I was having supper the other day when my dad, who works as a taxi driver, handed me a small rectangular object.

“What is it?” he asked, adding that he found it in his cab when he was cleaning it at the end of the day.

As a taxi driver, my dad frequently brings home all sorts of things that passengers leave behind - handphones, umbrellas, snacks, drinks, purses, and even laptops. For the more valuable objects that are traceable, he normally deposits them at his cab company’s lost and found, but for other objects that are very hard, if not impossible, to locate its owner, he just brings them home.

I looked at what he handed me. It was a 512MB thumb drive. He wouldn’t have known that. I told him what it was.

“Can you find who it belongs to? Any way to return it?” he asked. “Otherwise, can you use it?”

I thought I could. “I’ll try,” I said as I finished up my fish and chips.

As I headed up to use my computer, I wondered what sort of data was stored inside the thumb drive. My instinctual paranoia kicked in as I inserted it into the USB port. I wondered if anyone would go through the trouble of storing a virus or malicious worm inside the thumb drive and deliberately leave it lying in the cab. Naaah.

Then as the computer set about detecting the drive, I wondered if it would contain some top secret document, but then realized that people with top secret documents don’t carry 512MB thumb drives.

As I accessed thumb drive and explored the files, I found some PowerPoint presentations, an Excel file, and a Word document, as well as two folders of Chinese songs labelled “Guys” and “Gurls”. The thumb drive belonged to a gin-nah!

One of the PowerPoint presentations was that of a school project. Four student names and the name of a doctor was written on it. A “Dr” probably meant it belonged to a university student, or at least a polytechnic student.

A quick search for the name of the teacher revealed her to be a lecturer from NUS. But I decided to double check the module code and title. That brought me to a blog where a student listed out his relatively poor grades.

What was strange was that he didn’t seem to major in any particular subject, but took modules from Mathematics, Physics, English, Biology, Geography, Literature, and several others. He sure took a lot of subjects in one semester. It didn’t look like the usual workload of any university student. In addition, the blogs that he linked to seemed to belong to secondary school students.

Four student names. How to narrow that down to the most likely owner? I explored the other files, noting down the author names, and the names that appeared most frequently. Eventually, finding yet another project presentation with a list of names, I noted that there was one common name and deduced that this must be the owner. There was, however, another name that appeared a number of times, but as they both had the same surname, I figured that they were related.

Using these clues, I googled the most common name, and eventually located it under the roster of NUS High School. With the information contained in the thumb drive, I matched them to a certain girl from a certain class. And from there, I found her email address.

Off I went then to write an email to this girl, saying I found her thumb drive and would like to return it. Just in case, I obtained her sister’s email address through a similar search, because the suspected owner’s email address was a school email address, and I wasn’t sure if she checked it, since it was now the school holidays.

When I checked my email the next day, there it was, a reply to my email, and confirming the identity of the owner.

It’s scary how much information about a person can be obtained from the Internet these days. It’s scarier to know that I was able to deduce a total stranger’s identity from a population of several million in Singapore.

Perhaps if I ever switched lines, I could consider a career as a detective. I feel like L, all of a sudden.

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