It occurred to me many years ago, as it has probably occurred to many of you, that when you think about it a bit, there is no reason to buy an umbrella. If it starts to rain, just go to the lost and found and ask if anyone turned in an umbrella; if they want particulars, tell them it is black.
But I have never done this. Instead, I carry my own umbrella in my shoulder bag.
At one point, I was sitting in my office (again many, many years ago but after this scheme first occurred to me), chatting with an older colleague. Suddenly it started to rain. So I somewhat devilishly said, "Damn, it's raining. I'm going to have to go down to the lost and found to get an umbrella."
He looked at me very seriously and then said in a quiet, conspiritorial way, "Do you do that, too?"
With that story in mind, about a month ago I wrote to some people in the Economics Department at The University of Regina and asked them to go to the lost and found here on campus to collect a couple of water bottles for me. There are always dozens of water bottles turned in every term, so I knew there would be some. They were somewhat taken aback, and then they realized I wasn't serious. Their plan, in response to my request, was to get all the water bottles and put them on my desk. Too bad it didn't work out; it would have been funny.
Three things are among those dominating the lost-and-found inventory: water bottles, sweaters, and notebooks.
Anyone need/want a sweater?
Why do we feel such reluctance to do these things? Is it perceived as stealing? Or is it just too embarrassing to lie and say you lost something that isn't yours? In a way that's too bad because it might make more sense to borrow things from the lost and found now and then rather than inventory them ourselves.