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Lost Keys

“Real kindness seeks no return.”-Thiruvalluvar

I’ve tried to adopt the above quote as a mantra as much as possible, even though often times it’s hard to avoid the ego saying “Yay me!”, when I do something to help someone. But I think if the motivation for good work is not done with any ulterior motives, you can’t do much better than that.

Last night, in the little fountain garden where I often go to sit toward the end of the night, I found someone’s keys on the ground. When I say keys, I mean like every key they have. There was a car key, a house key, various padlock keys, and even some key FOB’s to get into buildings. It was clear that whoever lost these wasn’t going anywhere.

I decided that the first thing I would try would be to call the local healthclub which was one of the key tags on the key ring thinking maybe they could call the person if I read them the barcode number. I called and called and called and there was no answer. It was now approaching ten o’clock and I knew that the place was probably closed.

Next I called the grocery store that also had a scan card on the key ring. I told them the situation and asked if they could notify the person if I read the bar code number to them. They said they couldn’t do it that way and the card would need to be scanned in person. Since it was about 10 p.m. and they were across town and about to close, that option was now ruled out as well.

Next, I decided to walk all around downtown and press the panic button on the car key to try to get the horn to honk so I could possibly place the keys on the windshield of the car. After thirty minutes, that option also yielded no fruit. I decided to stop for the night and regroup in the morning. I was starting to regret coming across these keys because of the responsibility involved in finding them, but I knew that if I had left them lying there, not many other people would go to these lengths to help someone they don’t know.

Next I called the police station and ask if anyone had reported missing car keys downtown. They said nope, but if I wanted to drop them off I could.

I went home and decided I’d try a little more in the morning and then drop them off at the police station if I had no luck. I explained it to my roommate when I got home and she said “You’re a nicer person than I am, I would have probably picked them up and just dropped them off at a bar on that street.”

In the morning, I woke up early and drove out to the grocery store across town and told them the situation. They scanned the card and were able to find a name. Not sure why they felt comfortable telling me, but they did. So I went and sat in the deli of the grocery store and searched on my laptop. Within about ten minutes, I had located a few names locally that matched this woman’s name.

I searched LinkedIn and found the person who looked most like they could match the profile of a person who went to a nice health club and shopped at a high end grocery store (a little stereotyping on my part). I guessed at the email format and sent a few variations of the same email to the person. Within a few more minutes I got the following email back.

Turns out she worked in a building directly behind the grocery store and came to the deli a lot for coffee. She was able to show up in five minutes to pick up the keys. I explained to her where I found them and she told me they must have just fallen out. She thanked me profusely and told me there was probably going to be lots of good karma coming my way. She said she would have had to get her car towed from downtown had she not heard from me. She also tried to hand me some cash, which I refused.

I told her that I was just happy to help because this sort of thing had happened to me before and it sucks horribly to have to get all these things replaced. I told her to make sure to thank the grocery store staff on the way out since they had assisted me in finding her. She thanked them, headed out, and got in a car that would take her back downtown to her car.

The grocery attendant came up to me afterward and said, “That was really cool of you. I know you don’t shop here, but here’s a little something for your effort.” and handed me a five dollar gift card, haha.

If any of this sounds self congratulatory, it isn’t. It feels really good to help people who although they’re strangers, are navigating the same struggles as you or I. The cost for me to take the extra time to track this person down was relatively low, albeit a trip to the grocery store across town. But the cost for her would have been far more if she’d have had to replace all those keys and get her car towed.

I encourage people to try a little harder for people you don’t know. It feels really good anyway.

And I got a sweet gift card! So we all win.

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