Today, imagine you work in a place where you manage lost or forgotten items. What might you find in the pile? For those participating in our serial challenge, reflect on the theme of “lost and found,” too.
Working a night shift again!! I really must learn to say no. This is the third time this month I am covering someone else’s shift. No one really wants to do the graveyard shift here. I had been willingly taking on double shifts of late. Ever since my break up, long evenings at home alone were something I consciously made efforts to avoid. .
The phone trilled and commanded my attention just then. “Lost and found **** airport terminal 2, how may I help you?”
Hanging up twenty minutes later, I was really hoping to have a quite night tonight. I sighed as I sat there surrounded by rows of lost, unclaimed baggage. Big boxes, small boxes, hard cases, leather suitcases, cartons some damaged, some stuffed to the brim. My table was stacked high with papers and claim forms. Forms to be verified, processed and to be compiled. Time was of essence here, distraught passengers looking to be reunited with their possessions, with their precious belongings can often be very aggressively anxious.
I walked down the aisles of baggage making a note of serial numbers and cross checking against my list. As I inspected the shelves, a glint suddenly caught my eye. Moving aside the boxes, piqued I leaned in to get a better look and there it was a beacon of light in the dark shelves, a shiny golden urn. Sitting there in the darkness unclaimed, neglected almost unloved there seemed to be an ethereal quality around that urn. The image of the urn sitting there shining in the darkness, is something that I can never erase from my mind. It shocked me, it moved me and seemed to call out to me. I picked the urn gently and inspected it for any markings or name tags. None seemed to be there. All there was carved on its side were the alphabets A.R in neat italics.
I was intrigued. Who could this belong to? Is this someone’s Father, someone’s Mother, someone’s child? How could someone lose an urn? Who would be irresponsible enough to do that? Is someone looking for this? How long had this urn been languishing here on these shelves?
For some inexplicable reason I was incredibly drawn to the mystery of this urn. I had to piece it together; I had to return it, this person I felt deserved to be put to rest. No one should be left in limbo like this.
Putting all other tasks aside I sat at my desk urn at my side, scouring through all the records on our systems. Checking names under A, under R, under category, starting with most recent to older claims. Nothing came up. All searches drew a blank. Once again I picked the urn willing it to give me some clue, inspire me to find its owner. Minutes turned into hours and I hadn’t realised that my shift was almost to an end. The sun was up and sounds of life from the offices surrounding began.
I was frustrated and exasperated. Blindly I clicked on my screen speed reading through contents and items on various claim forms. As the columns scrolled past at speed, the words ‘ashes’ suddenly caught my eye. I backtracked and opened up the file online. Sure enough there it was, innocuous enough a claim form, bearing amongst others the words gold vase container inscription AR, human ashes.
I couldn’t believe it. The form was recent enough; bore a local address on it too. Deciding spontaneously I quickly noted down the address and picked up the urn. Shrugging on my coat I punched in my id and left the office. Back of my mind a voice reminding me that I should ideally follow protocol and follow the system to return this to its rightful owner. But uncharacteristically I decided to take the risk and break the rules just this once.
It was a lovely house on a quiet street. I double checked the address once again against my records. Holding the urn close to me I walked up the path. A young dark haired man answered the door bell. He looked sleepy and tousled as he opened the door. One look at me clutching the urn and standing there at his doorway, his face paled. Tears began to stream down his face. A surreal experience followed, I walked in behind him. From his almost incoherent babbling interrupted constantly by his sobs, I understood that AR was his wife. She had been taken away by disease and it was her wish that her ashes be scattered under their favourite tree in their back yard. The young widower gripped with fatigue and sorrow on his flight back home had consumed slightly more than his exhausted mind could handle. He had unintentionally walked out of the airport and returned home. Only to wake up the next morning and realise his colossal blunder.
A year had passed to that incident. Shane and I had been in touch regularly ever since that morning when I returned the urn to him. I had grown to count him as a close friend now. He is kind, patient and a good friend to me as of now. We had not met over the past year but spoke often telephonically. Last week he suggested that maybe we should reintroduce faces to our names. We were meeting for drinks and then dinner.
For once I refused to cover the graveyard shift. Something tells me that I may want to avoid them altogether in the near future.