Persistent pursuit of lost items

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  • Wednesday, 17 May 2017

OVER the years, I have documented the number of personal items that I had lost in my lifetime.

When I was a child, I had dropped my wallet somewhere in Bangsar. When I was teenager, I had accidentally left my sunglasses and bags behind.

Just a few years ago, while living in London, my passport went missing.

In all of those cases, I was fortunate enough to get back all the items, thanks to the honesty and goodwill of others; from the person who found my wallet and the waiter who chased after me with my sunnies to the kind soul who mailed my passport to the Malaysian High Commission.

But those weren’t just the things that I had lost. Just ask my mum or my sisters, and chances are, they will roll theirs eyes before listing down the number of their items that I had dropped or left behind somewhere.

I was such a “master” at this that I even came home from school one day without the school uniform I had worn earlier.

It came to the point where dad blamed me by default, when anything in the house went missing.

I used to get really upset with him for doing that, but in retrospect, the statistics were against me.

One incident, in particular, that has become a favourite topic in my family, dates back to about 30 years ago when I was studying at Methodist Primary School in Petaling Jaya.

This was when my family still allowed me to borrow their things.

I took the number 35 mini bus (before they were all painted pink!) as usual and stopped outside the EPF building in Section 5, Petaling Jaya.

If I recall correctly, I realised I had left the shoe bag I was carrying on the bus. I rushed to a public phone booth to call my mum who was at the office. Although in a panic state, I answered all her questions.

What I didn’t know then was that mum had raced to the bus station at PJ Old Town from her office in KL city centre and hopped onto several buses searching for the bag.

It wasn’t just that the items in the bag which included dad’s brand-new windbreaker was expensive, it was also his favourite.

Many years later, mum told me it was the look of disappointment she expected to see on my dad’s face that had spurred her to take off to PJ for what seemed like an impossible task.

Surely, someone else would have nicked it. My mum’s perseverance paid off when the driver returned the bag to her after she found the bus that I had took on that fateful day.

This scenario came to mind last Thursday when I realised that my new and expensive iPhone that I thought I had left at home was on a bus somewhere.

I did not give it much thought when I got off the bus at campus and didn’t have the phone with me, but something made me go online to track my phone to make sure it was at home.

Using an app, I noticed that the phone was “travelling” in the opposite direction of the way I was going earlier.

Convinced that someone had picked it up, I did the necessary, I locked my phone remotely, and left a message with an alternative number when no one picked up my call.

It was then that I realised there was something familiar about the phone’s “route”.

It was the same bus route as the one I went on, except that it was going the other way. The phone was still on the bus!

Frantically, I called the company and was promised by one of its staff that at the last stop, they would look for it.

Unfortunately, I received a call to say that they didn’t manage to find the phone.

But technology is an amazing thing and I could tell that at that point, the phone was still stationary.

After failing to convince them to keep on looking, I tracked my phone as the bus made it’s way back.

The moment it stopped at the closest stop to where I was, I hopped on the bus and found the phone. It had slipped between the seat and was at the side of the bus.

I happily told my friend who had been helping me track down my phone with his device. He valiantly told me, “We’re on the right bus!”

As with all the important items I had lost and got back, I am very grateful for the kind people who had either returned them, kept them when they didn’t know how to find me, or who had helped me along the way.

There was also the element of luck – not just lucky that people were nice (although I try to have a bit more faith in humanity) – but also in the circumstances that I had lost those items.

But most of all, and this is a lesson I had learnt from mum, is that persistence and perseverance often pay off.

The bag I lost during my schooldays could have been on any bus, and might have “left” the terminal by the time she got there, but she persisted and we got the bag back.

I won’t deny that the moment I saw the phone “heading” towards Derby, my heart sank and I was convinced I would never see my phone again.

But like mum, I too persisted and three hours later, I was reunited with my phone and left with this story and lesson to tell.

  • Niki is a PhD researcher at The University of Nottingham, UK. Connect with him online at


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Metro , Central Region , niki cheong , bangsar


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