I am a collector of found things.
In my day job, that is. By day, I am a mild-mannered receptionist. By night, I am asleep. Usually.
Being a receptionist, my centrally located desk becomes the obvious place to leave items that have been spotted, probably lost shortly before, but now found by another. They come to me, and most of them never leave.
Sure, I try and reunite them with their owner. I send an e-mail to everyone to alert them that a new item has been placed in my care. If the item is not claimed within a few hours, it never will be.
I have collected three earrings, five gloves, a bunch of mix CDs, two buttons, three pairs of sunglasses, a hat, a few pens, an old cup with some writing that looks Aramaic, and a ring that makes people invisible when they wear it.
Things such as keys don’t last long in my collection. Same goes with good stuff like flash drives, cell phones, computers and food.
Me being me, the unclaimed items take on a tragic air. I imagine that these lost things are trapped in a torturous limbo, separated from their owners and their purpose. In my mind, they were the favored objects of a person who can’t afford to replace them, and with their loss, their owner is now dying of pneumonia and cursed with blindness as their eyes are ruined by exposure the sun with no protection. This poor person can’t even mourn the loss of the earrings, which are the last heirlooms of their ancient and noble family, once heralded with land and titles.
At what point do I toss the mix CDs? When do I give up and admit they are never going to be claimed? I’m sure I’ve given those things more thought than their former owners, who probably burned new copies ten minutes after they learned they were lost. I’ve been storing these items in the vain hope that someone will come in looking for them, and will be so grateful I have taken such good care of them for so long, that they are compelled to thank me in exceedingly lavish ways for my faithful guardianship. The more time that passes, the more this seems like sheer stupidity.
And then I remember that the penniless descendant of a noble family lost these items, and I feel guilty about throwing any of these things away. I suspect my predecessor felt the same way, as I inherited at least three of the gloves, one of the sunglasses and the hat from her. I wonder if I’ve stumbled across an unwritten but sacred duty of receptionists everywhere: to be forever entrusted with accumulating and protecting a building’s flotsam. In that case, maybe I ought to get a bigger shelf.