Business laptop? $1,000. Sending away the thief? Priceless.

The time is 2001, not long after 9/11, and the place is New York City. Heightened security awareness is the order of the day, and everyone in pilot fish’s office is required to carry an access card that activates the office doors. Look out for tailgaters, they’re all told. Those are people dressed like professionals who slide in behind someone with an access card and then steal wallets, coats and more.

One morning, fish arrives at the office and passes a man in business-casual attire carrying a laptop tucked under his arm and headed for the elevators. Fish doesn’t recognize the fellow, but he does know the co-worker who is running behind him, calling for someone to call building security and the police. The co-worker had returned to an empty desk just seconds after this tailgater had snatched his laptop, well before the tailgater could make a clean getaway.

Once the tailgater is in the elevator, he sees that the doors aren’t going to close in time for him to escape, so he throws the laptop at its rightful owner. But the thief’s victim decides that stopping the perp is more important than breaking the laptop’s fall, so he jams his foot against the elevator door so he can hold it open until security arrives. The laptop, meanwhile, sails past him and lands on the floor, where it breaks into several pieces.

And the thief is arrested — not for the first time. In fact, police find a desk warrant in his pocket. Turns out that he is out on bail on robbery charges and was in Lower Manhattan wearing business-casual attire that morning because he was heading to a court hearing.

Sharky will give a hearing to your true tales of IT life. Send them to me at sharky@computerworld.com. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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