Finders, keepers

The characters in Enid Blyton’s The Five Find-Outers and Dog series (and Blyton’s Famous Five and the Secret Seven series and all the other detective books, like the Three Investigators, or the Girl Detective, all very popular at the Oulunkylä Public School library) always found things. They found something that got them started on a case, and they found stuff during the case.

To find something on the street has always fascinated me. Finding something requires more than just luck. Not a lot more, but a little. You have to be alert enough to see that something, and not too lazy to leave it lying there.

This is my Finder's outfit.

That’s why I always thought Pippi Longstocking’s idea of being a Thing-Finder was such a brilliant one. I always wanted to be a thing-finder, too. I wanted to be cool, alert, and not lazy. Finding things is exciting. Finding something valuable, like a wallet on the street, or something that turns out to be valuable even if it doesn’t look like it, like an old vase that turns out to be a Chinese Dojong Dynasty vase — with Jimi Hendrix’s ashes inside – is even better.

I’ve always wanted to be a little bit lucky, too. Vernon Louis “Lefty” Gomez, the NY Yankees pitcher in the 1930s said out loud what many of us think: “I’d rather be lucky than good.”

Then, of course, because I’m not lucky, I must be good. Or something like that.

I’ve spent my life walking with my eyes on the pavement, ready to jump at the sight of anything shiny. Ten times out of ten, they’ve been bottle caps, and thinking back, I probably should have started to collect them at one point.

But I’ve always wanted to be a finder guy. Even as an adult. I had just met Wife when I once, on our way back to the office after lunch, noticed a green pen on the ground, and claimed it mine on the spot. I was so happy and probably a little nervous and a tad full of myself that when I the next day met my future Sister-in-Law for the first time, in the lobby of the office where Wife and I worked, I literally ran by her, and introduced myself as “the guy who found the green pen.”

And apparently lost his mind.

The pen was my biggest find until last Saturday.

On Saturday, I was on my way to the mall, and about halfway there, right about where the bench is, there’s been a shortcut all winter, leading people straight to the tunnel that goes under the big road, instead of us having to follow the bike lane. This time, I wasn’t really looking for anything, but because the night before I had got my boot stuck in the snow while taking that same shortcut but to the other direction – the snow had melted, but had still stayed solid right under the path – I wanted to make sure I hit those hard spots.

And then, I saw something shiny.

It was a mobile phone. Just lying there in the snow, not buried, just there. I picked it up, and examined it. It was a nice little camera phone.

I laughed a little, I had finally found something. Now I didn’t know what to do. Fatty, the leader of the Find-Outers (and the Dog), would have easily made a plan and executed it. So I turned the phone on. Maybe there was a clue inside. A number to call to.

As I watched the Sony Ericsson logo flash on the screen, I realized that I didn’t know the PIN code. I also realized that just across the big road, which I was just about to go under, there was a police station. Maybe I should take it there instead. But, what if there’s a lot of paperwork, and wouldn’t it be easiest, really, for everybody, if I, the true finder, just returned it to the owner.

The phone, probably with a prepaid card in it, was on. I scrolled down the numbers, waiting to see .. what? “Me”? I told myself that nobody had a number filed under “me”. I don’t have “me”, or “home” on my phone. And, sure enough, there was no “me”, no “home”, no “call this number if you find this phone”, just random names. (Random to me).

I decided that the detective work was a little too much work, so I walked to the police station instead, still feeling good about myself for a) finding a phone and b) being a good citizen.

I walked to the Lost and Found desk in the corner, and found a man in a blue uniform sitting behind a glass window. I held the phone in my hand, and waved it a little to get the Lost guy’s attention. He was in his late 50s, a big fellow with a big belly and gray hair.

“Hello, I found this phone,” I said.

“Where?” he said, and pressed a button so the glass went up.

“Here, just here, close here,” I said, having not thought about what to say. I pushed the phone towards him.

He held it in his hand, tilted his head, and said:

“Here? But it’s not even wet.”

“Well, I didn’t find it right outside the door. I found it in the snow, by the tunnel, on my way to the mall,” I said.

“OK, write your name, phone number, and date of birth on this piece of paper so I’ll open a case,” he said, and down came the glass.

I wrote my name, and stood there, waiting. Then he opened the glass again, only to serve another customer. I was still standing there, feeling stupid, nodding my head to show the other customer that I was listening to music, and didn’t have any idea of why he was there. I also discreetly put my hand on the paper that had my name, phone number, and date of birth on it. When he left, the big man turned his attention to me again.

“So, where did you find this?”

“You know the Shell? Like, diagonally across the big road from there.”

“Where? Wait, wait, can you draw me a map?”

“Sure, so, here’s the Shell, and here’s that big road, and here’s the intersection. This bike lane here runs parallel to the big road, and you know where there is the tunnel, when the bike lane goes under the big road…?”

“What’s the name of that street?”

“I don’t know. It’s not a street, it’s a bike lane, it’s for bikes and pedestrians. So, here’s that tunnel, and I found the phone about …. here, just lying there in the snow.”

“And where are we on the map?”

“I guess we’d be somewhere here.”

“And the Shell, you said?”

“Wait, the Shell would be closer to here, right, and then … so … there’s a little shortcut from the bike path to the tunnel.. And… so I thought I’d bring it to you guys because you can probably easily find the owner,” I said.

The policeman took the paper with my name, phone number and date of birth on it, and put his glasses back on his nose.

“Hmmm… don’t you have the four last digits of your social security number?”

“Oh, oh, yeah, I just thought that since you said ‘date of birth’ it’d be enough with that. But yeah, my last four digits are 7633.”

He looked at me over his glasses.

“But you are registered in Sweden?”

I just sighed.

“Yes, I am. I was just on my way from home, to the mall, and I happened to find a cell phone in the snow. That’s it.”

“Fine. I’ll put this into the system, so you’ll get a notification later,” the policeman said.

“I don’t really need anything, I just wanted to get the phone back to its owner,” I replied.

“Because I’m a Thing-Finder.”

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