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November 2001

At A Loss

Now, where did I put my shoe?

No matter who you are or how clever you might be, one thing is certain: At some point in your life, you’re going to be on a train or a bus, minding your own business, and you’re going to be hit by a blinding flash of panic: “Where’s my wallet/purse/house key/prosthetic arm?” It doesn’t matter who you are or whether you normally wouldn’t be the kind of person to whom this happens. It’s inevitable. But then, after you’ve relaxed a bit and considered the consequences of this loss, if you’re like most people who lose something on public transportation, you’ll consider it gone forever. You’ll forget it, and, eventually, you’re likely to replace it.

Sometimes, however, the next person to board the train or bus you were on is a finder, not a keeper. Think of these people as your guardian angels, honest people who do the honest thing when presented with a free pair of spanking new Armani shades: These finders don’t tuck the shades into a breast pocket and congratulate themselves on a bargain. They hand them in at the train or bus ticket office. From there, found items wend their way to the optimistically named Fundbüro (Found Office). Munich is blessed with three such saintly repositories, four if you count the temporary office at the annual Oktoberfest—and you should, because it houses a treasury of material unwittingly lost by some of the world’s most inebriated tourists.

One of the people charged with making sure that found property is recorded, securely stored, and perhaps eventually re-united with loving owners is Sabine Eisenhauer, the Oberinspektorin (Chief Inspector) of the Munich Fundbüro that handles items found on public transport vehicles. Using record books, typewriters and lots of shelf space, Eisenhauer and her team of 14 colleagues log and store about 90,000 items each year, of which only 25% are reclaimed. The remaining 75% are destroyed or auctioned off.

A quick tour of the facilities reveals the true extent of pocket-sized wealth. For example, when you lose your Handy (cell phone), the first question you will be asked is “Which brand?”. The Fundbüro has a drawer for almost every brand, and phones are grouped according to model. If Fundbüro staffers do produce your lost phone, you must supply proof of ownership: a serial-numbered contract, the equipment’s original box or a letter from your phone service provider. Keys are another frequently lost possession; the Fundbüro carries a complete range in all shapes and styles. Unclaimed keys are (shudder!) shredded.

The Fundbüro also has a large selection of bikes, for even in Fortress Munich, bikes are stolen or seized. People come and go in this city; as they go, many ask themselves, “Is it worth it to have my DM 50 bike shipped back to Australia?” Bikes that do not move for some time are removed by the city. While abandoning a bike may not be the sporting behavior of a gentleman Radfahrer (cyclist), this is not a bad thing for all involved. Every year in late October, the Fundbüro holds a special bike auction, making this the place to go for cheap wheels.

Oktoberfest is high season for all of Munich—especially the Fundbüro. Hundreds of keys, backpacks, and items of clothing are lost. Shoes, for instance, are a late-September specialty: the explanation seems to be that shoes are most likely to be lost when people are spinning violently on carousels. While you were screaming that you would never step on one of those evil spinning machines again, your left shoe decided to try life on its own, and took-off mid-flight. Passports and wallets are also a big favorite, but, if an item contains any kind of identity information, the Fundbüro staff will try to make contact, either directly or via the appropriate consulate. The best thing to do is to remember which day of the week you may have lost your beloved item, as this helps staff track it down. A temporary Fundbüro is set up behind the Schottenhammel tent on Theresienwiese, near the police and Red Cross stations.

One Munich visitor actually left his arm at the Oktoberfest this year. It took him 24 hours to realize it was missing and set about retrieving it. Luckily, it was a plastic one.

Next time you lose an arm or a leg—or something less valuable—consider the statistics: 75% of items are never reclaimed. Just take a short trip to the Fundbüro, where salvation, and those swimming trunks you lost on the high-dive at Nordbad, may be waiting.

Further information:
>>>U-Bahn, Strassenbahn, Busses Städtisches Fundbüro, Oetzalerstr. 17, 81373 München Tel. (089) 233 00, Fax (089) 233 459 05 Opening Times: Mon.-Fri 8.30 am-12 pm, Tuesday 2 pm-5:30 pm >>>Munich Airport Telephone Information Service: (089) 97 52 13 70 >>>Deutsche Bahn Fundstelle München Hbf, Main Hall, near the left luggage office. Tel. (089) 1308 66 64, Fax (089) 1308 6752. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 6:30 am–11:30 pm, Sat. 7:30 am–10:45 pm, Sun. 7:30 am–11 pm. After seven days, all items are shipped to the central DB Central Fundbüro in Wuppertal, Tel. 01805 9905 99. Chris Larmour and Damien Fournier are the authors of the acclaimed city bar guide Groovy Munich. <<<

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