Archived Story

Columnist: Phoning in from the South Shore train

Published 9:00am Thursday, July 30, 2009

Last Thursday evening’s ride on the South Shore rail line from Millennium Station in Chicago to its last stop in South Bend was a little more eventful than usual.

I had boarded early and so had a window seat.

The 5:10 pm train is a “rush hour” run, so a few passengers were left standing.

The man who sat beside me in the aisle seat worked as a supervisor of an IT department for a company that maintained and  rented thousands of rail cars to other railroads.

From time to time he would activate his BlackBerry cell phone and text message someone else.

Somewhere in Indiana his station was reached and he departed.

I had not learned his name.

Early in the morning my wife had packed a lunch for me to take along with enough for two meals.

After the IT supervisor left, I took out a plastic bag of celery sticks and proceeded to munch.

The ice cubes that had been placed in the bag were long since melted and as I munched I noticed that I had spilled quite a puddle of water from the bag onto the floor.

The water ran back under my seat and then I heard the two women behind me giggling.

I looked back at them and smiled.

One of the women said with an emphatic voice, “What did you do ?”

I was tempted to aver that it had been necessary to relieve the pressure on my catheter bag, but since I do not have a catheter or bag I instead just told them the truth and held up the Ziploc bag with its remaining water.

Her response in good humor was, “I can deal with water!”

I assured her that I had been “housebroken.”

When I stood up to retrieve my satchel from the overhead rack, there on the seat was the BlackBerry cell phone that belonged to the man who had occupied the aisle seat and had departed somewhere in Indiana.

I thought I might access some of his phone numbers and thus learn his identity.

The phone was password locked.

Then I noticed that his name, an address and a phone number were displayed on the face of the phone.

When I arrived home I repeatedly tried the phone number, but there was never an answer nor an invitation to leave a message.

The address was an Adams Street, Chicago, location which indicated it was his place of employment.

During the next morning I placed several calls to that phone number, but the calls were not answered.

When I tried his name on the computer white pages Web site there were more than 100 people in Indiana with his name.

The bottom of his phone was imprinted with the name “Verizon.”

When I called Verizon customer service we found that the name on the face of the phone matched the phone’s serial number imprinted under the battery.

Verizon customer service contacted Robert at his work place and patched us in so that we could talk about the phone.

He gave me his home address in Munster and according to his expressed wishes the phone was placed in an envelope and mailed to his home.

But why was I on the South Shore train mornings and evenings several days last week?

I’ll talk about that next time.

Bill Bradford retired to the rigors of a small farm in Pokagon Township.
He has served as director of clinical laboratories in physician group practices and hospitals.
For a decade he was an educator in clinical laboratory sciences at Andrews University.

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