A funny thing happened on my way to San Jose this week. Well actually the last thing I was thinking about on Saturday was laughing. I left for Detroit Metro Airport early Saturday morning. I got to the airport with my usual two bags. My suitcase and my large laptop bag. Since I planed on doing some shooting once I arrived in San Jose that afternoon I also had a fair amount of camera gear too.
I’m no stranger to TSA "bag checks". In other words I have a lot of electronic gear, batteries, etc. that sometimes triggers the x-ray person to call for a "bag check." Normally I can predict which items are going to cause problems and I take them out ahead of time and put them in a bin. So I had two bins. One with my jacket and misc. electronic gadgets and one with my laptop all by itself. Well apparently I didn’t take out enough stuff and I got pulled aside while they performed a detailed search of my laptop bag. So this meant gathering up my two bins and walking over to the TSA desk. Since I didn’t have enough free hands to carry the bins separately, I stacked them on top of each other.
You know how they swab your bag/items with the little cloth and put it in the machine to check for explosive residue and other elements? Well mine turned red and the alarm went off! I just knew it would be a matter of moments before two guys came up and hauled me off to some dark room. However, that didn’t happen. I did get a pat down and continued checks on my bag. The TSA guy was nice but a little freaked out and even went to his supervisor for advice. They tried another machine and everything came up green and I was on my way. So I put all the stuff back in my bag from the bin.
The flight was uneventful and I just watched a movie on my iPhone, read a magazine and listened to music. Once I got to San Francisco I used my regular car service to get me to downtown San Jose.
That sinking feeling – 40 minutes of panic!
Once I got to my room (about 5 1/2 hours later from leaving Detroit Metro). I decided to pull out my MacBook Pro and do some testing with my lighting while shooting tethered. I unzipped it and looked down and didn’t see my MacBook Pro. My immediate thought was, "oh I must have taken it out already and it’s on the desk behind me – right?" So I slowly turned around to see that it wasn’t there! Then I thought, "oh it’s on the bed behind the bag!" It wasn’t there either. My heart sank! I started freaking out wondering if at any time did I not have control of my bag. Then it hit me that I never put my laptop back in my bag at the TSA desk 5 1/2 hours ago! OMG! It was in the second bin on the bottom of the first one.
I pulled out my iPhone and called information frantically seeking the number for the Detroit Metro Airport. I got the number and of course NO ONE ANSWERED! No recording, no busy signal, just NO ANSWER! I called back 3 times and it just rang! Then I called information again and asked if they had a different number. They did, I called it and got a FAX tone! GREAAAAAAT! WTF! I called and asked for the number to TSA. "What’s TSA?" OMG! You’re kidding me right? I was really freaking out at this point! So now I called Northwest Airlines and begged for them to either give me a number for the airport that someone would answer or call them for me. Luckily I got a NWA rep that felt my pain and went out of her way to try to get a human being at the airport. She did reach one person who informed her that when items like laptops are left at the security check points, they are turned over to the police. She then found the number to lost and found. I thanked her and called that number only to hear and I kid you not – "our office hours are Monday through Friday from 9AM-5PM, please call back during those hours!" I was dying at this point! So I remembered what she told me about the police and I called and got the number to Michigan State Police and called them. Mike answered the phone and checked his computer log and yes someone turned in an Apple laptop around 8:30AM that morning!!! I had already asked my wife to head to the airport because I wasn’t getting anywhere on the phone. So I called her and had her head to the police station instead.
A happy ending
My wife picked up my MacBook Pro that evening from the Michigan State Police station. One of my colleagues was heading to San Jose the next day for the same conference I’m attending and he met with her to pick it up so that he could bring it out to me. I’m typing this blog entry on it and all is well. However, besides actually forgetting to put it back in my bag, it really reminded about some common sense things that we should all do:
What you should do besides not being forgetful
First and foremost I had done a complete backup the night before I left. So I had a backup at home. However, now I’m thinking I should also travel with a backup drive too. Even if I had lost my laptop for good and was willing to go out and buy a brand new one that day, my backup would have been at home (on my Time Capsule) and I would not have been able to restore until I returned home days later, which would have meant a very unproductive week! Also before I leave the house I just close the lid and let my MacBook go to sleep. So if someone had stolen it, all they would have had to do is simply OPEN THE LID and they would have access to everything! I do have a password set for login/boot up, but I didn’t have the feature enabled that requires a password upon waking from sleep/screen saver (I do now!).
Lastly, I plan to tape my business card to the bottom of it. The police had no way to know who was the owner and who to call? There was nothing on the outside of the laptop itself that identified the owner! Mike from the Michigan State Police told me that they get 3-4 laptops a day! – WOW!
Lesson learned and it will NEVER happen again!