FOR some of Dublin’s more exuberant Christmas revellers a trip to the Carriage Office in Dublin was as traditional as a visit to Clery’s window or a Christmas Eve pint in The Duke.
The office, which was located on the grounds of Dublin Castle, was where people went to retrieve goods that had somehow made their way between the cheeks of a taxi seat.
Before it closed, taxi drivers left lost goods at the office where hopeful, rather than expectant, property losers would retrieve them. Because of its city centre location and its inaccessibility the office was not utilised to the full. For this reason its service was spread out across the city and now comprises five different locations across Greater Dublin.
“We’ve found the measure very convenient for drivers,” says a spokesperson for Taxi News, the official publication of the Irish Taxi Drivers Federation. “Instead of having to get to one point, in the old case Dublin Castle in the city centre, they now have a choice of five different stations in which they can deposit the lost property. The person who has lost the item can go into any local garda station and ask them to access the computer system which is linked to the five designated holding spots.”
This is of course just one example of the impact of an efficient modern communication system. But soon there may be no need for a designated holding office at all.
Hailo Taxis, which launched in Ireland in summer 2012, has been at the forefront of modern media utilisation. So far 300,000 people have downloaded their iPhone app which allows users to order, pay for and track the arrival of a taxi from wherever they might be. Every journey is recorded.
“There’s a record of the driver who drove you and the route you took,” says Tim Arnold, general manager of Hailo. “So as well as personal safety, one of the real benefits is safety for your belongings. So imagine you’re after getting out of the taxi and you’ve realised you’ve left something behind, you click on the app, you tap on ‘help’ and you’ll see lost property and in there you’ll see a list of your recent jobs. You can tap into the job that you think you’ve left your item in and if it’s within an hour of the journey, you can call the driver directly. If that doesn’t happen or you can’t get the driver, there’s a little umbrella icon that you can click on to report a lost item and we’ll know automatically which driver the lost item is probably related to and then get in touch.”
Public transport companies are also getting in on the social media act. According to Brendan Cushan, communications manager at Dublin Bus, the company’s @DublinBusNews Twitter account has 20,000 followers while 15,000 followers like its Facebook page.
“One of the things we launched earlier this year was a campaign called Is This Yours,” says Cushan as we stand in the Dublin Bus’ Lost and Found Department on O’Connell St. “As you can see there are lots of mobile phones in here, so once a week we take photos of all the phones left and we put them up on our Facebook and Twitter accounts with #isthisyours.”
Sean Hyland has worked in the department for 17 years. He was a conductor until that role was stopped by the company in the 1990s. Down the years Hyland has seen some unexpected items come through his door.
“We had a live rabbit found once,” he recalls. “The DSPCA were called in for that one. We’ve had crickets for feeding snakes and worms for fishing tackle, which is rotten after a few days.”
On more than one occasion Hyland has opened a bag to find what he delicately calls ‘ladies items’. As we speak I notice a red corset perched on one of the wooden shelves.
“That was just found on its own, it wasn’t even in a bag. Years ago we got a bag with a lot of, what would you call it, whips and all that kind of stuff, if you know what I mean. The woman came in later to claim it, without blushing. In her words: ‘I can’t go to work tonight without it’.”
Most items at the office are held for a month, though cash and more expensive items such as musical instruments can be held for up to a year. Items that are not claimed go to charity. The majority of claimants are mothers collecting things for their forgetful children. Hyland’s advice for those who like to label things is to forget about the name and write a number.
“Names,” he says, “are meaningless. Write the number and we can get in touch.”
But even with the best of intentions everything doesn’t always run smoothly. “I had an incident where a woman came looking for her Blackberry,” recalls Hyland. “So I was looking through the bag but I couldn’t find it. I went back out to her to ask her to describe it; if there was there a sticker on it or a scratch, anything that would help to identify it and she looks at me as if I was from Mars and says “I lost my black beret”. Sure enough I looked in the bag and there it was.”
You’d never know what you might find — at the Lost & Found
WHETHER we were in a rush or on the tear, we’ve all been guilty of leaving something aboard a mode of transport.
Some retrieved items are just downright bizarre. As well as the usual stash of umbrellas and schoolbags in the Dublin Bus office is a skimpy red corset, a number of rosary beads, a violin and a top-of-the-range guitar.
Hailo taxis have seen golf clubs, buggies and engagement rings — yikes. The musical theme is carried on down at Heuston Station, the home of Iarnrod Eireann, where a lonely trumpet is awaiting its owner’s lips.
And while walking sticks are the fifth most common item left on public transport, workers who thought they had seen it all were amazed to find an artificial leg on board a train three years ago. What’s more, it was never claimed.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved