I'm getting slightly absent-minded in my middle age, so every once in a while I can't seem to locate my cellphone, even though I know it's somewhere in the house. That's why I've developed a variety of coping strategies to help quickly locate it. Some are easy and obvious, while others might be more sophisticated than you think. Allow me to explain.
Let's start with the simplest:
Call your cellphone. Always remember this. Sometimes when you're flustered, you don't think of it, but you can simply pick up your landline, call your cellphone, and its ring will lead you right to it. Of course, this only works at home or in relatively close quarters. If you left it in a bar, restaurant, or other public place, perhaps a kindly stranger will answer it, and then you can plead for its safe return. No landline? Borrow your friend's or spouse's cellphone and call yours from there. It rings, you hear it, it's found.
MobileMe. Apple's service offers lots of advantages, and the best is its prowess at locating your iPhone. No matter how you configure your cellphone and text ringtones, your iPhone will make an obnoxious noise when you activate its "Find My iPhone" (or "Find My iPad") app. Its ability to show you exactly where that device is located on a map is even more sophisticated. This is especially helpful if you've left your cellphone somewhere, say, on top of the car as you drove away. Too bad this service is so overpriced at $99 a year (but Apple gives you a 60-day free trial to get you addicted to it).
Use a Family Locator Service. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint all offer location surveillance features for somewhere between $5 and $10 a month, depending on how many phones and which provider you use. You'll know where your cellphone is at all times, whether it's in your possession or not. And, if you don't mind turning your household into something resembling the former Soviet Union, these services offer the added advantage of keeping tabs on your kids at the same time.
Use Google Voice to call your cell. If you're a Google Voice user, you can install a plug-in on your Chrome browser that turns every phone number on any website into a clickable link. Click the link, and Google Voice connects first to your cellphone. Go find the phone wherever it is in your house, but remember that as soon as you answer that call, it will automatically call whichever number you clicked on.
Call yourself from a website. The "I Can't Find My Phone" site opened just a few days ago, but it got so popular it was crushed by a torrent of traffic. Another one, the ad-supported site "Where's My Cellphone," calls your cell right away, but be careful, it might call you a few more times with annoying ads. However, to the site's credit, it prominently urges you to enter your cellphone number into a form on its front page, promising to block further calls. Nevertheless, hold off on this one unless you're really desperate.
Use instant messaging to send a text. If you're using AOL Instant Messaging (AIM), click on File/New IM, and send a text message to your cellphone. Enter that cell number with a +1 at the beginning, e.g. +18005551212, and when you send an IM to that number, you'll soon hear your cellphone's text ringtone beckoning you to its heretofore undisclosed location. You can do the same thing with Windows Live Messenger by adding your cellphone number to your Friends List and sending yourself a text message.
Cellphone set on vibrate? It might take some doing, but keep calling or texting yourself, prowling from room to room and listening carefully. If your cellphone is turned off, well, you're out of luck. Just try to remember to always place your cellphone in the same places, and then you'll only have a few locations to search. And hey, maybe it's sitting in your pocket. Still can't find it and getting desperate? Well, you check the freezer, I'll check the septic tank.