Last week, a visitor found a set of keys on the driveway as she was leaving. The keyring held two keys—one was assuredly a house key—and a dark leather strap about four inches long. It also held a key fob for a vehicle. Of course, I had no idea whose keys had just been found.
I quickly determined that the keys belonged to no one who had recently visited; no one had lost keys. It had recently snowed, however, and, rather by accident, I had seen a man engaged in clearing the sidewalk of snow. The keys might be his. Since he was hired by the condo association, I didn’t know who he might have been, but I made a mental note to investigate this person if no owner of the keys was found.
The found object offered some clues as to its owner. First, there was the vehicle key fob. It was probably possible, with the coöperation of the vehicle manufacturer, to match it to its owner. Suprisingly, however, the fob did not carry a manufacturer’s name. It did include various numbers that might have led a determined detective to the owner, but I wanted to look for more obvious clues first.
Information on the leather strap looked promising. It showed a signature on one side and a set of coördinates on the other. With difficulty, I could read the coördinates, but the signature was, as many signatures are, difficult to decode. I could make out the first letter of the last name and also the last two letters. This sent me to the local telephone directory. Since I don’t live in a big city, I could check for all the listings consistent with what I read on the strap. But, as we all know, fewer and fewer people have landlines these days, and there was a good chance the target of my search was not in the directory. That proved to be the case.
That left the coördinates to check out. These were hard to read, but they were clearer than the signature, and I was certain I had read them properly. My thinking was that they would lead me to the home of the keychain owner. It took me a couple of tries to enter the information into Google Maps, but I finally identified the specified location. That’s the good news. The bad news was that that location was within a nearby cemetery. It seemed unlikely that anyone lived there.
My next idea was to post a notice of what I had found, but where? The newspaper was a possibility, as was Facebook, but the former seemed a longshot, and I didn’t know of a sufficiently local Facebook page likely to be seen by the intended reader. Surely, the owner had set foot on the driveway where the keys were found, so it seemed likely that the person would try retracing his or her steps in search of the keys. With this thought in mind, I placed a sign on the garage door. It said, in large letters, “LOST KEYS?” and pointed the reader to the front door.
The next day, the doorbell rang. There was a postal truck on the street and a postman at the door. He explained that a fellow worker who delivered mail in the area had lost his keys and had been searching for them. We agreed that I probably had the searched-for keys. To be sure, I kept the keys, and the postman pledged to speak to his co-worker.
On the following day, that co-worker showed up at my door. He easily described his property, and I mentioned how I had tried to track him down. As it happened, he had lost a son, and the coördinates were those of his son’s grave. I had not considered such a possibility. Checking out the cemetery would have given me another clue, though not a conclusive one.
Anyway, I was glad to have found the owner of the keys. Would it have been better simply to have left the keys where they were? Perhaps. Though they might have been covered by another snowfall, been run over by a car, or picked up by someone less likely to know what to do with them. In the end, it all worked out.