Randomly Generated

Lessons from a Stolen Laptop

Big Earl was laptop-napped yesterday.

While I was out of the office, and the office assistant was in the bathroom, someone came in, ignored her purse and *two* cellphones that were on her desk right by the office door, ran in, grabbed my laptop, and left. She ran out after thief, but the person disappeared into thin air. Despite our building being located in a busy, crowded street in the middle of a *market*, no one saw the thief walk out the building.

After the initial shock was over, I decided to take a more “spiritual” approach, take it all in stride, not dwell on what has happened, and believe that if he’s meant to return to me, Big Earl will. This, of course, proved to be the numb logic of someone completely in shock who has no idea what they’re talking about. Let’s just say, I ended up having a really bad night and now I’m really tired and my eyes are very small.

No, I didn’t cry.

I did, however, learn some valuable lessons from this experience, which are as follows:

Lesson #1: Paper is a Blessing

I knew I was right about the importance of hand writing things. 75% of my work is done on paper. I draft posts on paper, I take notes for my classes on paper, and I even do some of my editing on paper. And while I did end up losing everything in this laptop-napping, I’m glad that I have a record of many of the things I lost somewhere in writing. Yes, it might be strewn over 8 notebooks and 25 sheets of loose-leaf paper that are crumpled up at the bottom of my bag, but at least it’s there. The notes I took from that two-hour meeting are safe. That being said…

Lesson #2: Back That Thing Up

For real, though? It’s 2013. Why am I not backing up my information? I lost *everything*:  writing, music, photos of irreplaceable memories like my brother’s wedding and my niece’s one and two-year birthdays, and work. Oh my God, my work. I lost years worth of work – my editing portfolio is gone, I have nothing to prove that I actually edit for a living, that I actually had clients who were happy enough with my final product that they gave me money. Nothing. I have to start from scratch. Sigh. Backup your stuff. Seriously.

Lesson #3: Learn How to File a Police Report

After I got the call that Big Earl was missing, my first reaction was: what am I supposed to do now?

Actually, that’s a lie. My first reaction was: I have a deadline to edit 30 pages by Thursday and everything I did is gone! My second reaction was, what am I supposed to do now? The friend who was lucky enough to be in my presence at the time suggested the obvious that I failed to remember in my moment of panic, “Go file a police report”. Right! A police report! Of course! ……. how the hell do I do that?

This might seem like a non-lesson (“You don’t know how to file a police report? Jeez, are you even human!”), but trust me, it’s a lot more complicated than it seems. First of all, going to a police station in Khartoum while female is already an ordeal in and of itself. The looks, the sneers, the occasional off-handed gag-inducing comment, it’s all there. Thankfully, the owner of our building was kind enough to help me out. So for all my sisters (and brothers) out there who have never been through an experience that requires you to deal with the Sudanese police: a. I hope you never have to; and b. In case you do, I’ve summarized the process in 6 easy steps. Ready?

Image (1)

Step 1: Do the walk of shame from the main gate of the police station to the main building. Roam around aimlessly for a while, trying to find someone who will make eye contact with you long enough for you to ask them where to file a stolen items report.

Step 2: You will be directed to an office, where you will not be greeted by an officer who will be seated with his bare feet up on the desk, jerking some prayer beads and looking very uninterested. Do not be intimidated. Greet him with a polite “alsalamu alaikum“. He won’t become embarrassed by his rudeness and greet you back, or acknowledge your presence, for that matter, but at least you did your part.

Step 3: Tell him what you came to report, while he looks straight through you. When you finish your story, he will most likely interrogate you “What do you do at this company, anyway? How old are you? What’s your shoe size?”. As you may have noticed, none of his questions have anything to do with anything. This is normal. Humor him, otherwise what *little* help he’s been offering you so far will quickly and aggressively disappear.

Step 4: He will then ask you for your information, which he will fill out in a tiny form he ripped out of a booklet, and while he was ripping it out the paper ripped in half, but that’s okay, That’s how it’s done. Make sure to recognize the signs he’s giving you, because he won’t actually be using words to ask you these questions. In my case, a thrust of his chin in my direction apparently meant “what is your name?”. This had to be translated into words for me after he frantically thrust his chin at me for about 30 seconds, while I stood with a bewildered look on my face wondering why no one was helping this cop who was clearly having a stroke.

Step 5: After you have signed your information to the officer, he will give you this tiny paper to take into another office, where another officer will copy the same information and ask you the same questions, again. He will ask you, “where do you work?” and when you answer “at a conference services company” because you don’t want to have to explain what a freelance editor is, he will ask you, “So you’re a student?” Just roll with it.

Step 6: You’re almost there! This final step is when they send you to the detective. He’s in charge of writing up the full report on what happened to you, which includes all the questions the other two officers asked you, and no other questions. The detective will also ask you where you work and then make sure you’re not a student. He’ll then take you to get a copy of your report for your records. This requires leaving his office, and the main building, and walking around to the back where you find an office labeled “computer office”. It will be locked. Another officer will tell you the “computer man” went home. If you look at your watch, you will find that it is 2 pm. The detective will then tell you to come back in two days to get your copy of the report. When you ask why it takes two days to type up a report, he will tell you, “because I have tomorrow off”. Just roll with it, and come back in two days.

Note: none of these officers you spoke to will give you any advice, hope, or any words to let you know that they will even try to look for your stuff. Don’t worry, that’s normal.

Lesson #5: Don’t Cry About Material Things, It’s Bratty

But do cry about all the money you done saved to buy this thing, only to lose it all because someone who probably doesn’t know what the hell it is just saw a shiny thing and thought they could get some money for it and will sell it at a fraction of the price to someone else who will mistreat and manhandle your precious laptop and never appreciate or treat it half as well as you have been. Cry about all the money you’ve managed to save since you bought the laptop that you now have to spend on a new laptop instead of, you know, going on vacation, which is something you (especially after this experience) desperately need. Cry, dammit. Cry!

Note: I couldn’t cry. Something my brain said about pride or a tear duct malfunction, I’m not sure. I wasn’t really listening. I was in shock.


I love you, Big Earl. For the past year, you have been my friend, my confidante, my homie. You helped me fuel an attempted-revolution, you kept me entertained, you didn’t bother me with popups or useless ads everywhere. You made it unbelievably easy to scroll up and down pages. You were the best laptop any girl could have, and I am honored to have spent the past year in your wonderful presence. While I am forced to replace you, I will never, ever forget you.

Farewell, my friend. I hope you stay locked forever and annoy the shit out of the person who gets you.


2 thoughts on “Lessons from a Stolen Laptop

  1. “while I stood with a bewildered look on my face wondering why no one was helping this cop who was clearly having a stroke.” Sorry about your laptop, but this line had me rolling on the floor. Inshallah mayinfa3 al mu3fin al a’7ado.

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