Stranger Finds Lost Laptop Bag In Cab, Sends Owner Directions To Its Dark Hiding Place

Losing your stuff because you can’t really exactly very much remember the night before is a big old bummer. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a good Samaritan swans in to help return your lost items. And in one case, that Samaritan happens to have a penchant for hiding lost property and leaving scavenger hunt-like instructions as to how to collect it.

New York Times Cityroom blogger Alex Vadukul had one of those nights where it’s a feat worthy of amazement that you actually end up at home. Unfortunately, after just such a night out with pals, he realized his laptop bag hadn’t made it back with him.

What followed next was a rigorous investigation of seriously dogged persistence. Alex writes that after ruling out the bar, he figured he left it in a cab or at a late-night burger joint he’d found a receipt for in his wallet. Yep, that kind of night.

The burger place people let him view surveillance footage of himself, sitting at the counter and eventually leaving with his bag to get into a cab. Alas, the medallion number wasn’t visible in the footage, so leaving reports with the city’s lost and found wouldn’t do much.

He then received a mysterious email, after casting a line on Craigslist. Subject: “found your bag.” The body text: “in a cab. want it back?”

The sender didn’t reply to his email, so he dismissed it as a prank. He even convinced a company that provides GPS machines to cabs to try and track the car through his pickup time and location.

Then the mystery deepened with another email from the anonymous person from earlier, with instructions to a certain address, adding: ” you’ll have to decend some cement steps from the sidewalk and duck unde a handrail. Bring a flashlight and get it before it gets rained on.”

Sort of scary, but he decided to go for it. After venturing down into the dark as directed, there it was — his laptop bag with computer inside, leaning against a wall. A note to his benefactor went unanswered, but he did finally trace the cab.

He was told the driver didn’t want to speak to him, and the taxi boss told him not to come back, so he was never able to figure out who exactly had found his property and decided to return it in such a mysterious way.

More work than simply handing over the bag, but kinda fun, eh?

A Lost Bag and a Lost Night, but Not a Lost Cause [New York Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Jules Noctambule says:

    I’d be grateful to get my stuff back, but honestly annoyed by the pointless cloak-and-dagger stuff.

  2. That guy. says:

    I’m suprised that the burger joint let him view the security tapes.

    I’d also bring someone along with me to the “drop location” just to be safe.

  3. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    He got to keep both his kidneys too, so that’s a plus! :D

  4. homehome says:

    first of all, hell naw lol

  5. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    He’s probably afraid of getting the shit beat out of him. I’d do the same thing, only I’d make the rightful owner journey around the world IN 80 DAYS!!!

    That would teach them to hang on to their stuff by God.

  6. Hi_Hello says:

    i wouldn’t hand the laptop back to him, who knows, he might beat me up after offering some sort of reward.

    the note sound like a good idea.

    • Important Business Man (Formerly Will Print T-shirts For Food) says:

      +1 for being an avid Consumerist reader!

    • CubeRat says:

      Exactly – I thought of that too.
      Several months ago, I was at a public restroom recently and found an expensive looking ring. No one around me claimed it, so I left a note & took it to the police. I gave the police my name and number, and about a week later I got call from a ‘lady’ yelling at me for taking the ring to the police. She was furious because the police made her prove it belonged to her! I just said: ‘you’re welcome’ and hung up. She called twice more, before I called the police to see to complain that they’d given my name to a crazy person. They told me to contact them immediately if she tried to contact me again-she didn’t, so I assume they called her. I am so glad I listed my work number, and only gave first name, so crazy lady can’t find me.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Also, what if the guy who comes to pick up his lost laptop is an Eastern European mobster or something? He’ll just knife your ass, take his bag, and be on his way.

  7. Golfer Bob says:

    I’m just wondering why he was banned from the taxi garage and shunned by the driver?

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Probably for being an annoying, entitled douche trying to play detective when he’d already found his lost property. There’s something about this whole thing that makes me hate that guy, I’m not at all sure why, but there it is.

  8. crispyduck13 says:

    What exactly is the point of this story? Don’t get annihilated when carrying expensive/valuable electronics? Don’t leave your shit in a cab? If you do leave your shit in a cab don’t expect to be able to track it down? People are awesome/assholes/wierdos??

    • Free Legal Advice! says:


    • iesika says:

      Well, I’m not sure what the point of it was, but it made me laugh.

      The language in the post was really weird, though. Does Mary Beth normally write like Google Translate? I haven’t noticed anything like “you can’t really exactly very much remember the night before” or “a rigorous investigation of seriously dogged persistence” before now…

  9. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I mean, if you want to leave something for someone anonymously, there is very little you can do besides hide it, and give someone the exact location. It’s not like you can leave it in a locker somewhere with a padlock on it.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      …and the combo on the lock starts with the second Fibonacci number, while the second number rhymes with …

  10. strells says:

    Dude, where’s my laptop?

  11. framitz says:

    So he finds the guys stuff, then STEALS it and hides it before advising the victim how to find it?

    A thief is a thief.

  12. milkcake says:

    Well he probably had to do that since, some idiots are ungrateful bastards who thinks the kind citizen is actually a thief. I’ve heard way too many stories where the owners started accusing the person who returns lost item (or be an ass about it without even saying thank you).

  13. Hungry Dog says:

    Hey 718-XXX-XXX, I found your phone. To find it you will have to decipher a series of clues, each one more difficult than the last. Mwah ha HAHAHA!

    Just kidding, I left it next to the bananas on your counter. Sleep well tonight…

  14. Mike says:


  15. Nyall says:

    I wonder if he didn’t tip the cabi …

  16. HenryES says:

    I wish I’d had a similar opportunity when I left my backpack in a London taxi with iPad & camera. I even knew which cab co it was, and they knew which driver, but the dispatcher claimed he wasn’t answering his mobile. Unfortunately, I was leaving early the next morning.

  17. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    If I lost something, and the finder sent me on a treasure hunt, I sure wouldn’t go alone, and would probably ask the township police for help if they were available. I’d be too afraid I’d be lured somewhere to be beaten or robbed further.

  18. Alan_Schezar says:

    I would do the same thing. I remember trying to return a lost PDA to someone. He showed up 20 mins late to pick it up (he kept emailed me 4 times in a row that he’s ‘5 minutes away’). He gave me a $5 reward for his ~$300 PDA, and I spent $2 of it on metered parking waiting for him, in addition to the 20 mins of just standing there.

    Looking back, I would have just said ‘I put it out of sight behind a fence’, and just went about my day, not wasting my time.

  19. meh_cat says:

    The taxi driver was really busy trying to make a living. He didn’t have time to wait around for some dude so he left is somewhere relatively safe and let the guy know where it was. What’s the problem here?

  20. Libertas says:

    Geocaching for the win!

  21. Razor512 says:

    I prefer the MMO style of returning stuff.

    I have your laptop bad, if you want it back, head to 38.547964, -98.276010 and ask the man for training on the ancient fighting style of “laptop bag”

    Person goes to location but no one has any idea what he is talking about so frustrated, he goes back home and attempts to contact you about the laptop bag again.

    You reply, the laptop bag is in a secret location but to uncover it, you must first journey to the netherworld and bring me the heads of 100 demons.

    Upon completing the task and bringing the heads to the location specified, the person finds the laptop bag there and you are nowhere to be found, so he has 100 demon heads that are now completely useless, and the secret location turned out to be down the block from his house.

  22. Emily says:

    Proof that Craigslist imbues even a good deed with creepiness.

  23. Optimistic Prime says:

    Safer for whoever found it to boot. Recalling lady who got mugged returning a wallet last week or so.

  24. zibby says:

    Smells like “had nothing else to write about” to me. Probably made up, or at least heavily embellished.

  25. Captain Obvious says:

    Mission Impossible: Bag Retrieval

  26. KFW says:

    Worst written article ever.

  27. SWBLOOPERS says:

    Come on, People! Where’s your sense of adventure? I could see me doing this if I found someone’s lost property…