The importance of sitting next to Ernest

18 Feb

My iphone was snatched out of my hands. Stolen yesterday. I was on a MUNI train in SF. I was helping an older gentleman next to me find some information online and was using my iphone to do so when kazam! The door opened, a “youth” grabbed the phone out of my hand and ran out the train. And I was remarkably calm about it.

See, I’d been talking with the man next to me. We were both coming from the same event, an afternoon Mardi Gras party at a little nightclub nestled in a “more challenging” part of the city. The man’s name was Earnest. He was retired. And he was quite concerned that I’d just been robbed and told me that he wanted to make sure I got a new phone. I smiled, honored, flattered, a bit astounded, actually, that he’d make such an offer. I said, “Oh, that’s very kind of you, but my phone is going to cost me about $500 or $600 to replace. It’s an iphone.”

Earnest didn’t know iphones cost so much. He didn’t have a cel phone himself. And he wasn’t even an internet user, which is why I was pulling up info on my iphone in the first place: to help him find some information. But he was a good man, and as he said to me, “I’m retired. I have plenty of money.” Then he opened his wallet, pulled out a wad of cash and handed me some bills. I saw $50s and a $100. “This will be a start,” he said. I’d discover later that he’d given me $300. In the meantime, he’d given me his phone number and asked that I call him to get the final amount that I needed for a new phone. I thanked him for his kindness and told him that I would take him up on his offer.

He got off the bus at his stop, and I proceeded toward my next destination, a Social Media Club event. A couple of Good Samaritans lent me their phones to make calls, cancel my service and take care of some quick business I needed to tend to right away. All in all, things were moving along smoothly.

This afternoon, I walked into an AT&T store on Market Street, bought an upgraded iphone, a nifty new phone cover and — by extending my contract two years beyond today, paid a total of $288 (they sock with tax on the full cost of the phone: $59!) and walked out of the store with a brand new and upgraded 3GS iphone. And I had enough money from the original $300 for lunch!

I made sure my first phone call on my new phone was to Ernest. I thanked him for his generosity, kindness and spontaneity in giving me the cash to make sure I could get a new phone. The whole experience has been an interesting one. For me, what’s quite fascinating is that I didn’t get upset when it happened. Mind you —

  • I’m in a new city, one I have only a growing sense about.
  • I use my phone daily to see maps, track walking routes and get public transportation information.
  • I am challenged to hold maps and spacial relationships in my head.
  • I’m a social media geek, updating on twitter and foursquare and such.
  • I like data and am often checking in on the web for info.
  • And, I like my iphone.

But I didn’t get mad. Or upset. Or worried, even though I was on a bus, headed to a destination I wasn’t even sure where it was, didn’t have my friend’s phone number as she’d changed it recently, and I only had it programmed in my now-snagged-and-gone iphone.

The calmness. Perhaps I was sensing that it was all going to be ok. Perhaps because I was calm it was all ok. I don’t know. All I know is that in this case, I sure can speak for the importance of sitting next to Ernest!


10 Responses to “The importance of sitting next to Ernest”

  1. Jonathan Brickman February 18, 2010 at 7:53 am #

    that is quite a story and i believe that your calmness was the reason for the outcome…my question for you…how will you return the favor so your world remains in balance.

  2. Eva February 18, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    Wow, Jessie, that’s amazing. What a wonderful guy. I agree–definitely try to pay it forward in some way (not so great movie, great book btw).

  3. Kelli February 18, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    That’s a great story, and a great title!

  4. D.C. Hughes February 18, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

    Something that got lost in all this–with all due respect to Mr. Earnest (Saint Earnest?):

    ALWAYS maintain Situational-Awareness, espec. in unfamiliar territory–in fact, predators can spot tourista blocks way, and know who is within reach of you and your stuff. Scan constantly, cops will tell you most skels will avoid people who are aware of their surroundings and what’s going on in them.

    Now, back to Earnest–does he have a brother or cousin he can send to us Back-East? Or can we time-share him?

    • Madelyn February 28, 2012 at 10:08 am #

      Perhaps PhoneFetcher would be a deterrent when would be robbers see the phone on a tether (inside of your purse or belt loop?)

  5. Kiki February 18, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    This is a really wonderful story! I am sorry that your phone was stolen. In a way I’m not because in the end it all worked out and Earnest has renewed many people’s faith in the kindness of strangers. There are so many things we can all learn from this!

  6. Anthony Frausto February 18, 2010 at 8:27 pm #

    Jessie, wow! What a story.
    Earnest is a good person, thru and thru–no doubt! I know you will pay it forward because you are good person….and in some way you were already doing it when you were helping him. I definitely would have had a hard time myself if my iPhone was snatched like that….your calmness was probably a factor on some level. So clad to hear this happy ending.

  7. taritac March 11, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    HOLY CRAP!!! My iPhone was stolen today, and I read your story after friends sent several links to stories about these incidents. My phone was retrieved when a GUY NAMED ERNEST ran after the guy and apprehended him!!! Thank God for guys named Ernest!! They live up to their names!! 🙂

    • JessieX March 12, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

      Most awesome! Thank goodness for Ernests!

      Sent from my iPhone

  8. Madelyn February 28, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    Jessie X

    Contact me I will send you one of the new PhoneFetchers no charge! So sorry for your experience! Thank you Ernest for making this world a better place! :))


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