The Stolen Phone Incident

Date Time Coordinates: 9 Sep 2018 CE (Common Era), Batumi, Republic of Georgia, Earth, Sol System.

I’ve been in ბათუმი (Batumi) for a couple days now. This is my second visit; the first was enough to make me form the opinion that the city is too touristy. There’s been nothing about this visit that’s changed my mind. I’ve spent the last few days going out occasionally for food and a little sight-seeing, but most of my time has been spent surfing the internet and catching up on everything I’ve missed. I have internet access back in თბილისი (Tbilisi), but it’s not unlimited so I haven’t been doing anything that requires a lot of bandwidth.

My alarm goes off at 0900. I turn it off, and spend 5-10 minutes trying to convince myself that I should get up (I’m not used to getting up this ‘early’). I go to the bathroom, and start packing; we need to check out by 1000. I debate when I should wake up my travel companion. Fortunately, he gets up on his own a few minutes into tossing what little I have into my backpack.

I go to the kitchen, start some water warming up for tea, and pull a cup of yogurt out of the refrigerator (my breakfast). By the time I’m done with the yogurt, the tea is almost ready. I discover that being up this ‘early’ has benefits; the other people staying at the hostel are up, and we chat for a little while….

Okay, maybe a bit longer than a little while; a few hours later…we check out. It’s well after the official check out time, but the owner’s cool about it. We ask if we can leave our bags while we go get lunch and explore. We don’t want to lug our things around all day.

My travel-mate has looked up the ‘best’ place for ხაჩაპური (khachapouri) in town. The place looks busy (a good sign) so we find a place, and sit down.

Quick note: In Georgia, it’s common to just find a table and seat yourself. This is even expected by the local servers. Also, you typically have to flag down a server when you want to add something to your order or pay your bill as they won’t normally come back to check on you. Sometimes, you even have to flag someone down to place your initial order. The whole thing seems very strange to me, and took some getting used to.

We order a couple medium sized khachapouri, and start talking about our time out here with a few smatterings of business ideas (the guy I was with loves coming up with crazy ways to make money; it’s like a hobby of his). Then our meal comes out. I’m immediately glad I didn’t order a large as this ‘medium’ is huge. I manage to scarf most of it down like the little piggy I am, but I was nowhere close to finishing all of it.

We pay our bill, and wander around the city for a couple hours until it’s time to start heading for the train station. We go back to the hostel, check out for real this time, and head out to the street to find a taxi.

Problem number one: both Yandex and Taxify don’t have any drivers available. After hitting refresh for 5 minutes, we finally find a driver. Except that he’s not moving. We wait 10 minutes. Still no movement. We decide to wait 5 more. Still nothing. Enough of this; we’ll just flag down a passing taxi. It’s not what we normally like to do because they charge more, but we really need to get to the train station so….

We flag one down, and tell him we’d like to go to the train station. He says he can take us. My travel-mate asks about the price: 10 Lari. He counters 6. The driver says 7. We agree. It’s still twice as expensive as a Yandex, but we can only expect so much; we did flag the guy down after all. We arrive at the train station, pay the driver, and head for the ticket counter.

Problem number 2: the cashier wants 99 Lari each to get back to Tbilisi. What!? There’s no reason it should cost that much. We tell her we’ll think about it, and wander off to discuss our options. We decide to get another attendant; maybe the one we got had something weird going on. She didn’t; still 99 Lari. We ask about the next train (that leaves 45 minutes after the one we were trying to initially catch). Still 99 Lari.

WTF!? We ask why it’s so expensive. Apparently, all the second class seats are sold out. The price we’d been quoted was for first class.

Considering our second class tickets going the other way were 24 Lari, I wonder what makes first class so special. Second class is pretty nice. Do they have strippers and free drinks in first class? Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Considering how many rich Russians travel between those two cities, I could probably make a small fortune if I offered a ‘strip club’ car during high season. They’re going to be stuck on a train for 5 hours so might as well provide something entertaining right? But I digress….

I saw a bus station half a block away from the train station. We should go down there and see what they’re charging. On the way over, I decide to check the time and…shit! Where’s my Georgian phone? I always put it in the same place, and it’s not in that pocket. I’ll worry about this later. Right now, we need to get to the bus station, and see what the deal is.

We get to the bus station, and ask the guy if anything’s going to Tbilisi. He writes down 1800, and says “go”. Okay, there’s a bus that leaves at 1800. We ask how much it costs. 25 Lari each. There we go; something reasonable. We buy tickets, load up, and wait for the appointed time.

By now, I’ve figured out my phone must have fallen out in the taxi. I pull up my travel phone, and pull up Google’s tracking service. My phone’s in the middle of downtown Batumi in the middle of the street. Okay, so it definitely fell out in the taxi.

My travel-mate pulls out his Georgian phone and calls my lost phone. He has a brief conversation with the driver who agrees to bring the phone to the bus station. Nice, I’ll get it back, and will only have to pay a fraction of the phone’s value as a ‘thank you’ for returning it.

We wait 15 minutes; still no sign of the driver. I check Google’s locator again to see where he is. Hmm…Google says it can’t locate it. My travel-mate tries to call it again, and it goes straight to voicemail. It’s turned off. That bastard turned my phone off on purpose!

I go back onto Google’s page and tell it to delete the contents of my phone the next time it’s turned on. That asshole might have stolen my phone, but I’ll be damned if I let him have my data. I spend the next few minutes stewing, and then it’s time to leave.

The bus takes 6.5 long hours to get back to Tbilisi. By the time it arrives, it’s 0030. At least I slept a little on the ride over. Now I can just walk over to the metro and…wait, what time is it again? Damn it, the metro stops running at midnight. I guess I’ll have to walk home.

I arrive home, get ready for bed, and read more of the “Song of Ice and Fire” series. There’s nothing like reading a book to get you tired, and calm your mind down a bit.

The next day, I went to my local mobile carrier, and got another phone and SIM. The woman at the counter told me I could go to the police with the IMEI number, and they might be able to get it back. So…if something like this happens to you, there’s something you can do even though it’s not not much.

And that’s the long version of how my phone was lost/stolen. Occasionally, shit like this happens when traveling, but it’s still so much better than being back ‘home’ (if it can still be called that) working my ‘normal’ job. I’ve seen places, and hung out with people that I never would have found if I hadn’t ventured off to see what’s out here. And who knows; maybe someday I’ll run into you!

Stay frosty, people….

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