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November 15, 2010. This is a digital wild goose chase, not a Thanksgiving recipe. Not an exercise. Just a wild story. Seems unbelievable, so you’re excused if you don’t believe it. But it’s totally true.

In preparation for yesterday’s Slower Sunday, I was having a Slower Saturday in the park. Shooting video on an absolutely beautiful day. Deacon the Corgi came along, so I thought I’d phone a photo of him to Kathy (she’s in Cambodia this week) before heading home. But, uh oh, my iPhone’s not in my pocket. Well, it’s a Slower Saturday so I figure, hey, don’t worry, probably just left it home.

Nope. Nowhere. So I call its number. No answer. In a moment of slightly agitated clarity, I remember there’s a “Find My iPhone” app. I turn on my iPad (OK, maybe I’m a little over-equipped). Bingo. There it is on Google satellite view, at the edge of a clearing west of Cedar Hill, right where I was sprawled on the ground shooting video from fallen leaf level. How cool is this? Tracking the wild iPhone in Central Park, cutting edge style.

Thinking I’m a few hundred yards from the satellite-located phone, I refresh the map to see my current iPad location along with the phone’s. Oh, no. I mean, what are the chances someone’s gonna find a phone in a pile of leaves nowhere near a pathway. But, somehow, the phone’s moved to the north end of the Great Lawn. I go north. Halfway across the Lawn, I check again. Now it’s behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, near the obelisk. Follow that phone.

Another satellite check. It’s south of the Museum. At the obelisk I ask for help from a friendly-looking young woman with an iPhone. She thinks this is cool; she calls my phone. No answer. She texts it. No reply. I head south. Feeling like something between junior James Bond and a stalker.

Now it’s leaving the Park at 79th Street. I walk faster. It’s not Slower Saturday any more. I check again – it’s back in the Park. OK, me, too. Click again. It’s at the Alice in Wonderland statue. I’m a minute away. I ask around. Loudly. Lots of sympathy, no phone. Back to the satellite. Can’t find the phone on the network.

Now I’m walking home, hitting refresh every few minutes. Nothing. One last try. There it is. At the obelisk behind the Museum. I borrow another phone. Mine answers! Yeah, sure. Happy to wait here for ten minutes. And they do.

Better? On many counts. Phone’s home. I got 40 minutes of very brisk walking I didn’t plan. (I’ll have that ice cream cone, thanks.) I met a bunch of really nice people. Every one of them really happy to help. Another great reason to go out and take a walk, even if you don’t lose your phone. You could pretend.

Cheaper? I didn’t have to buy a new phone. The “Find My iPhone” app was free. The walk was free. The humanity was free. Take a walk. Really.

Slower? Well, I could have walked a lot slower. In fact, after I met my phone’s finders, I did. I had a lovely little walk in the park with them. A young couple from Florida, twenty-something. Lost in the park and happy to have a guide. I was really happy to be looking at them, the trees, the sky – and not at my satellite-guided iPad.

Thank you, Jennifer and Sean.

And my sincere thanks to each of you who e-mailed yesterday to say that you, too, were out kicking your way through piles of leaves. The leaves were flying in Paris, Dublin, Connecticut, California and beyond. And thanks for all your e-mail about anything and everything every day.

P.S. Speaking of thanks, tomorrow begins a week of Thanksgiving recipes. Thanksgiving alternatives. I’m really not a turkey guy. Or a marshmallow guy. Together or separately.

Click to see the big, detailed Google Map I made for you.

Let’s Do The Math
Two and a half miles in 40 minutes. About 325 calories. That’s an ice cream cone. Two scoops. Good idea.

Want to do Central Park the right way? Try The Walk That Ate New York, Part 1. Eight miles. 1,500 calories. Great eats along the way.

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