And a Stolen Laptop Later…

This story definitely goes into the “Sometimes God just takes care of you” category.

Last Tuesday, I walked out of the Chelmsford Public Library, after working there on my computer that morning, to where my car was parked, and I saw this:

And a jolt zapped through my gut. Who the hell did that to my car?! How?…

Backing up for a second, getting some perspective…


And after a beat to see the humor in this cruel joke of fate, I chuckled and thought, I so have to get a shot of this for my blog!

The week had started wonderfully. For the first time for as long as I could remember, I had blog posts lined up and scheduled for the entire week— I had slack in my schedule, and I felt great and ready to work on posts for the following week.

So I set down my laptop next to a nearby tree—and you can even see it there, if you look closely, in the shadows of the lower-right corner of the above photo—and I pulled out my cellphone and took the two shots. This was going to be a great story!

Now late to pick up my Firstborn daughter from summer school, but proud of my photo find, I jumped into the car—the one on the right—and putted off to continue with my day’s Mr. Mom duties. It wasn’t until I got home with a carful of teenagers and asked, “Abbie, do you have my laptop?” that I realized where I had left it.

Back to Chelmsford, breaking twenty-something traffic laws in the process, and back to the same tree, and… Nothing.

Checked inside the library. No one had seen it. Called the police. They hadn’t seen it. I had no idea why anyone would even want this laptop: too many years old, dropped, beat up on, just barely works when it works at all… The chocolate-stained carrying case ain’t even worth hocking. But the police sent a kind and professional officer to take a report.

Then I went into crisis mode. What if someone was going through my data right then? I was in such a hurry, did I remember to lock my display? Did I forget to lock my password safe?!

(Be rest assured, I have now set everything on my computer to lock automatically, despite the added inconvenience. But that’s jumping ahead of the story.)

The experience really did a load of good for my opinion of human nature, that there was always one jerk-wad in any reasonably small group of people. How many people could have passed by that tree in the hour-and-a-half it had been sitting there… outside the library. Add to this the fact that a friend of mine had also lost their electronic device, by someone lifting it directly from inside their bag when they weren’t looking, inside another public library. In that case, the library’s security camera’s got the whole incident on video, and the police caught the stupid perpetrator, who is now costing everyone way more than the device was worth… but none of this helped my friend to recover his lost device. Humanity sucks. Maybe libraries too, I thought.

I spent the whole afternoon digging up the serial number of the laptop, posting a report on, restoring from my backups to another computer, and changing all my online passwords, starting with Google, banks, and PayPal. The next morning, I felt exhausted, totally demotivated. And as the day went on, every time anyone asked me if I had such-and-such a file… Oops. Not included in the backup. That sucked.

I decided that I was going to allow myself the rest of Wednesday to sulk and wallow. But I found it difficult to get into feeling sorry for myself. Especially after I got the phone call.

As it turns out, an elderly woman not named Greta (because that’s not her real name) and her husband discovered my laptop, in its case and intact, in a shopping-center parking lot about 2 miles from the library. I don’t know how it got there. Maybe it grew a rocket-pack and used up the last of its battery power flying there. Anyhow, Greta rifled through the papers in the case, found an old repair receipt with my name and phone number on it, and called me.

Turns out she not only lives in Chelmsford but also volunteers at the library. And she thought it was the right thing to do to try to find the owner of the laptop, or at least turn it into the police. We connected up on Thursday morning, and I got my equipment back.

I guess sometimes God just takes care of you.