My wife and I fear we'll lose our dog. I suspect most people who have a dog or a cat or a human child share my anxiety.
It's not that we fear our dog will run, though that is a concern, as is a burglar breaking into our home and stealing the booger. The fear is irrational and irritating, like an itch that can't be scratched. We imagine this scenario in which Pasta Bowl — that's her name, but you can call her PB — sneaks into the garage, beneath the bed, or behind a couch, never to be seen again. The older she gets, the more we're certain this could happen. You see, Pasta loves nothing more than a never-ending round of hide-and-seek, and for us, her commitment to it is as adorable as it is terrifying.
We've wanted peace of mind since we adopted her, something that lets us know should she disappear, she will be found. And we finally got what we wanted, I think. I hope. I'm not so sure.
We wanted peace of mind
My co-worker Chris Ziegler didn't know about our irrational fear when he gave me a Tile. I was vaguely familiar with the little squares of plastic, each a little larger than two silver dollars stacked atop each other. Tiles use built-in Bluetooth and your smartphone to serve as beacons and detectors for items likely to be lost. You know in cop movies, when the hero sticks a tracker to the villain's getaway car? Tile is basically that but for normal people and limited to the 100-foot range of its Bluetooth connection.
The second generation of Tile, recently released, can be purchased individually, but the company offers a 30 percent discount if you purchase a pack of four. The assumption of the four-pack is that you and your spouse or roommate will attach one to each of your respective keys, another will be taped, I guess, to the living room remote control, and the final Tile will be... well, in my case, put on the dog's collar.
To be clear, I only received one Tile. Without the benefit of a four-pack, I had to choose to test my Tile on what I believed to be the one thing my wife and I absolutely must not lose: Pasta Bowl.
In the past two weeks, I haven't used the Tile. Not in the traditional sense of using technology, at least. The white square has just hung from Pasta's collar like her tiny little techno albatross, resting just out of reach of her teeth. I haven't lost the dog. I have, however, lost a number of other things. When my wife and I returned from a trip to California, we realized the photo of our spot in Austin's long-term airport parking — the photo we had taken before the trip — included the parking spot number, 33, but not the specific row, let alone lot. So we lost the car — until we eventually found it thanks to an airport and employee and a level of video monitoring I found as helpful as I did deeply unsettling.
In the last week, I briefly lost my Kansas City Royals baseball cap, my wallet, the wireless keyboard we use for the television, my wallet again, and my wallet one more time. We did not lose the dog. And writing this, I recognize this is good — I love the dog! — but I am admittedly disappointed I didn't put the Tile to use.
I haven't used the Tile in the traditional sense
The Tile's back-of-the-box features go untested. The defining feature of Tile's second generation is its phone finder ability. If I lose my phone, I can press the Tile and its Bluetooth connection will make the phone ring, assuming the phone is close enough, has Bluetooth on, and the Tile app open. Which is to say, the Tile probably won't make my phone ring, because I close extraneous apps and turn off Bluetooth to keep my battery from dying before 9PM. A more useful feature, I think, is the Tile network. If my Tile-wearing Pasta Bowl escapes and gets outside its 100-foot range, the Tile will connect with other Tile app users through some privacy-friendly magic that doesn't share either party's information while seeing if a Tile App is within the range of the pup. If it is — this assumes a certain critical mass of local Tile users — my app would show me the general location of my Tile. That sounds impressive and exciting, but exciting things like my dog running away just haven't been happening lately. And besides, our fear is that the dog will get lost in the house, not outside of it.
Should I have put the Tile on my hat, or my keys, or my wallet? The latter seems like an obvious choice, what with the damn thing carrying all of my paper money, credit cards, and identification. I should do that, but I can't take the Tile off the dog now, because what if the dog did go missing? Then I'd feel like an accessory in the crime of losing the world's cutest dog.
A couple weeks ago, while performing the great ritual of eating Honey Bunches of Oats and running digital errands, I fluttered back and forth on ordering a Tile four-pack from Amazon. I don't need these for my keys or my wallet; I still haven't even seen them in action. Plus, they kind of look silly. My current Tile already makes my dog look like a Silicon Valley asshole's pet, a tiny white hockey puck bouncing off her collar, making her sound like loose change bouncing down the hallway.
Is this just another tax of my paranoia?
It would become another ludicrous expense feeding off my paranoia that the important things in life could be lost at any moment. Right now, I need one for my wallet and maybe our keys. But then I'll tape one to my laptop. And then I'll need one for my iPad. And eventually, I'll cover my wife and parents in Tiles, because oh god I can't lose them, not now, not ever.
These are the sort of neuroses technology like Tile brings out in me. Like talking with an insurance agent, I'm sent slaloming down a slippery slope. Just thinking about all the things I don't need Tile for, was enough to get me to order that four-pack.
For the past week, I've had Tile on my dog, on my car keys, and in my wallet, none of which have gone missing. That leaves me with a couple of more Tiles, and a tricky question: what two things am I most afraid to lose? I wanted peace of mind, and for better or worse, I got it.