also took the time to write a thank you note for Sabine for her compassionate help the evening before. By 10:30 I was in the ticket queue at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.

Phone Tips – Lost or Otherwise

First, and perhaps most obvious but important nonetheless, know where you lost it. Retrace your steps either physically or mentally so that you have an idea as to what your chances are in retrieving your device.

Find Your Phone Apps – If your device is an iPhone as mine was and you have another Apple Device, access your Find My iPhone app. Alternatively, log into your iCloud account and use the ‘Find My iPhone’ feature there. Using the app you can set (or check) your passcode, send an alert sound, and an alert message.

If you have an Android device, Google now has a phone locator service included in its Android Device Manager that can show your device’s location on a map, give you the option to ring it, and even wipe its memory. Or you may want to purchase a 3rd party app such as Cerberus. Windows Phone uses Find My Phone, a free service in the MyPhone section of With this you can ring, lock, erase, or show your phone on a map from any computer connected to the internet.

Call your Carrier – If your phone doesn’t magically show itself or perhaps you have the data turned off, it may be the wisest thing just to deactivate it. If you do find it, it is a simple thing to have it turned back on.

Back Up – Whatever you do, make sure that your device is regularly backed up just in case you end up having to replace your device.

Police Reports – If you feel your device has been stolen (as opposed to lost with a chance of return), file a police report. In order to do so you will need your device’s IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity Number). This is a 14-16 digit serial number which uniquely identifies your mobile device.  It can be found in your phone’s settings or on the box in which you purchased your device. It is always a good idea to have this number recorded in an accessible place.  You can also dial *#06# on your phone to retrieve its IMEI.

So what did I learn from all of this? First and foremost, I learned that there are, indeed, some very honest people still roaming the earth and my faith in humanity had just received an incredible boost.  Whether or not the place that I lost the iPhone had anything to do with its being found, I don’t know, but I have a heart full of gratitude for the woman who found it … and for Sabine, who went out of her way to help a traveler in obvious distress.

I also learned that. in spite of (almost) always obsessively checking after myself to ensure I haven’t left anything behind, sometimes it happens and I am going to lose things. I’ve learned to have my passcode enabled when I travel and to also use my phone locator service before I deactivate the phone.

What tips or advice would you have for someone who has lost their mobile device?

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