As I was preparing to leave my commuter train tonight, I stepped on a pair of gloves. I asked everyone near me if they belonged to them. No one claimed them.
These weren’t just any generic gloves — they were North Face gloves. Dark gray, men’s large, with grip tips on the ends of the fingers. A quick search told me they retail for $25.00. They would have fit my son perfectly and gray is a color he wears. They are also the brand coveted by many teenagers of which my children are no exception.
My commute time between when I discovered the gloves and when I leave the train lasts about five minutes. It’s long enough for me to simply place the gloves in my bag. A quick run through the wash machine and they now belong in our household. It’s also long enough for me to know the standard operating procedure for the VRE’s lost & found: We hand the item over to the conductor. He or she drops it off at the VRE HQ. The items stay there about a month.
I’ve lost two things on the VRE in almost six years of using the train to trek in to Washington, DC. I left a really awesome American flag j-handled umbrella (which no one turned in to lost and found) and my ticket holder. My ticket holder also has my Washington, DC Metro card (SmarTrip), my business card, and any free VRE passes I have earned when the train is 30 minutes late or more. Luckily, the on time train performance is much better since both Norfolk Southern and CSX finished replacing railroad ties a few years back, so I only had four.
The person who found my badge holder could have simply taken the VRE tickets and the SmarTrip card out and used them. But he or she did not. He or she turned in the entire badge holder to the conductor. Since my business card was inside, VRE called me. After I identified the items, they returned it to me. Yes, there are honest people still around; many more than we all let our jaded selves believe.
So, if there was a chance that this guy who dropped his gloves might call VRE looking for them, I knew what to do despite the temptation to keep them. The right thing was for me to give them to the conductor. Let me be clear: Passengers on the VRE are far from the community’s needy. Some might take that in to consideration as an honesty litmus test. But, that’s not really the point. The point is that this item did not belong to me. It was left somewhere that had a procedure for recovering items that were lost.
I encourage my children to turn things in to someone in authority when they find something at school, on the bus, etc. Why wouldn’t I expect anything less of myself, even if it was just a pair of North Face gloves?
PS. 31 January: The guy who lost the gloves sat behind me again. I asked him about them and let him know they were at VRE’s lost & found.