She walked out of the elevator, rifling through the mostly junk mail she had picked up from her mailbox, when a plastic bag on the floor caught her eye. A rubber band was tightly bound around its middle, and as she walked closer to inspect, she saw that it was a bag of julienned carrots. Some one of her neighbors must have dropped it.
It was an unwritten rule to put a lost-and-found item either in the lobby on the rack above the mailboxes where delivery services left small packages, or on the counter in the laundry room. She picked up the bag, went back down to the mailboxes, and left it on the rack under the peg board with all the various flyers and posters where it could be clearly seen.
The oddity of finding a half consumed bag of carrots on the floor in the hall was kind-of like the time she found a pair of black ladies size 10 euro-style shoes in the elevator neatly tucked in the corner under the button panel. It wasn’t that finding a pair of shoes in the elevator was strange. People dropped all sorts of things out of their pockets and bags just about everywhere in the building. It was the way the shoes were carefully placed in a corner that seemed so weird.
Did the person who put the shoes there think it would dawn on the shoes’ owner that the last place they remembered seeing their shoes was in the elevator? It wasn’t like finding a glove or an infant’s sock along a walk path, and you courteously place it up off the ground nearby, just in case someone doubles back looking for it. To look for a pair of lost shoes in an elevator, a person would have first been either wearing them and removed them while in the elevator(though why anyone would step out of a pair of shoes in an elevator and then leave them behind, she couldn’t figure), or been carrying them and dropped them. Even if they fell out of a bag, in a small space like an elevator, wouldn’t they be aware of a pair of shoes falling on the ground? Especially those shoes. They were not only a large size, they had heavy, thick soles. They would have made an audible thud when they dropped. She tried thinking of who she knew in the building who wore that style of shoe, and who had size 10 feet. Living in such a small apartment building and not having a notion as to who would own a pair of black size 10 euros said a lot about how little she noticed anything about the other tenants. Anyway, she decided it would not occur to anyone to look in the elevator for a pair of shoes they’d lost. So she placed them by the mailboxes, and the next day they were gone, presumably claimed by their rightful owner.
The carrots turned out to be a different matter. The morning after finding the bag and putting it downstairs in the lobby, it turned up on the floor in front of her apartment. She was completely surprised. The building did not have surveillance cameras, so unless someone spotted her placing the bag of carrots by the mailboxes the evening before, she could not figure out how anyone would know that she had anything to do with the bag of carrots. Nor why they would leave them at her door.
It wasn’t as if she absently placed them on the mailbox rack while she fumbled with her mail and then forgot she left them there. The carrots weren’t hers. If she was leaving the carrots at the mailboxes, then she was obviously leaving them to be found by the person who lost them. And if she wanted them for herself, she would have kept them (though she could not imagine herself saying, “Hey, it must be my lucky day! I found a half-eaten bag of julienned carrots dropped on the floor! I can’t wait to make carrot cake”). The carrots belonged to someone who thought highly enough about a half-of-a-bag of julienne carrots to tightly secure it with a rubber band and carry it with them so that, at some critical point in their day, they would have a half-of-a-bag of julienned carrots at the ready. Clearly, nothing else would do for this person but carrots, and not just any carrots, but this particular bag of julienned carrots. All she wanted to do was make sure that someone’s very important bag of carrots was found.
Once again, she placed the bag on the mailbox rack. She turned to see if anyone was watching. She looked up at the corners of the ceiling to see if maybe there were new surveillance cameras she hadn’t noticed before. There were none. She took another look around and satisfied that no one was watching, left for work.
When she returned that evening, she was glad to see the carrots were gone. She got her mail, perused it per usual as she rode up the elevator, and as she approached her apartment, stopped abruptly when she saw the bag of carrots again at her door, this time with a note taped to them: “Please throw your trash away! Don’t just leave it for others to have to toss. It’s rude!”
Now she was being accused of inconsiderately dumping garbage rather than politely placing an obviously lost item where it could be found. It was turning into Carrot-gate; the kind of petty, jerks-for-neighbors crap that reminded her exactly why she preferred living like a hermit who had no clue who liked to leave ladies size 10 euro-style shoes in elevators, or who carried julienned carrots around with them.
From her desk she pulled out two pieces of paper and a black marker. On one piece of paper she wrote in large block letters: PLACE LOST AND FOUND ITEMS HERE. On the other she wrote: UNCLAIMED AND UNWANTED LOST ITEMS GET TOSSED HERE. She then opened her storage closet and rummaged around until she found the plastic bucket she never used, grabbed some tape from her desk, the signs she made, and the carrots, and went back down to the mailboxes.
She taped the lost and found sign above the mailbox rack. Just below it on the floor she placed the bucket with the other sign. And then she ceremoniously lifted the bag of julienned carrots high above her head and let them drop into the bucket.
As she was doing this, a man walked into the lobby to pick up his mail. He watched warily from his periphery as the bag of carrots dropped from her hands, making a satisfying smack as they hit the bottom of the bucket. She turned and smiled at him. He tentatively smiled back.
“So, that’s taken care of, I guess,” he quipped.
As she walked back to the elevator, he leaned over to look at what was in the bucket.
“Who loses a bag of, what is that…carrots?” he called out as she got on the elevator.
She scoffed. “I no longer care.”
“Hey hold the elevator,” he quickly replied and she reluctantly pressed the Door Open button. He lifted a handful of his junk mail over the bucket and let it fall. She let out a little laugh. He scooped up the pieces that fell on the floor, slammed them into the bucket and then jogged across the lobby and got in the elevator.
“Hi I’m Jim, you’re…?
“I’m Amy. Hi.”