Chalk one up for the “Common Defence!”
The Theft and Miraculous Recovery of my $2,000 Laptop During this Christmas Season.
The theft of my brand new HP Pavilion DV8T Quad Edition (Entertainment PC), 18.4 inch screen (16 inch : 9 inch ultra wide aspect ratio) with 1920 x 1080 screen resolution, 1 TeraByte 7200 RPM Serial ATA Harddrive (500 GB x 2), HP Integrated HDTV Hybrid Tuner, embedded Webcam, HDMI Port, 3 USB Ports, a Docking Port, ports for a Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Multimedia Card, Secure Digital (SD) Memory Card, and an xD‑Picture Card, and a Docking Port was devastating. The theft occurred at the Flying J truckstop in Fairview, Tennessee, I-40, Exit 182.
The Fairview, Tennessee police officer Burgess took my report. However the police officer was not interested enough to view the security surveillance footage to get visual evidence. I got the impression that the police officer presumed the thief was long gone and there was no chance for an arrest. The manager of the Flying J truck stop acted like the video surveillance footage was too problematic for her immediate access, that it required permission from corporate headquarters the following day. She promised to email photos of the man I suspected of stealing my laptop from the surveillance footage. Photos that I did not receive (obstruction of justice?).
Having a sense of a lack of interest and cooperation from the manager and employees of the Flying J truckstop and from the Fairview police officer Burgess and having a justified suspicion that I will never get my laptop back I decided to take matters into my own hands in accordance with my rights under the Common Defence clause of the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States. This lack of cooperation from employees of a corporation serving interstate commerce versus the friendliness and cooperative nature of family-owned businesses serving interstate commerce will the subject of a future story in my magazine.
The first thing I did was to get a ride to the Pilot truckstop in Dickson, Tennessee, I-40, Exit 172. I walked over to the Best Western motel to use their Internet computer to add the Stolen Laptop Bulletin to my blog. This bulletin was instrumental in the recovery of my laptop. I then got another ride to the North-40 Truckstop, I‑40, Exit 126 where I found the hitchhiking thief sitting in the TV room watching a movie.
The hitchhiker was not very smart (the dumb guy species of the human race). He took the laptop out of my large, 3-compartment, wheeled travel laptop bag but failed to take the power brick from the bag. He then hid the laptop bag somewhere in the Flying J truck stop. During the previous day I happened to engage this hitchhiker in passing conversation as I generally do with hitchhikers for my own personal security. He told me of his intended direction of travel and his desire to get to the North-40 Truckstop, I-40, Exit 126, near Holladay, Tennesse, a friendlier, family‑owned truck stop 56 miles to the West on the interstate.
He had apparently forgotten all what he told me about himself when he decided to steal my laptop. When I discovered the laptop bag had disappeared and he was nowhere to be found, my instincts and suspicion kicked in. I decided to go to the truck stop he had talked about. I found him sitting in the TV room of that truck stop. Again, not a very bright individual.
Looking at him, I decided to treat him as an innocent and run a con on him. I believed he would be dumb enough to follow my lead. I turned my attention to the rest of the truck drivers in the TV room and announced to everyone that someone had stolen my laptop at the truck stop 56 miles back East on the interstate. Twenty-questions from the truck drivers erupted over the details of the theft.
After I answered enough questions leaving everyone to think that a black truck driver (all the truck drivers in the TV room happened to be white) I sat down to start watching the movie they were all watching so I could keep an eye on the hitchhiker and wait for something to happen.
Well, just 30 minutes before I arrived the hitchhiker had the laptop out and was showing it to a local man, a regular and well known customer to the employees of that truck stop. This genius of a hitchhiker was holding his sales demonstration right at the entrance to the TV room in full view of the other truck drivers and in full view of a surveillance camera. Another dumb mistake. A truck driver in that TV room who witnessed the sales demonstration, in his words, put 2 and 2 together, and concluded that it was my laptop that the hitchhiker had sold to the local man. That truckdriver slipped out of the TV room to go outside so as not to spook the hitchhiker so he could some how draw me away from the hitchhiker so he could tell me what he saw of that sales demonstration.
That truckdriver called the Flying J to get a means of contacting me. The manager of the Flying J was not very cooperative. The only information she gave was my name and that I had a blog. The truckdriver then got on his laptop and Googled my name with the keyword “blog.” My blog popped up at the top of the list. He found my bulletin on my stolen laptop and the telephone number for the Fairview Police Department. The truckdriver did not get any help with police department in Fairview, Tennessee. So, he called the fuel desk of the North-40 Truckstop to have me paged. The woman employee told him she can do one better. She can take a note directly to me herself.
Sometime later that woman employee from the fuel desk walked into the TV room and handed me a note. The note read: “Your laptop.” [Alabama cellphone number]. “Call me ASAP.” The area code was 205. I stood up, all excited, for the benefit of the hitchhiker, and asked all in attendance in the TV room what area code is 205? A driver answered “Alabama. It’s Birmingham. I live in Alabama. I announce to everyone that no one knows I’m here at this truck stop but here is a note about my laptop telling me to call this number ASAP! But I don’t have a cellphone!” That Alabama truck driver handed me his Blue Tooth head-piece and cellphone. He assisted me with dialing that number.
The truckdriver I was talking to on that cellphone was standing outside the truck stop trying to guide me to him. He asked me to describe my laptop. What was on the cover of the laptop. I told him it had circles on it. That was all the evidence he needed to prove that the stolen laptop was mine. We met. He told me all he had seen in regard to the hitchhiker and my laptop.
Filling with excitement and adrenaline over this truckdriver as a witness and the lead he provided I went back inside to the fuel desk and asked them to call the police. At first they said they could not call the police because it did not involve their property.
I asked where that fat guy with the read T-shirt went. They said he left through the front door and pointed in the direction saying he went that way. The hitchhiker was making his escape to avoid arrest. I quickstepped to catch up to him on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant windows. There where two other drivers 20 feet beyond. I yelled out to those two drivers, “Hey drivers! I need your help!” Turning my attention to the hitchhiker I turned on my “Type-A” personality and aggressively yelled for all to hear in the truck stop, “I am placing you under Citizen’s Arrest on suspicion of theft of my laptop! DON’T LEAVE! Can I look in your bad?” He answered, “Yes.” (He had already sold the laptop and the naïve local buyer took it home as a gift for his daughter). I took about 5 seconds to rummage through his bag to find that it did not contain my laptop.
The hitchhiker, still playing the role of the innocent man, proposed we go inside to straighten this out. Because the employees at the fuel desk heard me yelling they feared a fight would break out (the exact reaction I had hoped). They called the police. Even in my adrenaline-pumped stage of urgency I felt no anger or malice toward this hitchhiker because I took sympathy for his stupidity. But he still needed to face up to his criminal acts. A Tennessee State Police trooper arrived on scene. He began his Q & A with all concerned. About 10 minutes later two county officers arrived on scene with an ambulance. I saw the ambulance and grinned recalling the old favorite A-Team slogan, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
The trooper handed jurisdiction over to the county officers but stayed on to follow through with the Q & A. The trooper eventually left the scene when his role in the investigated ended.
At a point when the trooper and the county officers were occupied with the Q & A of the witnesses the hitchhiker pulled me aside to ask me if he helped me get my laptop back would I not press charges against him. I said sure! I told him all I was interested in was getting my laptop and the laptop bag back. He looked me straight in the eyes and admitted that he “took” my laptop. He told me that he took it from my laptop travel bag and hid my bag in something that was not used by the truck stop 56 miles away. He sold the laptop to a local man at this truck stop we are now at.
Anonymity for the truckdriver/witness and any leniency in not pressing charges ended for the hitchhiker when the truckdriver/witness stepped forward to tell what he saw to the trooper. From that point on full disclosure of all the details were flowing like Niagara Falls. Some my call it a Good Samaritan act but that truckdriver/witness acted in the truest sense of the “Common Defence” so intended by the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States.
The owner of the truck stop was called at his home. He was needed to view the video surveillance with the trooper and the county officer. They found the video footage of the hitchhiker selling my laptop to the local man. They got their solid lead to the buyer.
The reappearance of the trooper and the county officers back in the store walking toward the hitchhiker with grim looks on their faces foretold what was next. The hitchhiker took the traditional body-search position that precedes an arrest. The county officer in charge placed the handcuffs on the hitchhiker and put him in the police car charging him with “theft over $1,000.”
The officers’ next duty was to go visit the buyer. The story told after they returned with my laptop was that the buyer’s daughter Googled my laptop and discovered the retail price of my laptop was $1,950. The buyer bought my laptop from the hitchhiker for $50. And 5-minutes after his daughter told him that the laptop he bought had to have beed stolen the police were knocking on his door.
The naïve buyer’s immediate return of the laptop and his cooperation with the officer’s Q & A was rewarded with the officers deciding not to arrest the buyer. I presume the mere closeness of arrest and the embarrassment with his daughter and family members and friends would be punishment enough, imparting a greater sense of cautiousness in the future that the officer’s decided leniency would serve justice better in this instance. I can imagine the local man never being able to live it down as his daughter and family kin would remind him of his naïveté for years to come, if not for the rest of his life.
I went back to the Flying J to recover my laptop bag. I came back to the North 40 truckstop with my laptop bag and began examining my laptop. I found it to have a dead battery. The startup error screen revealed that the battery died during operation of the laptop. Resuming normal startup the desktop windows revealed that the hitchhiker was trying to change the wallpaper when the battery died. Nothing else was altered, changed, or deleted.
Catching this hitchhiker was so easy it was like shooting fish in a barrel. It is common knowledge that there are good people and bad people in every walk of life. So it is with truck drivers and hitchhikers. This story presents a subject matter for a future story in my American Common Defence Review magazine on discrimination under civil rights laws by corporate truckstop chains and their discriminatory policy restricting TV Rooms to truck drivers. I question the reasoning, the logic, and the legality of this restrictive policy on the basis that I have seen truckdrivers get into fist fights, drive off without paying for the diesel fuel they pumped, and many other crimes of violence committed by truck drivers with CDL driver’s license.
A Word on Crime Prevention, Employment, and the General Welfare Clause in the Preamble to the Constitution
I have seen company-owned employment application kiosks at truckstops. States with lotteries have State‑own lottery machines located in truckstops and other businesses serving State and interstate commerce. There are no legal obstacles for States to place State-owned employment kiosks at truckstops and other businesses serving State and interstate commerce to provide not only in-state citizens but also out-of-state citizens in interstate travel looking for employment and a new life in another state under the Fourteenth Amendment. This proposal falls in line with the right to travel and the right to establish a State residence for out‑of‑state citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment and under the General Welfare clause of the Preamble to the Constitution. This proposal is a crime prevention measure giving the unemployed traveler a choice for gainful employment instead of earning an illegal income through criminal activity.