Lost sunglasses, http://www.flickr.com/photos/smarta/561199414/
I lost my sunglasses a few weeks ago. I do not own dozens of pairs, just my primary pair and a 10-year-old emergency pair, so I was tearing about my house, car and office looking for my Maui Jims.
As one does when one is preoccupied with lost valuables, I mentioned my dilemma to my friend Tora Rocha, who oversees the gardens at Oakland’s Lakeside Park and other city properties. When she told me about the five-gallon bucket in which she collects all of the lost keys that are recovered in the park, I stopped thinking about my own problem and started to form a plan.
Think about how many people walk or jog around lovely Lake Merritt every month. There are walkathons, runs and a lot of stroller action. About every other day keys are recovered, mainly by city gardeners and clean-up crews. They are usually small sets - house and car - which suggests that joggers and walkers are the ones losing their keys.
Tora said she’s astounded by how few people ask about their lost keys.
“Do they really have so many extra copies?” she marveled. After all, replacing an electronic car key can cost hundreds of dollars.
One woman, Tora told me, accidentally dropped her car and house keys into a storm drain near the lake. She was frantic. Tora and two of her public works staffers came to the rescue, with one worker holding the other upside down to retrieve the keys with the help of a hook. They were called heroes by the woman, who wrote a letter to the mayor and City Council singing their praises.
But the majority of lost keys stay lost. There are many different venues and organizations in the park - the Rotary Nature Center, the Garden Center, the bird sanctuary, lawn bowling, Fairyland - with no central lost and found. People with lost keys just don’t know where to go.
Well, here at Fairyland we have kind of a thing about keys. Our favorite keys are our Storybook Magic Keys, colorful plastic icons that have unlocked stories for millions of kids over the years. We order them in batches of 10,000 and their image even graces stylish, best-selling T-shirts sold by Oaklandish.
We also know a thing or two about lost items. We specialize in binkies and sippy cups, but we also recover phones, cameras, sweaters, beloved stuffed animals and an occasional diamond ring, as well as, of course, keys. So we know how frantic folks can be when they lose their stuff.
So in the spirit of community and good karma, Children’s Fairyland has volunteered to be the gathering place for all keys lost in Lakeside Park.
Since our hours are somewhat more regular than that of our neighbors, we figure it just makes sense. We’ll be getting the word out to all of our partners and workers at Lakeside Park, as well as to the public at large, and we hope we can increase the return rate. And although Tora’s idea of melting down the keys for an art installation is a good one, we would prefer to reunite them with their proper owners if possible.
Oh, and my lost sunglasses? They turned up on our reception desk a few days ago. I have absolutely no idea what they were doing there, but finding them definitely made my day.
And that’s what we’re hoping to do for Lakeside Park guests. Because for someone locked out of their own car, the return of the lost key can be, well, pretty magical.