All my inanimate objects are ganging up on me again.

At this moment I have no idea where I put the GPS, the external hard drive to my computer, my favorite pair of sunglasses, my blue hoodie, the leggings I bought in New York three months ago, the spare toothbrush heads I just got for our electric toothbrush, or the beaters to the electric mixer. I also can’t find the garlic press, the “good” scissors, the bottle of orange nail polish I love, and my spare house key.

Luckily I didn’t even know my cell phone was missing until I went to call its number so that I could discover the precise coat or purse pocket in which it was lurking.

Instead, a woman’s voice answered. “Hello!”

I was stunned into speechlessness. I kept saying, “Um….” and then “ah….” and finally I said, “I thought I was calling my cell phone!” And she said, “And I think you probably are calling your cell phone. I found it on the floor of Woolsey Hall last night.”

We had been to Woolsey Hall for a concert the night before, and I had turned the ringer down on my phone and then jammed the phone into my jacket pocket, thrown my jacket over the seat, and then sat down on it. There is no cell phone in the known world that is not going to take advantage of a moment like that, out of its usual pouch in the purse’s zippered side pocket? Are you kidding me?

And here was this woman, all willing to give it back to me! She was in New Haven, about twenty miles away from me. The only thing was, it was 8:15 a.m., and I had a meeting at 9:30 thirty miles in the opposite direction, and I looked like hell. No shower yet, no make-up, and my hair was still mashed up from my pillow and sticking up at all crazy angles all over my head. But I’d never get everywhere on time if I stopped to think about my HAIR. Besides, what good is combed hair if you don’t have a CELL PHONE? I had to go!

She didn’t give me her name or address, but she told me that if I came to a certain intersection and called her cell phone number, she would run out and give me my phone. So I threw on clothes and ran and got into my car and sped through rush hour traffic into New Haven. Did you know that the average stop light gives you exactly enough time to put on one eye’s worth of mascara or one lip of lipstick, IF you have the tubes out and ready to go right as the light changes from yellow to red. (And did you know that drivers behind you give you only ONE nanosecond after the light turns green before they start their angry honking?)

I didn’t let anything get to me. I was thrilled beyond measure that I was getting my cell phone back. Nearly everyone I know who has ever lost a cell phone has…well, just lost it. I left my former cell phone once in a different theater (same M.O….phone in jacket pocket, jacket flung on seat, cell phone slipping out on floor), and later discovered it for sale on EBay. (I recognized its cracked case and its flower decal.) Right now I have a friend who is missing his BlackBerry and calls it every now and then only to have its “new” owner hang up on him as soon as he hears who it is.

I had thought of everything, even rewards for this wonderful woman: a box of Girl Scout cookies, Thin Mints that I had on the kitchen table, and $20 that I borrowed from my husband. Quarters for the parking meters in New Haven while I got out to wait for her.

But when I got there, I realized that I’d forgotten a really important detail. It turns out that when you are missing your cell phone, it’s nearly impossible to call the person who has it once you’re not at home anymore!

“Oh,” I thought. “Well, I know what I’ll do. I’ll just call my husband and have HIM call her and tell her I’m here.”

Duh. Again: NO cell phone! (I think I may be mentally ill.)

Just then a stranger passed by and made eye contact–it may have been my sticking-up hair and the half-applied mascara and lipstick that made her unable to look away–and when I explained the whole story to her, she at first started backing away from me. I could see I sounded exactly like those people who are always trying to scam other people with a story ending with, “So could we please just go to your bank and withdraw a lot of your money so you can give it to me?” But then she agreed to dial the Cell Phone Rescuer’s number. And five minutes later, a woman wearing one of those orange construction vests came running across the street from a road crew, and handed me my cell phone. We shook hands and I offered her the cookies and the $20 bill.

She pushed the money back at me. “I’ll take the cookies, but I’m not taking any money for this,” she said. And then she hugged me and jogged back across the street, back to work. When she got to the other side of the street, she turned and waved.

It was worth briefly losing the cell phone just to stand there on that street corner on the first sunny spring morning in a long time, thinking how lovely some people are. You can’t trust the inanimate objects, of course–they will always try to get away from you at every opportunity–but how nice to learn once again how great the ANIMATE ones are.