I know a lot about the woman in 14E.
She has a Tesla.
The membership rules at the club she manages are set the way they are for a reason.
Her hair looked fine.
I hope her meeting with Hedley went well.
She’s pretty good at single card solitaire.
And, oh yea, the passcode for her iPhone is 5XXXXX.
Okay, her passcode isn’t exactly 5XXXXX, those “X’s” are numbers, and I know them. I found It an interesting coincidence as just a few days earlier there was a story of thieves who would watch you enter your passcode. Then they would steal your phone, reset your passwords, and get access to everything about you.
If only I were a thief.
I know all of this because I was sitting in 15F. While I feel a little guilty for looking at her phone from my vantage point, I just couldn’t help myself. There she was, holding her phone up for the world, or at least me, to see.
And I saw a lot.
Yup, my first trip via an airplane in a long time, and I was excited. I took my window seat thanks to my wife. She said she would take the middle seat, and I started to get comfortable. I took out my iPad for some future reading, set my cell phone to “airplane” mode wondering how many people still set their phone to “airplane” mode these days, and glanced around me.
There, between the two seats in front of me, through that little gap, I became obsessed.
A lady was holding up her phone directly in front of her. She wasn’t trying to hold it near her lap, wasn’t trying to shield anything, just holding it out in front of her in that position where the elbows are tucked close to your sides, the arms at approximately forty-five-degree angles, and the phone chest is high. You know, easy for someone behind you to see.
At this early stage I tried to look away, but I couldn’t. For whatever reason, I wanted to see what I could find out about her.
I saw her swipe up from the bottom of her screen, that trick where you can easily switch between apps that are open on your iPhone, and then she swiped right. There it was, the Tesla app. She appeared to want to check the status of her car.
“Cool,” I thought! “Good for her!”
I was slightly jealous because I don’t have a Tesla, but hey, I can still check how much fuel is in my Hyundai and remotely start the car with my app!
Then she went to her text messages, and it started, some texting to someone she works with.
Ten years ago I might not have been able to see that screen since things weren’t that crisp and clear. Today? Bam, I could see most everything as if it were my own phone.
She was texting about membership rules at the club. She wasn’t budging, the rules were there for a reason, and the topic was closed.
As we were still sitting at the gate, she had some time before she would be incommunicado, at least without having to pay for the airplane communicado. I found it weird that she turned off her phone so she could see her reflection in the screen. I know she was checking herself out because I saw her fluffing her hair while moving her phone around like a mirror. Wondering to myself I thought, “Self, why doesn’t she just use the camera in selfie mode?”
And then it happened.
She hit the power button, the display to enter the passcode came up, and clear as day she tapped in her passcode. No trying to hide it, no trying to shield it, no lowering the phone, no Face ID, nope, she was there, tapping the six numbers for all to see.
I was in the possession of one thing that could make her life a living hell if used inappropriately.
She did a little more texting, but I was a tad bored of her life. I started looking out the window as we started taxiing towards the runway. Then, out of the corner of me eye, I saw the calendar app come up.
Granted most of the font was a tad too small so I couldn’t see all of her schedule, but then she opened the screen for a new appointment. A few taps and her meeting with Hedley was set. I know Hedley’s last name, but I’ll leave it out of this little warning tale. It isn’t fair to Hedley that this person doesn’t care about their privacy.
Finally, with her meeting scheduled and a final reminder from the flight crew, I saw her put the phone in airplane mode. What to do now? Well, she fired up a solitaire app, single deck, and went two for three before we got the “you may now use your laptops” announcement. Oddly enough this caused her to put her phone down, and it was nap time for 14E.
As I settled in for the flight I thought of the various “identity theft” scenarios I had read about. The storyteller in my head came up with a thriller where I was some kind of international spy. I would pickpocket her phone on the way off the plane and get the secret codes so I could transfer her millions into a bank account to help the homeless.
See, in my head, I’m a swell, international spy!
Alas, though, I’m no international spy. As a swell dude, however, I just want to write this cautionary tale that yes, on airplanes, people in the seats around and behind you can still see what you are doing on your devices, probably easier than in years past. Unless you want them to be able to know you own a Tesla, have a meeting with Hedley, and are pretty good at single card solitaire, maybe lower your phone so it’s in your lap. I’ll bet there is a lot of stuff on your cell phone you really don’t want the rest of the world to know or share.
She’s just lucky I’m a swell dude.