I’m beginning to think those “world’s dumbest criminals” we see on reality television shows really aren’t so dumb — they’re simply brazen, like the guy who made off with my wife’s cell phone the other day.

She was getting out of her car at a convenience store and the cell phone she uses for business calls apparently slipped out of her pocket onto the parking lot.

My wife was distraught, but hopeful that some good citizen would find the phone and arrange to return it. Instead, someone picked it up and immediately starting calling friends and family from Memphis to Nashville.

We knew this because as soon as my wife realized the business cell phone was missing, she had all the calls forwarded to her personal cell phone. Within minutes, we began to receive calls from people returning calls to the guy who made off with the lost phone. Many of the people — who had urgent pharmaceutical requests — hung up as soon as they realized what was going on, but obviously some didn’t catch on quickly enough to block their own phone numbers, which were subsequently stored.

My wife called several of these people back and one of them “gave up” the thief, who turned out to be a teenager. We had his name. We knew where he lived. And we had proof that he was making unauthorized phone calls. He was outsmarted by the very technology he coveted, his trail as obvious as muddy footprints leading to the cookie jar. So what happened next?

In the 1960s, there might have been a cordial visit between us and the boy’s parents. If my own childhood is any evidence, perhaps someone’s behind would be properly powdered, and in all likelihood a young person would learn a lesson and change for the better. But today, a citizen can’t knock on any door to report a wayward child, especially in the city. Nor do police have time to do the job that families used to do, making sure that kids don’t get off on the wrong foot.

And unfortunately, as is the case with many large corporations these days, a cell phone company would rather write off a loss and raise your insurance rates to compensate rather than insist that personal responsibility prevail.

Maybe the guy who stole our phone wasn’t so dumb after all. He’ll have a little fun phoning his “buds” until my wife’s new business phone arrives and we can shut the old one off. When his new-found toy stops working, he can sell it to a more sophisticated criminal who’s a little more enterprising.

This does bring up another lost cell phone story with a nicer ending. As you may have gathered by now, my wife’s cell phone has a history of detaching itself from her in public places.

Her cell once found its way to a shelf in a ladies restroom at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss., during a football game. We didn’t discover the loss until we were almost back to Memphis. A lady, and a fan of the opposing team no less, found the phone, did a little sleuthing to find our home phone number and gave us a call to confirm our address. She mailed the cell phone to us while adamantly refusing to accept reimbursement for postage. Thankfully, there are some good citizens out there.

e-mail: erobinson@farmpress.com