I'm no good at cyber-security until it comes to parenting issues — when it involves my kids, I'm suddenly capable of patching together a surveillance and security scheme worthy of a regional bank. Attaching a tracking app to our child’s lovey, a giraffe named Raffi, has been a lifesaver. We had joked about putting a locating device on him for a while, but he always eventually turned up. Until he didn’t. Until we spent our entire Sunday morning desperately searching the house top to bottom, calling every neighbor we could, while at the same time consoling our mournful mess of a daughter.
We gave up. I was just about to send a mass e-mail (“this is where happiness goes to die; RIP Raffi and send help”) when someone (I won’t say who, but – ahem – it wasn’t me) remembered that Raffi just might have been put in a jacket for safekeeping when we went out early that morning.
I pulled Raffi out the pocket, allowed the relief (that it wasn’t me who forgot, that happiness was immediately restored to my house) to wash over me, and went straight to Amazon to buy a locator — whatever was available on Prime for two-day delivery.
Tile Mate, $19.99, Amazon
There was no way we could simply buy another Raffi.
Believe me, I tried. When we saw the writing on the randomly-gifted-to-us-stuffie wall that Raffi had become The Special Toy, I did my best to track down another one or two or five. I remember when we’d first been given that toy (two years prior, when big sister was born) that I’d noted which big box store made that brand. You know, just in case big sister took to it. (She didn’t.) That big box store didn’t carry it anymore. (I’m betting it was a re-gift in the first instance, so who knew how long ago it was actually made?)
I e-mailed the lovey finder, a website run by a woman who identifies lovies, lost and otherwise, in order to find replacements or reinforcements. She agreed with my store diagnosis. She also agreed that it was, simply, unavailable. She offered to post a picture on her site just in case someone had one and was willing to part with it, but by this point Raffi was so well-loved (battered, patched, re-stuffed, re-sewn) that his original form was all but unrecognizable.
So we really couldn’t lose him. Because we really couldn’t replace him.
It took the Raffi-in-pocket incident to finally push us into the next best (and really quite good) locator option. We’d thought of it prior to that (hellacious) morning, but put it off because to that point we’d always managed to find the thing. We figured it wasn’t really necessary, and would be awkward and uncomfortable around the little stuffie’s neck (and awkward and uncomfortable pressed against our little human’s neck when she cuddled it.) We were, as that morning showed, patently wrong. We very much needed a locator then. As we would again. And again. And again. We blessed that damn locator so many times. So many of the worst possible times: the middle of the night; rushing out the door for a long road trip; on the phone with a frantic babysitter.
In one of the busiest airports in the world.
Not a great place to lose a lovey. Not a great place to have a small stuffed object emitting regular electronic beeps.
That was the second time we almost lost Raffi for real. And came really quite close to having an airport evacuated.
It had been a long international flight with three young kids. They were tired. We were tired. Immigration took forever. Our luggage hadn’t seemed to all arrive, though we had to wait until the last possible minute to confirm that it wasn’t just taking its time off the plane. Everyone was grouchy. Everyone seemed to have to pee... but not at the same time.
I was shuffling the kids to the toilets while my husband was watching our carry-ons and waiting (and waiting) for our checked luggage. Big sister was rallying. Littlest brother was tantrumming. Middle daughter, comforted by her thumb and her lovey, was in a kind of exhausted daze. That was just fine with me. She was quiet.
And, apparently, a bit clumsy. I’m not sure at what point exactly she noticed that she was no longer holding Raffi, but I do know we were still (luckily) in the luggage hall. And, equally luckily, we were running Raffi's tracking protocol through Tile, so we could follow the signal until we found its source.
We didn’t think about what it would mean to trigger a regular beeping noise from what we knew to be our beloved Raffi, but to anyone else would be… terrifying. Also, we couldn’t seem to pinpoint its location. We kept returning to the same long corridor by the restroom (Ah! She dropped it in the stalls!), but Raffi was no where to be found.
I persisted. I eventually walked down the long corridor to the custodial closet. There, I found a large circle of cleaners arrayed in a circle staring in sheer terror at this ominously beeping object that would stop and start seemingly at random. They were, I learned, just about to trigger the emergency protocol. They were trying to stop me from getting closer (for my own safety), but my daughter, speaking the international language of stuffie-love, burst into tears and ran right through their circle to grab Raffi. They (luckily) figured out the situation and laughed. So did I. A little shakily.
It’s true that without the locator, Raffi would have likely been swept up and possibly thrown out. It’s also true that with the locator, Raffi was almost destroyed, possibly by a professional bomb squad.
I still maintain that the locator was a truly inspired and at times live-saving idea. But I also maintain that I need a different kind of technology for the airport. Maybe a Raffi leash — for Raffi’s sake. For the airport’s sake.
And for our sake.
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