Ok. So I have this fascination with the Lost and Found box. Every place I have ever worked, I have been fascinated with it. Sometimes, I will go through it for entertainment. I am amazed by what people leave behind. A million pairs of sunglasses, CDs, flash drives, car keys.
The car keys thing always gets me. I have never worked in a place where there wasn’t at least one set of car keys in the lost and found. HOW DID YOU GET HOME!?? I have the same bewildered amusement toward things left in the scanner—birth certificates, military orders, hundred-year-old family photos. You name it, it’s probably been left at a library at some point.
I also have a fondness for the winter coats that get left behind. Ok, maybe it was warmer when you left than when you started out. But at some point along the way didn’t you wonder… hey. When’s the last time I had my $200 Steelers Starter jacket?
Sometimes there are greeting cards. One was a Transformers card with Optimus Prime on the cover with a lovely “missing you" note on the inside to a service member spouse. Or children’s toys. I get a little sad for the child who has lost their favorite stuffy. But I am really sad when a parent comes in and asks if we have a stuffed animal, and it isn’t in lost and found. You know there’s a child who will shortly be inconsolable with grief for a lost friend.
Then there are the bits and bobs. Pens that end up getting recycled. Barrettes and hair clips that never leave the bottom of the box. Weird connectors for devices you have never seen. And a pocket U.S. Constitution. There always seems to be one of those.
And the thing about those sunglasses and car keys and even coffee mugs and water bottles filled with liquid is that they always seem to stay there. They never go away. They accumulate. They eventually get tossed after six months or a year. Some end up at Goodwill. But no one comes back for them. They’re forgotten. They’re lost, we find them, but they’re never claimed. They never get to go home. Well, some find new homes. Any USB stick over 8 gig is fair game after a whole year of being in the Drawer of Flash Drives That Time Forgot. I once got a really cool pen that way. But… most items left at the library never go home.
Maybe I search through the Lost and Found not so much out of curiosity (though there is still that), but to visit the items relegated to that Island of Misfit Toys. To spread a little bit of attention onto those once beloved things that are now lost and forgotten. Or worse: lost and replaced.
I may be anthropomorphising. No, I know I am. But how depressing must it be, to be those car keys? You were once shiny and new. Someone never left the house without you. They showed off your automatic starter button with prideful glee. And then they left you at a public computer. And after two days of searching for you in the bottom of a bag, they spent $200 to have a new key and dongle made, and then they went on with their lives, no longer mindful of where you ended up.
Some people cared too little for the things that ended up in Lost and Found. I seem to care too much.