Subtle Coolness · chrono index · alpha index

Honesty is its own reward.

by William Jackson on 2007-06-20

Last Friday Rebecca came to my apartment after work. We went for a walk around my neighborhood. We were almost back to my apartment when I looked down and saw an iPod Shuffle. I picked it up and put it in my pocket.

Besides a unique serial number, there are no identifying marks on the outside of an iPod Shuffle. I searched for web pages that could help me find an owner knowing only the serial number, but I didnʼt find anything helpful. I decided I wanted to plug the iPod into a computer to see if I could get any more information.

The iPod uses a special cable that I did not have; it costs $29 at the Apple Store. However, I remembered that my supervisor at work has an iPod Shuffle, so I explained my situation to her in an email and asked if I could borrow her cable. She brought it to work on Tuesday.

I plugged the iPod into an available MacBook Pro at the Help Desk. The first thing I noticed was the name of the device: “Nathan Woodʼs iPod Shuffle”. Now I had a name.

If there was any music on the iPod that had been purchased from the iTunes Store, I would have been able to find an email address. Unfortunately, all the music was either copied from a CD or obtained in some other way. With nothing to help me but this name, “Nathan Wood”, I turned to the Internet.

Google has an excellent phonebook service, and typing “nathan wood, austin, tx” into the Google search box returned one result in the phonebook. There was a Nathan Wood that lived across the street from me; I had found the iPod right outside his house. I was sure I had found the owner. Now I had an Austin-area telephone number.

I also searched for his name in the UT Austin public directory, and found the same person, but with a different telephone number: this one was from Denver. I assumed this would be a mobile phone, so I called it first.

After four rings, someone answered: “Hello?”

“Hi, is this Nathan?” I asked.


“My name is William. Iʼm calling about an iPod. Did you lose one?”

“No, I didnʼt lose an iPod.”

Hmm, thatʼs strange. “Alright, thank you very much.”

“Wait, did you find an iPod with this telephone number on it?” Nathan asked.

“No, I found an iPod with a name on it, and I looked up the name in the directory.”

“Oh, okay. Well, I didnʼt lose an iPod.”

“Okay. Have a good day!”

At this point I felt that I had made a good faith effort to locate the owner of the iPod, and I had no other leads to follow, so I consigned myself to the fate that is owning an iPod Shuffle. And I was happy.

But I knew something was funny. And I was right!

Later that night, my phone rang; it was Nathan, calling from that Denver mobile phone. When I had called him earlier that day, he was thinking about his regular iPod, and wasnʼt thinking about his iPod Shuffle.

“Is it one of those tiny, silver iPods with the clip?” he asked.

That was a good enough description for me, so I asked if he was home. He told me he was, and I said I was just across the street and would be there in less than a minute. I went over there, he came out of his house, I handed him his iPod, and went home.

And that is the story of how I found, almost owned, and ultimately returned a lost iPod Shuffle.