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Davis, California

Friday, February 23, 2024

Column: Magic pumpkins

The other day when I was in one of the MU bathrooms, I set my phone down and walked out. It only took me five minutes to realize that I’d lost my phone. But when I went to the bathroom and awkwardly looked on the counters and in the stall, I knew it was too late. My poor, sweet, loyal Smartphone was gone.

The next three hours were torture. Not only did this dash my plans of talking to my mom for the first time after a long week of studying and stress, but I just couldn’t stop going over what I’d lost in my head. The priceless pictures of my friends and the heirloom lasagna recipe I’d saved on my phone, all suddenly came rushing back to me.

I went to all the lost and found areas I knew of, and I was about ready to commit hari-kari by the time I was done. Biking home afterward, I cried hot, salty tears of self-pity. I started thinking that since whoever took my phone from the bathroom hadn’t turned it in, they were probably either trying to hawk it on the secondhand phone black market, enjoying a devious game of  “Fruit Slice” or, worst of all, selling my beloved lasagna recipe to “Martha Stewart Living”.

What made me feel even worse was that I assumed whoever found my phone would turn it in. Years before, I found an iPhone in one of the MU bathrooms. I could have sold it and made a pretty penny or, even better, I could have kept it for myself so I could play “Tap Tap Revenge 28” until my thumbs got carpel tunnel. Those devious thoughts never even crossed my mind. I knew the phone was like someone’s small, electronic child, so I felt an urgent sense of responsibility to get it back to its owner.

It annoyed and frustrated me that karma had decided to be a complete bitch that day. I’d rescued someone else’s phone, so didn’t that mean, by cosmic law, that I got a free pass?

This injustice reminded me of four years ago, when a wildfire burned my house, and all my worldly possessions, to the ground. The fire destroyed almost everything, except for a magical pumpkin on our front porch. I pulled that bad boy out of piles of ashes, debris and broken roofing tiles, but there was barely a scratch on it.

To me, that damn pumpkin became a symbol of my family’s struggle and ultimate triumph over losing all evidence of our years together. It replaced the decimated set of Pokémon cards I was planning on giving my kids someday and the handmade dress my friend had given me for my birthday.

So that November, when my family moved into a rental house, we proudly displayed our magical pumpkin in front of our house.

And do you know what one of my neighbors did? They stole it from my front yard and smashed it in the street for a laugh. I’d already literally lost everything, but losing the metaphorical value of that pumpkin had me daydreaming of murdering faceless pumpkin killers by smashing them in the street.

Now, while this is probably the strangest story I could tell you, what I want to get across is that what may be worth $20 to you can quite possibly be priceless to its owner, even if it doesn’t seem like it. To me the value of our things aren’t the things themselves, but the memories and emotions we assign to them.

Now before I leave you with the impression that the world is full of thieves, I should say that there are still Good Samaritans out there. Even though I was too stupid to find out where they returned it, some valiant ladies room hero did turn in my phone.

So, thank you random Good Samaritan who rescued my phone and returned it to my loving arms. I owe you a huge debt of gratitude and probably some homemade cookies too. You’re a quality human being.

The next time you have the choice between stealing something and sending it to its rightful home, pick the latter option. Or not, you choose. But be warned, if you choose theft I’ll come after you with some righteous pumpkin rage.

KATE ZARRELLA would love to hear from you at kazarrella@ucdavis.edu, unless you like smashing pumpkins –– the activity, not the band.


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