Lose something on RFTA? Here’s what to do
What do false teeth, a bag of marijuana, a television remote and 50 feet of irrigation tubing have in common?
All are in the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s lost and found.
RFTA customer service representative Mike Cooper is in charge of the myriad oddities that get left on buses and at bus stops. It’s not the only part of his job, but it can take several hours out of his day.
Even on a comparatively calm day in July, Cooper had 34 voicemails waiting for his attention as he surveyed a room full of found objects.
“Talk about a hodgepodge of things,” he observed. “If you can take it on the bus, you can forget it there.”
The most common artifacts are small items often overlooked until the driver checks the bus at the end of a shift. Water bottles and umbrellas are standard fare in the summer, while the winter sees plenty of ski poles and articles of clothing. There’s even a fair number of boards and skis, and on several occasions people have left their bikes in the racks in front of the bus. Lost items spike during big events such as the X Games or Aspen Highlands closing day.
Year round, Cooper keeps a bin each of keys, wallets, sunglasses and phones. Mixed in are loose documents such as passports and security cards, as well as an array of beauty products, including an eyelash curler. Marijuana is becoming a fairly standard item, he said, and properly packaged pot will be returned if claimed. Cocaine has only popped up once during his tenure, and was disposed of.
Some of the items are fairly valuable, and many of the wallets contain money.
“A lot of people are surprised that things get turned in, particularly expensive things,” Cooper said. “They’re happy to get things back. It can be very emotional, particularly when it’s sentimental.”
Cooper tries to verify ownership for the more high-end items, and only once has someone not passed the test. When there’s some form of identification he tries to contact the owner, though usually without much success. Often, he can’t connect the name to a number. Some people leave a message but not their phone number.
“These are frustrating things,” he said. “You’re trying to contact people and you just can’t get ahold of them.”
Even when he gets through, a lot of people never come by to pick up the items at his office near the Airport Business Center.
“We’re not the most convenient location,” he acknowledged. “That may be a reason why some people don’t come up for things.”
Nevertheless, he said, most people know someone who works upvalley, and arrangements can be made to mail items, as well. If someone’s looking for something lost the same day, there’s also a good chance it will wash up at Ruby Park before it makes its way to Cooper for longer term storage.
He holds most things for three weeks, with a bit of leeway for valuables.
“After 21 days, it’s considered abandoned and becomes RFTA property,” he explained.
The remainders are donated to thrift stores or charity.
Most valuable items are claimed before then, he said, and sometimes people even come in looking for their lip balm. He had to explain to one man that the driver probably didn’t save his Lands’ End catalogue, although he does have a stack of paperbacks. When the same person lost the same pair of gloves twice last winter, he threatened to keep them if they showed up again. Although he’s a little mystified by how someone leaves a bus without their dentures or cane, he can certainly sympathize.
“People get distracted or in a rush to get off the bus and they forget something,” he said. “I’m pretty careful about it, but even I have lost things.”
Most of the time, he gets them back.
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