This GRAND tale of cryptic communication begins last February in the great year of 2014.
I was out after work in the East Village at a bar a bunch of BuzzFeed people go to called EVS. It's on St. Marks Place, but I SWEAR, it's not really that douchey. They have a really good happy hour and it's never busy. The lighting is good and we love it. Sometimes they give us free fries.
It was my favorite place until the night my phone got stolen.
You see, I made a textbook mistake. Like most people, I put my phone on the table I was sitting at. As I became increasingly more drunk (they have a $20 bottle of wine deal and how could I not?), I must have forgotten about my phone. It was gone.
Someone probably came in from the street and grabbed it from off the table in the 10 seconds I had left it there.
This is why you don't go out on St. Marks Place.
It was that feeling only people who have had their phone stolen know about: furious at the world, but there was nothing I could do. I needed a phone, so the next day I went to my own personal hell, the Verizon store, and got suckered into some probable Ponzi scheme where I'll be paying off my current phone for years.
Whatever. Fine. I needed a phone. I got the Selena (RIP forever with me) phone case I always wanted, and moved the fuck on.
That was until this past January.
I was watching TV at home looking for something to Insta. I rarely go through my photo stream, so it really surprised me when I saw a BUNCH of pictures of some random guy with an orange tree.
I did what anyone else would do at that moment: I tweeted about it.
What. The. Fuck.
Who is this man and why are his pictures showing up in my phone?
Also WTF with the orange tree?
I went even further back in my photo stream and there were hundreds of pictures of fireworks.
These pictures were definitely not taken in the East Village and also who takes hundreds of pictures of fireworks? Everyone knows fireworks pictures are the worst kind of pictures — a once you've seen one, you've seen them all kind of thing.
There was one more interesting picture on the roll. It at least had a place mark: some writing.
It was this:
But that was it. There was no location listed where the pictures were taken.
My brain started racing. I came up with a list of possible reasons why this was happening:
1. Our streams were crossing. No one knows how the cloud works anyway.
2. I am being hacked.
3. I am being hacked by North Korea (this was around the time The Interview came out).
3. This man is my long-lost brother.
4. We're meant to be together.
5. It's a sign.
6. I'm going to die soon.
7. Alternate-dimension shit.
There wasn't much I could do, and lord knows I wasn't going to the Apple Store to find out. So I kind of just joked around with friends that I was being hacked and moved on.
But more pictures kept on showing up.
One day, a bunch of pictures of a menu:
Another that day, the back of some lady:
The next, some stores:
Really, there were a lot of pictures of stores. Stores and fingers.
My favorite upload was this picture of Avril Lavigne.
That day a lot of stock photos showed up. It was weird.
Anyway, the fear of what was happening to my phone went away and it became fun to watch where this man was going.
It was like a glimpse into his life.
I looked forward to checking my phone's photo stream.
It was basically magic.
And some of the pictures were actually really cool.
But then I got freaked out again.
I was talking with a friend and explaining what happened. By now, this had become a pretty regular part of conversations I was having with people.
He asked me if my phone had been stolen recently. I had to think about it because my phone had literally been stolen over a year ago. But yes, it had been.
He told me that most stolen iPhones end up in China.
That's where these pictures must have been coming from: China.
He told me to go to the Apple Store immediately.
The next day, I went to the Apple Store and tried to explain to them that pictures from some guy in China were showing up on my phone.
They were confused. I got sent around the store until some guy made me log into my iCloud account.
Sure enough, there was my old iPhone on network.
That was it. There it was. My stolen iPhone had gone from the East Village to China. Incredible.
I deleted everything on that phone and the ~Genius~ dude told me everything should be OK from now on.
My old stolen phone in China was essentially a brick and wouldn't work for my old orange tree friend anymore. The reason his pictures were showing up on my current phone was because he must have been logged into my iCloud account.
That was it.
To be honest, I was kind of upset about the whole thing. I had already parted ways with my phone and didn't expect to get it back. I kind of liked getting his picture updates and as long as he couldn't access my info, I was OK with it.
But we were done. I'll probably never see my orange tree friend again. Game over.
At least I can scare people with this story.
UPDATE (2/19): That's not all folks!
I woke up this morning to a bunch of tweets from people saying the story is spreading on "Chinese Twitter," Weibo. That's cool and all but the best part is they're helping me find him.
So far, they've tracked down where the pictures were taken: Guangdong, China.