Somebody Stole My Laptop, Then A Ragtag Crew of Strangers Got It Back

I went on a Flight Free holiday and ended up being a sleepy mess, left my bag on a train, had the laptop stolen out of it, but a bunch of strangers conspired to get it back to me against all odds.

Somebody Stole My Laptop, Then A Ragtag Crew of Strangers Got It Back

I took a little break from overhelming charity & client workloads to cycle around Italy, and because I'm flight free I took a long slow coach down. To spice things up on the way back I decided to mix it up with train once I was back in bike-friendly Germany. After a delayed connection in Osnabrück, Germany, or one of the hasty transfer since, I must have left my bag laying around, or maybe it was nicked. All I know is that I got on a train at Henglo, Netherlands, and noticed I didn't have it anymore.

That bag was mostly clothes and bike shite, but that bag also had my Macbook Pro in it... Chasing it down would have just left me out in the cold, tired, with a high chance of getting more stuff nicked (like my bike), so I decided I'd have to cross my fingers for the Deutsche Bahn lost and found system. I filed a report on my phone, and went off to meet friends in Amsterdam.

The next day I jumped on a ferry to England, and right as it was pushing off I got a notification from Apple's Find My app, letting me know my laptop was at a residential address a city over from Osnabrück, called Espelkamp.

At first I though aha you fucker, I've found you! I'm telling the cops. After calling up 100 times and being ignored, they eventually picked up and made it clear that unless I came into their police station there's nothing they could do. To be fair... of course. It's not like they're gonna send German S.W.A.T to break down the door of every apartment at the address just because somebody phoned up and said stolen property might be there, or nearby somewhere. It might have been in the boot of a car that passed that location, so it would be ridiculous to act on it without me even there to say "thats my laptop governor!"

I thought about having a quick swim and getting on a train, but with the bike on board and charity deadlines looming I needed to get home, to battle through the Save Blackswarth Road paperwork the best I could with a damn iPad. For two days whilst I was trying to do this work, I kept getting notifications that my laptop was somewhere else.

For a while I held out hope that it was a courier with some lost and found, taking it back to the main Osnabrück train station, but it started going in circles. A shopping mall near Espelkamp. A supermarket near Lübbecke, back to Espelkamp. Each time was another shopping mall, hardware store, or supermarket with a massive car park. Is this a crackhead trying to find a buyer? Is it moving its way up a criminal chain to bigger smarter criminals who will eventually disable the tracker?

I had given up, because nobody wants to hear me moaning about my laptop forever, but I bunged out one last tweet which happened to have the address. This tweet popped up in my mentions, from an account I wasn't following.

Roger Thomas tweets "Could it be really just next door at no 52, a mobile phone and computer shop? Worth giving them a call." and links to the business profile on Google Maps.
Roger Thomas is a bloody legend.

Interesting! I phoned them up, forgetting I speak fuck all German ordering shit in a bakery. They didn't speak any English, so once again I'm back on Twitter looking for help! 😆

Within a few minutes I had another amazing stranger offering help.

@dan_graf tweets "I can do it, PM me?"
Dan is also a bloody legend.

We jumped on DMs and I explained which exact model, the bag it should have been in and the laptop sleeve, and Dan called the store.

Apparently somebody had come by with a laptop matching my description, but he said he could not help them, so they left. Then he remembered he'd had a phone call from two numbers describing a laptop like this one that day, so he phoned them both back and figured out which person had mine specifically.

Twenty minutes later I see my laptop ping back at that same location! It's that one!

I'd offered them €200 to get it back, unsure if he'd have to try and trick them into dropping it off, wondering if they'd even be willing to do that... but here's where the story gets amazing,

Whoever had my laptop was actively trying to get it back to me!

They'd been going around phone & computer shops trying to get hold of some contact information for the owner so they could return it.

Fuck knows where they found it, because they did not have my bag. My bag (or one similar to it) was found by the train company, and apparently its on the way to me now, so somebody at some point separated the laptop and the bag...

To be honest, who cares? A series of miracles and amazing strangers managed to solve the problem!

Getting it Back

There was one last problem. Getting this thing delivered back to Brexit Britain sounded like a headache I didn't need, so I asked the laptop repair person to sent it to a friend in Amsterdam.

I sent over the money and hoped for the best, and after a few nail-biting days I got a tracking code.

Using the Deliveries app I kept an eye on its movements, and it got to the local sorting center in Amsterdam, but all of a sudden it was on its way back to Germany?!

Thanks to some daft software bug, DHL cannot cope with a Dutch apartment address that has two hyphens in it, so "Roadname 12-B-5" is building-floor-apartment. Their shitty software tuncates anything after the second hyphen off, so the street address became "Roadname 12-B-"... Instead of knocking on any doors, leaving it in the building, leaving with a neighbor, or taking it back to a nearby DHL location, the courier marked it as "The person has moved, no known new address" and off it went back to Germany. 😭


Thankfully Dan and the laptop repair person were on the case. I got the DHL refunded, they got it sent out again with only one hyphen, and jobs a good-un!

As soon as I got this photo I hopped on an overnight coach (BlaBlaBus, £49) and picked it up. Big success, and it's all thanks to a whole bunch of people I didn't know before. Without each of them randomly giving a shit, none of this would have worked. This post was written on said laptop and I coud not be happier to be productive once again.

I've offered both the detectives dinner, drinks, and/or cash, but thankfully they're all fans of my rewilding work and were just happy to help. They're excited to meet up and plant trees this winter and I'm gonna try and force some hospitality on them regardless.

Life is absolutely nuts, and often feels overwhelmingly terrible, but there are a lot of good people out there... even on Hellsite X.