MS. REBECCA SHEIR
We turn now from things people swipe to things they leave behind. It's the topic of our weekly transportation segment "From A to B." You know that dreaded feeling you get when you realize you're missing something essential, like your cell phone or your laptop or your wallet? Well ,sometimes the items we think we've lost forever are actually safe and sound in the good old Lost and Found bin.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
It turns out the people who manage those Lost and Found bins really, really want us to come back for our stuff. Jim Hilgen did some digging around this week at the Lost and Found offices of Union Station and Reagan National Airport and as he tells us some pretty unusual items often make their way to these spots where they await their owners return.
MR. JIM HILGEN
At the Lost and Found at Reagan National Airport shelves are piled high with carry-on bags, books, sports equipment and clothing. Sarah Bowers (sp?) who oversees this office says she's seen some odd items end up on these shelves.
MS. SARAH BOWERS
We've had a prosthetic leg. We've had a life-size statue that was left in the economy parking lot, wheelchairs, canes, just things that you wouldn't imagine somebody would be separated from, that they would need for their day-to-day business.
The owner of that leg, by the way, was on the phone to Bowers' office the next day and while the prosthetic leg may seem like one of the more unusual things left behind at Reagan, it's hardly the most valuable.
In a secured area at the far end of the Lost and Found, shelving units hold items such as laptops, cell phones, jewelry and even passports. Bowers says airport staffers make a concerted effort to locate the owners of this property.
If we don't receive an inquiry the day of or the day after for an item, we go through extensive measures to identify the owner and contact them. That could be in the form of looking at a luggage tag and sending a letter if there's no telephone number.
Sometimes they'll open laptops to see if they can find an email address.
(word?) we'll call home, mom, dad, last number called. We want to get these items back to people.
And once the owner is identified, Bowers says, most of the smaller stuff is mailed at the airport's expense. However, the owners of laptops and heavier items need to foot the bill themselves and patrons need to know that the Lost and Found isn't an indefinite storage facility. Bowers says she's only required to hold on to items for 67 days. After that point, the person who turns something in can claim that item with certain exceptions.
I'm not going to give you somebody's credit card. I'm not going to give you their cellular telephone because I have no means of wiping that data. I'm not going to give you their laptop because, again, I can't wipe that data. You can claim cash so if you find a $100 bill, you can come back and claim it.
Does that happen often where cash is lost and claimed?
We probably get more cash in the office than what is inquired about.
Yes, cash isn't held in this office for very long. It's typically taken down to our agent cashier within a few days of receipt so it's deposited. We don't have, you know, hundreds of dollars lying around in the office.
MR. MIKE TSIKALAS
A little bit of everything, as you can see, keys, computer cords, a lot of electronics, mostly cell phones, thumb drives, strollers, suitcases, books, clothing, umbrellas.
That's Mike Tsikalas who manages passenger services at Amtrak's Union Station. The Lost and Found at the D.C. rail station consists of a single rack in an office near baggage claim. As is the policy at other transit agencies, property needs to be held for 60 days. After that...
If it's clothing, toys, things of that nature, we'll turn it over to Goodwill and actually if it's electronics, money, things like that, right now our policy allows the finder to claim the item.
Rendala Saulters is the customer service rep at the Union Station Lost and Found. She's heard many different excuses from travelers who have left items behind.
MS. RENDALA SAULTERS
I was asleep. I was taking care of my children. I wasn't focused. I was stressed out. I'm an idiot. I lost everything, just on and on, things that you can imagine that they come up with.
As for unusual items in Amtrak's Lost and Found...
Canes, crutches and even wheelchairs.
It makes you wonder how people get by without those things.
A miracle at Union Station...
So whether you've lost your prosthetic leg, your statue or your cell phone, call your local transit agency. There may be someone just waiting to reunite you with the treasure you left behind. I'm Jim Hilgen.
Time for a quick break now, but when we get back, a century of change in Swampoodle.
MS. KATHLEEN LANE
It's great to be able to come back down to 8th Street now, to go to a Bikram yoga class across the street from my great grandfather's house.
That's just ahead on "Metro Connection" here on WAMU 88.5
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