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My guest’s laptop

Some lessons learned from a missing computer search

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We had houseguests for the weekend, and I thought we were ready—but there were a couple of snags we hadn’t counted on.

For one thing, I’d been hoping to complete our April 15 tax returns before our guests arrived, and thought I was on schedule to that end. But now, just as our guests were checking in, so was a most unwelcome message on my laptop computer: “TAX RETURN REJECTED.” I knew a lot of work was being called for.

The other snag was more serious and more costly. One of our guests, on his arrival, discovered that the sound function on his laptop computer had gone silent. He decided to take the quiet machine to a nearby repair shop first thing the next morning. That’s when things started to go wrong.

Walking out to his car, he realized he’d left his keys in the house. So he laid his computer on the car’s roof top while retracing his steps to the house. Only when he arrived 10 minutes later at the repair shop did he realize he’d forgotten to retrieve his computer from its precarious perch.

Remind yourself never, ever, ever to use your car top as a storage shelf. We’ve all done it. We all know we shouldn’t.

But, of course, such mishaps by their very nature leave no tracks. Did someone walking by our house opportunistically grab the computer from the car top? Or did it slide off at the first of two dozen curves?

Believe me, the 2.6 miles of road between our house and the computer repair shop never got a more careful inspection. The ditches, too. Back and forth, over and over again. Here are some of the things we learned—things you can learn at no expense, just by reading about them here.

First, of course, is to remind yourself never, ever, ever to use your car top as a storage shelf. We’ve all done it. We all know we shouldn’t. A loaf of bread, perhaps; but never something as valuable as a computer. No, don’t even think of allowing the habit to develop. Don’t even think of tempting a thief to do what he shouldn’t do.

Second, technological responses have their limit. Our guest had been careful, when he bought his computer, to include the feature that equips it, when it is stolen or mislaid, to say, “Here I am; come and get me!” Just how helpful is that when it guides you to an apartment complex, a dormitory, or an office complex? We got the signals, OK—but they came in almost useless batches. And remember that we got into this fix first of all because the computer had lost its sound system. Now we wanted it to become very noisy indeed!

Third, take seriously the reports you hear about the limitations on police effectiveness. A couple of hours into our escapade, my wife Carol Esther reminded us that a Christian friend in the management of Asheville’s police department might give direction to our confused pursuit. A quick call proved her right. Within minutes, he helped us complete a formal “Incident Investigation Report”—and said he’d be praying for our efforts. But he also sobered us with the reminder that, compared to a very few years back, there are right now only half as many policemen on the street investigating such incidents.

Finally, I couldn’t help recalling a rule of etiquette that says: When a guest accidentally breaks something during a visit, the proper response is for the host quite deliberately to break another just like it. In doing so, you’re making a point of saying: “Don’t worry. It doesn’t matter.”

That response is suggested when the guest breaks something belonging to the host. Has anyone suggested a sensitive response of the same kind when the guest breaks something of his own?

Joel Belz

Joel Belz (1941–2024) was WORLD’s founder and a regular contributor of commentary for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Radio. He served as editor, publisher, and CEO for more than three decades at WORLD and was the author of Consider These Things.


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