In the back of what looks like a small office next to Legazpi Square, towers of objects are piling up waiting for their owners. Aisles and more aisles of shelves without prices that are reminiscent of a department store full of boxes with the most unexpected items: suitcases, backpacks, glasses or whatever else that people who pass through the capital leave behind. From floor to ceiling, the shelves labeled with the collection day collect everything that is forgotten (voluntarily or involuntarily) in city transport or on public roads and that some finder –person who finds and delivers the object– has seen fit to return.
There are days that seem more fruitful than others. The cubicle destined for July 13 overflows between suitcases, mail trunks or even a television, while other days of the calendar are left empty without further explanation. Thus, 15,833 objects have been stored since January, as well as 55,000 euros in cash – in 2019 and 2020 more than 100,000 euros were entered. If we go back to the beginning of the pandemic, the figure reaches 50,590, a figure that is far from the 70,000 registered by the office on average each year.
Currently, this body guards 88,585 belongings, about 50% from the Barajas airport –delivered by AENA–, while the other half is divided into 20% from Metro Madrid, 10% from EMT, another 10 from Correos, and the rest between neighborhoods, taxis and public roads.
To try to get municipal benefit from this mountain of things, the City Council has decided to auction more than 2,000 pieces of jewelry and costume jewelery that no one has claimed for more than two years. The bidding of around 200 lots began on August 30 through the internet until September 15, the date on which the enabled website managed by the company Surus Inversa will close, which will have to take charge of those sets that have not been acquired. Engracia Hidalgo, delegate of the Treasury and Personnel of the City Council, explained in an act in the office itself where the proceeds from this process would go: “That money is entered into the municipal coffers to finance the public services of all Madrilenians.”
A suit of lights, a trombone or 3,000 euros in an envelope have passed through these dependencies, located in Paseo del Molino 7, according to Lola Andrés, deputy director of the office, recalls that the bullfighting outfit was auctioned and the return of the cash destined in its origin to a religious congregation that lost an Italian citizen at the airport.
Inside a locked room, a closet also sealed guards towers of Apple devices, including dozens of iPhones, iPads or Mac computers. Even so, the decrease in the items that arrive every day is remarkable, since before they returned an average of 200 a day. Andrés attributes the drop in “more or less half” of items collected during the pandemic to the lack of movement: “As there is no tourism, it shows. It must be taken into account that most objects come from AENA or Renfe” .
The journey of the forgotten
An abandoned backpack on metro line 1 travels alone until the end of the journey. At 2 in the morning, the last operator of a station already empties it to deposit it in a room, along with other lost objects in the capital’s wagons. After a few days, after not being claimed by its owner, Metro Madrid transports it to a small warehouse near Matadero. In the Lost Property Office, where after being registered, it will be guarded for the next two years, waiting for its owner to remember it.
If so, the citizen who forgot it should report all the particularities that they remember: where and when they lost it, shape, size and color, content … Even show a photo if they have one. All this in order that the office workers can verify their property and avoid the picaresque. If there is something identifying in the object – an address, an email, a telephone – it is the municipal workers themselves who try to contact the person.
After 24 months without anyone asking for it, the backpack will become the property of the Madrid City Council, which depending on its content, has multiple ways of making use of it, thanks to the different agreements signed with NGOs or other entities. While the object itself could be used by the police to train their dogs, in the case of wearing clothes, it would be delivered to humanitarian organizations, something that would also be done with sunglasses or prescription glasses, which would fly to Zimbabwe. The other way is to be part of the auction lots to have an impact on the public coffers. Here nothing is thrown away, everything is saved.