It has been a while since I had any “Lost and Found” item; not just any item at home, but losing something in public and going somewhere to retrieve it. In Indonesia, 99.9% of the time if I lost it, I would never find it again. In the U.S., the percentage was slightly lower; I really had to depend on a Good Samaritan to submit that lost item to the Lost and Found department somewhere. Well, recently, yours truly, in his excited state of having swum in the clearest indoor pool water and best visibility pool ever, left the area without bringing his goggles. I realized it much later at home when I could not find the item in my gym bag. Two days later, I decided to go out and get a new set of goggles to bring to the pool, just in case I could not find the lost one.
An article in the New York Times few months ago mentioned the honesty of the Japanese people. A photo accompanying the article showed what seemed to be thousands of umbrellas in a warehouse. Turned out that those umbrellas that were found were usually submitted to the police station, where they stayed until the owners reclaimed them. Wallets with money showed up as well, and the rule was that if the owner did not reclaim the item within six months, then the person who had submitted it could claim the item.
I decided to see if I could retrieve my pair of goggles at the pool first. After I described the item, the staff looked at their logbook of lost items. In my poor Japanese I mentioned that I had lost it the previous Friday. Then two staff members said what seemed to be the Japanese “a-ha!” and informed me that the item had been sent elsewhere. Of course this was all explained to me in Japanese, but as usual, when I started learning a language, I found it easier to say things than to understand what others were saying. I looked at their hand gestures, retrieved all the recognizable nouns and adjectives, and deduced that the item had been sent to a glass-topped office next to the swimming pool building. That building seemed to house the administrative office that governed both the pool and the gym next-door.
I pursued it further by going to the adjacent building after my swim with the new goggles (I was, after all, inquiring about the loss already in my swimming briefs). First, a stop at the front desk, where the staff told me to go to the office around the corner; then, as I was about to leave, I saw her pick up the phone (maybe alerting the office that an absent-minded foreigner -me- was approaching). By the time I reached the office and entered it, I saw the welcoming staff hang up the phone; she was indeed informed about me by the other one.
This second staff had me fill in a form of what I had lost, the description of the item, my name, address and phone number. Then she took me a few feet away to another counter, by where she asked me to sit down. She then approached a much older colleague, a man in his 50s. They had a friendly chat, and then they parted. She went back to her desk, and the old man disappeared into a room in the back. Not too long thereafter, he came back with a clear plastic bag with the goggles. Before he even took them out, I saw already that they were mine. Still, I had a closer look at it, and with a beaming smile, I thanked him, and on my way out I thanked her.
I think I was more excited that the system had worked than actually finding the goggles themselves. Well, at least this time, it has indeed worked. We shall see if they will be able to find it when I finally lose my mind.