YAKIMA, Wash. — The car looked just like his reddish Kia Optima, but as Robert Rife watched it pull away from the parking lot Monday night, he realized he’d just placed his backpack with a laptop and papers in the back seat of a stranger’s car.

Rife, the music director at Yakima Covenant Church, was having a homework date with his son at the Starbucks on 56th Avenue, when he decided to make a quick run to the supermarket across the parking lot. He left his son at Starbucks and dropped his heavy backpack in the car before heading to the store.

Rife said he’s a regular at the shopping center and doesn’t usually make a mental map of where he parks each time. He just opened the door and put his bag in the back seat.

“Stupider than that, I tried to lock the car with my electric car lock and it didn’t work, so I thought it was broken, and I locked the door with the button,” Rife said.

As he was leaving the supermarket, he saw the car driving away and that’s when he realized what must have happened. He tried, unsuccessfully, to chase down the car.

“I essentially just handed someone my work computer and my books and a clipboard and to-do lists and my entire master’s degree on a thumb drive in the same bag,” Rife said.

Turns out his reddish Kia Optima with gray seats was parked about a dozen spots away.

Rife decided to share the embarrassing story with the newspaper in the hopes someone might find the black Spring Arbor bag in their back seat and return it so that he doesn’t lose all his important work and school documents.

His business cards with contact information are in the bag.

“I don’t care how stupid I look, although this is probably one of the stupidest things I have ever done. I don’t even really care about the computer, I just want the data back,” Rife said.