magical thinking

Magical Thinking

The phrase “magical thinking” comes up sometimes in political/spiritual discussions… as in, New Agers  being apolitical and resorting to magical thinking to solve the world’s problems:

  • The aliens will come to save us from the evil human empire.
  • The good aliens will come to save us from the evil alien controllers of the human empire.
  • Free energy will solve all our energy needs.
  • We just need to dismantle the banks and erase all debt and we will all thrive.
  • We just need to meditate more and purify our souls and the world will evolve in a quantum New York minute… not too much longer, after 21 December 2012.
  • With positive affirmations we can all manifest our dreams.
  • If we don’t think about Fukushima it will go away.
  • All we need is love.

Not that the classic political activists, like the old socialists, with their hardnosed realpolitik, are that far off the same delusional optimism:

  • Once the workers have seized control, the state will wither away.
  • Once we kill the pigs and fuck the man, we will all be free.
  • Dismantle capitalism, and greed and exploitation will vanish.

The point being, we look at problems in the world, or in our individual lives, and wish them away. “I’m going to lose ten pounds by dieting next month.” “I’m going to promote my book every day on Twitter and it will become a best-seller.” “I’m going to put my profile on Plenty of Fish and attract my soul mate.” Problem solved, as if by magic.

magical thinking

I found myself a half hour into the party, wondering where my pack went. Upstairs in the entryway where I came in? Nope. Downstairs in the music room, or the spare bedroom? Nope. Outside by my car, where I could almost remember putting it down to retrieve instruments? Nope. Check back inside. Ask around. Check back outside.

Dumb me, I must have left it beside the car on the road, 11:15 pm on St. Patrick’s Day night, and some joyriding teenagers picked it up to see what they could nab.

Back inside, Marg phoned around to half a dozen friends who had left in the last half hour. No dice. They didn’t have it or they didn’t answer. So, thinking back, I could almost see myself putting my pack down on the road beside my car, the lonely pack just begging to be picked up by some random young bucks with a few drinks under their belts and eyes for opportunity.

Why was I so worried? The pack had my $700 phone in it, with all my emails, messages, banking apps, social media accounts, wide open for anyone to access. Plus a Kindle ebook reader, worth another $100 or so, and my $150 custom musician’s earplugs. Assorted other small items, discount cards, and my last copy of a book out of print. The main concern, as my worry built, went beyond the immediate losses, into financial and identity theft. Add the risk of an endless long distance phone bill; a spending spree on Google Play; even access to account and credit card numbers…

I played one more tune in the jam, now halfhearted, and headed for home, to get to my computer to change passwords and try to limit the damage. Pulling away from the scene, the reality hit me: I’m screwed. I’m a victim of my own stupidity, and magical thinking is not going to make it otherwise.

No matter if I was cruising on a tack of, “Oh everything’s going great lately.” Shit happens. Now just deal with it; it’s not the end of the world, after all. Just a huge hassle. Go out and get a new phone, set it up, rebuild contacts somehow; buy a new Kindle and load it from the cloud; go buy a new pack, maybe new earplugs of a cheaper variety this time…

On the computer, home after midnight, first order of business was to change my Google password. Once logged in, I happened to see some other options, including tracking a lost phone. I didn’t remember setting up any “Find my Phone” app, but was surprised to find quickly that Google was already tracking my phone, and in fact could pinpoint its current location to within twelve meters of accuracy. It showed a target near Quadra Village, coincidentally across the street from where my evening’s journey had started. But I knew at least I had carried my phone with me the whole evening.

So there it was, in a house or apartment—two different tracking options showed different buildings in the same block, as the phone’s current destination. Now to thwart the culprits. I saw to my delight that Google provided an option to remotely lock the device, even display a message such as, “Give me back my f***ing phone. Call xxx-yyyy.” Better yet, another option was to erase everything on the phone to a factory reset. In the heady mixture of panic and hope, I chose that kill switch. Still on my computer, I verified that nothing seemed amiss with my accounts, and then called the police. It was after 2 a.m.

“Oh, we can’t go around knocking on doors for something like that,” the policewoman told me. “And we don’t advise you to, either. Especially with St. Patrick’s Day and all. Best thing is to call and report your missing bag to the RCMP.”

Humph. Some help that was. I thought at least I should go take a look at the lay of the land over there in the target neighborhood. Maybe there was a dumpster there where I could find my pack. So I took a spin and walked around. One of the buildings was a large apartment building; the other option was one of a row of houses behind the apartments. In the dark I had no real leads and went home to go to bed. The phone location was no longer showing up on Google, but at least I had printouts of the earlier maps.

Still agitated over my stupidity for the whole ordeal to happen in the first place; the hassle and expense and time it was going to take to replace everything to that paradisiacal state of normal working order that my life and its digital facsimile, my phone, were in prior to this mishap; and my vague options for finding the phone in the morning… I went to bed, for a few hours of restless sleep.

In the morning I awoke and discovered that by erasing the phone to factory reset, I had removed all my data but also the temporary lock and even the location finder; so now I was worse off, in a sense, than before. Now the thieves could use the phone to rack up long distance charges, and still reload apps and enter them under my name if they had captured any email addresses or passwords. And I could no longer locate the phone if it got moved.

I called Rogers, my cell provider, and was pleased to hear they could block the service and also blacklist the phone so it could not be used with any provider in Canada; it would now be nothing but, the agent told me, “a glorified MP3 player and camera.”

Finally, I thought: what the heck, biker gang or not, I’m going to try knocking on the house door, at least; play nice, maybe offer them thirty bucks to just give me back the f***ing phone. Took my map in hand, as evidence, and arrived at the decent post-St. Paddy’s time of ten thirty in the morning to knock at the door.

It’s Bruce and Jill, whom I had been talking with briefly at the party before they left—with my bag, by mistake. They had never answered the call from Marg. And never clued in they had the wrong bag, still sitting at the end of the hallway behind them, precisely where Google had it located. “So sorry! Want to come in and have a cappuccino?”

Just like that, I had my phone, my bag, my life back. Like magic.

The moral of the story? I look back at my mindset at the party. Despite Marg’s practical measures of phoning around to those who could have gone away with the pack by mistake, I made the judgment call that my own forgetfulness was a more likely scenario, leaving the pack exposed on the road. In choosing that option I gave into fear, of a clear loss with no hope of recovery.

I was biased by meeting a friend earlier that evening who talked about having her backpack (and phone) stolen from her car the previous week, broken into in a downtown parkade. That fear remained right until the end, when I expected some crackhead to come to the door telling me he didn’t know nothin’ about no f***ing pack. Or worse.

In the grip of fear, our minds close to the realistic avenues of hope and find refuge only in wishful thinking: “If only I hadn’t…” “Maybe if I look in the car a fourth time, this time the pack will appear in the back seat…”

I hoped for, and discounted magic at the same time. It was me against the hidden adversary, and I didn’t stand much of a chance. The best outcome I could then hope for, defeated, would be to pull myself back up by the bootstraps, $1000 poorer, and start over.

If I had just waited, trusted, meditated, changed a password or two just in case, it would have all worked out—Jill and Bruce would have realized their error, contacted Marg or me—and the pack would have found its own way back to me… as if by magic.

Postscript, one week later:

More phone problems. I spent the morning troubleshooting with Google and Rogers, after returning from Salt Spring, out of cell range, and the network service never returned. I remembered dropping the phone at some point—not serious, I had thought at the time; but now I noticed a nick on the corner near the SIM card slot.

Now I’ve really done it. Deep breath. S**t happens, after all.

Post-postscript, two days later:

This time I took the rest of the day off, and awoke this morning calm, resigned to my fate: try to get the damaged phone repaired somewhere, somehow, or bite the bullet and buy a new one, as I had prepared to do last week. Resolved to go to Rogers at the Bay Centre at ten sharp when they opened, unlike yesterday when I went to the Hillside Mall outlet and two harried employees were backlogged, and a disconsolate old man sitting by the front counter saw me standing around and said, “I’ve been waiting a long time.”

Sure enough, I nabbed the single employee at the Bay Centre upon opening. Told him that Rogers tech support had run through the options and had one final suggestion, to try my SIM card in another phone.

The clerk did it one better, also switching his SIM card to my phone.

Presto, they both worked!

How was that possible, when I had already tried removing it to try in my older phone, but the size was wrong so I put it back in, with the same result, no service. But now, service!?

Magic happens.

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