Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Story of the Keys

After one of our bus trips into Geneva (the one where we forgot to bring money), we arrived home to discover that the keys were no longer in my (Case's) pocket. Keys on the ring included the house key, two bicycle keys, and post office key, plus some others -- no doubt important to our hosts -- that we couldn't identify.

I'd searched my pockets for money while sitting on the bus into town, after discovering that I hadn't brought the bills I'd removed from my wallet while still at home. (Lesson One: Take the stuff you don't need out of your wallet and take your wallet to town, not the other way around.) We thought the keys may have been dislodged from my pocket then, but we couldn't be sure.

Now, it's bad enough to lose your keys -- but someone else's...!

Fortunately, we'd left a French door open downstairs, so we were able to get back into the house. Also, the owners had left us extra car and house keys, so we could function. However, we sure didn't want to lose their bicycle, post box, and other keys for them!

So we headed back into town by car and, in the process, learned a bit about Swiss efficiency!

We searched all the places we'd stopped, sat, stood, jumped, and/or run to no avail. A few of the stores were already closed, so we returned the next day. Again, no luck.

Best bet was the bus. It turns out that Geneva has, like all Swiss cantons, a lost-and-found office for the entire canton! Anything lost in the public transport or public buildings makes its way there. As I understand it, other businesses and private parties can deliver found items to this office as well.

So, we stopped by the office to look through their big box of keys. No luck. "No worries", they said, "Come back in a week. Sometimes it takes a while for found items to make their way here."
During our whole Black Forest trip, the keys were sitting at the back of my mind. Would we find them?

Upon our return, we went back to the Geneva canton "Office of Found Items". Once again, I asked to search through the box of keys. (It would have been nice to be able to find the items some of those keys went to. It seems that Audi, BMW, and Mercedes drivers are pretty absent-minded about keys to their expensive automobiles!) And there, right toward the bottom of the box, were our keys! Proof of match with the spare key I'd brought, some pen work on a form (what gov't office doesn't require you to fill out a form for every transaction?), and 15 Swiss francs later, I headed out of the office with this answer to our prayers clutched tightly in my hand!

I've since thought back to the process of searching for lost items "back home" in USA:

Have you ever had to seek out the lost-and-found offices of the 5 businesses you visited on the day you lost your keys, only to find that one doesn't have such an office, the second sends you to ask the tattooed, cigarrette-smoking janitor sitting behind the furnace on basement level 3 (who grunts a "uh-uh" and ignores you), and the third tells you that they send all found items to Tuscaloosa, Alabama by turtle-back caravan. Then, if you rode the bus, you check with the bus company office, and they ask you which bus it was -- not the route, mind you, but which exact bus? You don't know? Well, what did the driver look like? You'll have to find him and ask him...

And then finally ... FINALLY ... at the seventh place you try, you find an genuine lost-and-found office with someone helpful behind the desk: "Was that the key ring marked 'Smith' with an Ferrari key on it? Yes? Oh, and what year is your Ferrari? Uh-huh. Yeah, I know that one. It's a great model. You drive it everywhere, I bet? Yep, thought so. Well, anyway, I think we may have your keys. Hang tight. I have to go in the back to check, and it sometimes takes a while." Wow, what a relief! You stand waiting in a restrained hopefulness.

And you wait.... And wait... And then, at 20 minutes before closing time, a secretary comes to the desk and starts pulling down the iron grill. "My keys...", you say. "Oh", she says, "You must be... Tom has gone home for the day. He said to tell you that we don't have your keys. Sorry. Bye-bye." And the grill slams shut.

And do you think you're going to find your Ferrari still waiting for you in the parking lot outside when you head home?

....... So, anyway, I thought the Swiss system for lost-and-found was exemplary. If you must lose your keys, I would suggest coming to Switzerland to do it!

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