Friday, May 24, 2024

The curiosities of the lost and found


At a large library like the one I work at the lost and found is filled with a vast array of appalling junk. There is so much of it because the rate of repatriation is astonishingly low. If something is not claimed within a few hours the odds of it getting claimed drop to the low single digits in success percentage. After a day or two it goes even lower than that!

That does not mean that we don't get tons of calls from people frantically looking for their lost and found items. One would think, with our treasure trove of lost items, we would dig up the caller's missing treasure with hardly a problem. Alas that it is not so. Even the most extreme cases- someone recently losing a not super valuable but meaningful item, and can tell me exactly where it was left, comes out at a sad 50-50 success rate at best. It may be even lower.

There are many strange peculiarities to the lost and found, and I think the following is my favorite:

People who call or visit looking for an utterly distinctive and strange item, that one would think we would either clearly have or not, end up examining multiple like objects and walking away not finding their own.

Let me provide a representative example.

Joe lost his visor. Now, a visor is not a hugely common thing, and often we wouldn't have a single one in our lost and found. But, in case we have a couple, and to help know what I'm looking for, I ask Joe for a general description of it and a general time for when he lost it.

"Well," Joe says, "It's mostly a greenish color, with some black on the edges? Oh! And it has like a parrot or something on it, and then kind of stripes on the band. I left it here, I don't know, a few days ago, maybe longer?"

That should be plenty, right? I head to the towering shelves of our lost and found collection.

I open the "Hats, scarves, and gloves" drawer (though I check all the others in case). There are two mangy old stocking caps, a stray glove or two, a forgotten wallet, a sock, and, bizarrely, four, count 'em, FOUR visors.

One is red and black and has no birds and no stripey, so forget it.

Two are green or partly green. One is yellow, I would say, but ochre, verging towards green. So, who knows? And this yellow one has animals all around the band, including a parrot! It also has black trim and was found recently.

The first true green one does not have a bird, but rather an abstract design that sort of looks like a bird? I don't know. The band is not striped, rather it is black. Not bad. There is no indication of when it was found.

The last one is army green and has a kind of camo band- so, striped I guess, and there is black in it! And it has a big embroidered cartoon bird on it, colorful but not a parrot, but this could be it! Bringing it down in likelihood though is a slip that maybe belongs to it indicating that it was found a couple months ago, or possibly even a couple months ago AND a year before that. It's hard to tell.

I bring all three visors to Joe.

Joe examines them very carefully, like it's minute work to determine if one of these is his missing visor. He says things like "It was more like a real bird" and "The band was Velcro." Then he leans away sadly. "None of these are mine. It's more of a dark green. But thanks for looking for me."

Surely his visor is somewhere.

Maybe in that very moment three other guys were in three other libraries sadly saying "No, mine was really more yellow." and "It wasn't a parrot, more a cartoon bird" and "Why'd you bring this. I said mine was red and black?"

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you were wondering, yes, you should comment. Not only does it remind me that I must write in intelligible English because someone is actually reading what I write, but it is also a pleasure for me since I am interested in anything you have to say.

I respond to pretty much every comment. It's like a free personalized blog post!

One last detail: If you are commenting on a post more than two weeks old I have to go in and approve it. It's sort of a spam protection device. Also, rarely, a comment will go to spam on its own. Give either of those a day or two and your comment will show up on the blog.