Sunday, February 12, 2006

Lost Property and finding it

From The Dublin South-West Forum on February 1st 2005

I remember when I was in my late teens and the victim of a continual thirst I boarded the 54 bus for town and raced the bus conductor to a wad of banknotes lying in the middle of the upstairs aisle. I figured the powers that be had put some drinking money my way. The bus conductor thought the same as I handed him a share of the notes. At least he did until I said:

"I don't suppose they're yours to begin with?"

He looked aghast and started patting pockets. He seemed satisfied that his float was intact. Finally he rolled me a ticket and went on his way. Neither of us gave a thought to who might have lost the cash.

Once while walking through Firhouse late at night I found a small black faux leather purse which contained one moped key and a £20 note. My conscience about the earlier incident must have pricked, because I handed the whole thing into the Garda station in Tallaght the next day and thought no more about it. A statutory year and a day later I received a postcard to say it had been transferred in the interim to the Lost Property office in Kevin Street (I think) station. As non-one had claimed it, it was mine. Otherwise, it would go to charity. I suppose it must have done so, because I wasn't bothered to go look for it then.

The other evening one of our household lost his wallet, much to his chagrin as it contained a student pass and a bus ticket as well as the remainder of a week's money. After pulling the house apart he went for his bus and the driver, who knew him from coming and going, said "There you are", passed him the missing wallet. It had been handed up, liberated of its cash contents somewhere along the line. He was glad to get it even so.

This afternoon on another Tallaght bus I had just sat down when the man in front spied a brown leather wallet stuck down the edge of the seat. Someone had put it in their pocket, only it wasn't the pocket it had lodged in. I wondered what he'd do.

He was elderly, so I thought a little social experiment would prove the honesty of the older generation. I sat impassively a seat behind as he riffled through the contents. He nonchalantly put the wallet in his pocket.

You could almost *see* his conscience working. As the bus wound its way from The Square he came to a decision. (What was my experiement going to prove?) He reached into his pocket, pulled out maybe three €20 notes from the wallet (I was watching in the reflection of the window) and folded them neatly into the pocket of his coat. Then he approached the driver like a good citizen and handed up the remains of the lost property.

When the bus stopped outside the Technical College in Tallaght he obviously was struck again because he suddenly jumped up from his seat. Not to hand over the money though: he got off instead at the Village Green stop and the last I saw of him he was almost at the bookies. Maybe he was on his way to put a few bets on some horses -- his luck was in, after all -- or he could have walked on and gone into Molloys pub to do what I did with my luck: pour it down a drain.

Human nature, do you think?

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