What’s the right way for a geek to celebrate the big 40? In my case, as many of you now know, the answer was to spend the previous 40 days blogging.

That met my need for ritual, but what about the day itself? I wanted to do something memorable, something that would ensure I always remembered my 40th birthday. But after 40 straight days of blogging I was really just looking forward to a break. I didn’t have the bandwidth to pre-plan any kind of celebration.

Then destiny intervened. I trace this particular moment of destiny back to sometime in January, when Emily Carr’s President, Ron Burnett, convinced me to take the screen protector off my new iPhone. The iPhone 4, he assured me, is virtually scratch proof. Now that is the kind of challenge I can’t resist — honestly, I’ve never met an Apple protect I couldn’t bash, ding, scratch or otherwise mar – so I just had to see what I could do to a naked iPhone screen.

Flash forward to May 4th, at which point my iPhone screen remained virtually (though I swear, not entirely) pristine. Emily Carr was playing host to a few distinguished visitors, and I attended a stunning demonstration of the stereoscopic 3D lab. In the midst of the excitement, my iPhone had a spontaneous encounter with a concrete floor. I picked up my completely shattered iPhone and I don’t think I even had a moment of feeling devastated: I just had to laugh at this accident happening in Ron’s line of sight, considering his optimistic prediction about the durability of my iPhone’s screen. I have to admit that a 3-foot drop onto concrete widely exceeded what he’d suggested the iPhone could withstand.

If it wasn’t destiny that broke my iPhone under Ron’s gaze, then perhaps it was my subconscious looking for an excuse to visit the Apple store on my birthday. When May 5th arrived, we dropped the kids at school and headed directly to the mall. I was directed to a blue-shirted Apple staffer and handed over my shattered iPhone. I offered neither explanation nor alibi: I simply told her that it was my birthday.

“Normally we charge you $259 for a replacement iPhone,” she told me. “But since it’s your birthday we’ll waive the fee…just this one time!”

While I showered this merciful Apple-tini with the appropriate level of appreciation, Rob sneaked off for an Apple consultation of his own. It turns out that for the past month, Rob has been a regular member of the early morning line-ups at the local Apple Store, looking for an iPad 2 he could give me as a birthday present. Every time he came up dry.

But on the 5th, during that miraculous visit to the Apple store, the iPad 2 was in stock. Happy birthday to me!

Once we had the iPhone and iPad in hand, we spent a little more time getting our various Macbook woes sorted out at the Genius Bar. By the time we left, we’d been in the Apple store for a couple of hours and knew the names, ages, blogging platforms and career aspirations of half the staff. Our primary helper sent us down the hall for the final step in our acquisition process: a trip to mall stand where my new iPad could be wrapped in a protective layer of plastic film.

With my shattered iPhone screen fresh in my memory, I decided to hand over both the iPhone and iPad for their protective wrapping. The young woman staffing the stand said it would take half an hour to wrap both devices; I asked if we could wander a bit and then return. No problem.

Thirty minutes later we returned to the wrapping stand and a wrapper near tears.

“Something terrible has happened,” she said to me.

“My iPad smashed!” I said, horrified.

“No…” she began tearfully. “While I was wrapping your iPad…somebody ran by the stand, grabbed your iPhone and took off.”

“But the owner of the stand says he’ll pay to replace it!” she promised, bursting into tears. “Here, this is his card. I’m so sorry!”

I reassured her that there was no better moment for my phone to get stolen, as long as I could get it replaced. A phone is replaceable: what’s really scary is the prospect of someone else having access to my calendar, contacts and e-mail. But the stolen phone had yet to be synced; it was 100% blank, as-new. No data had fallen into the wrong hands.

Five minutes later the stand’s owner had called to reassure me that he’d reimburse me for the cost of a replacement phone. I walked back into the Apple store, where the same staffer who sold us the iPad heard our story with total astonishment. He checked my file to see which model of phone had been stolen and brought out an identical model. The replacement for the replacement, including AppleCare? A cool $960, in the absence of a trade-in phone or carrier contract.

By the end of the day, the stand’s owner had already made good on his promise to reimburse me for the stolen phone. In the course of one day I had owned three different iPhones, and gotten two of them for free. (Beating my personal record for complimentary replacement hardware.)

Best of all? I will always remember how I spent my 40th birthday.