Thought Leadership

OFF-TOPIC: Lost and found

By Colin Walls

When I come into the house, I hang my keys on the hook. If I want my keys and they are not on that hook, I am very concerned, as it means that they have been lost. In my experience, people who often lose things are normally just misplacing them – they put their keys down randomly and later have to look for them. I feel that this habit is such a time waster. I am, of course, depicting a somewhat idealized version of my life – I am human and make errors.

A problem with having an attitude of “a place for everything and everything in its place” is that, when something is missing, it is very stressful. For example, when my cellphone was stolen a few years ago, I knew immediately because it was not in the zip-pocket on my right thigh where it belongs. You can probably guess that I really like having zip-pockets, as losing things when I am out and about is just that bit less likely. When that does happen though, it can have interesting consequences …

It was cold at the weekend – around freezing, which is quite manageable of course. We went out for a walk with two grandsons, who are 2 years old and a few months respectively. The 2-year old is a very good walker, so it is a great way to burn off some of his seemingly boundless energy. When we got home, my wife discovered that she only had one glove. Controlling a small child with gloves on can be challenging; she must have removed one at some point and dropped it. She was upset about the loss, as she had borrowed the gloves from her son and they were quite expensive. We decided to try to find them.

First, she went out and back-tracked the last mile or so of our walk – no luck. Then I went out and did the same thing, going just a little further. I looked on the ground, in the gutter, on garden walls and fences and even in people’s front gardens. All was to no avail. So my wife posted on a local Facebook group, offering a small reward at my suggestion. The following morning, she got a message from someone who had found the glove only a short distance from where I had looked. It seems that she had seen the post and figured that it might be a good way to occupy her children for a while – going on a “treasure hunt”. When collecting the glove from her, she was quite reluctant to accept the reward, despite it not being a particularly up-market part of town. But we insisted, saying that she could treat her children. Overall, this outcome made the angst of having lost the glove somehow worthwhile. It is always nice to be reminded that there are good people around.

These events made me think of something that happened a few years ago. My late father and step-mother needed to move to a different apartment and, in the process, a couple of boxes of stuff went astray. Once it was realized what had gone, my Dad was quite upset, as a big family photo album was missing. In due course, after making some enquiries, he accepted its loss. Then, one day, many months later, I received a phone call from a charity that provides assistance to blind and partially sighted people. Initially I assumed that they were calling to get money, but quickly ascertained that this was not the case. It seemed that the lady calling worked in one of the charity’s shops and they had received some donated items that included some photo albums. They thought that they were probably unsaleable, but someone might value them and they started researching the names on some of the pictures. And that is what led them to me.

I arranged for a courier to collect the albums from them and, obviously, made a donation. A while later, when I had a small windfall that I wanted to donate to charity, they got a large share of that too. I felt strongly that, although they might have hoped for a donation as a result of their detective work, they were more motivated by doing the right thing. To me, the look of pleasure on my Dad’s face, when he knew the album had been found, was priceless.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at