by Bryan Ling (17S06C)

Have you ever misplaced an item in school?

If you’re like 89% of the student population, the answer is yes. According to a survey conducted by Raffles Press, nearly 9 in 10 Rafflesians have misplaced an item in school. Of said lost items, more than half were bottles, with the next most common items being uniforms and stationery. In a school that’s more than 4000 strong, it’s hardly surprising that items are lost every day.

Monuments to forgetfulness can be found throughout the school at the front
of the various lecture theatres, but the undisputed biggest shrine to Saint Anthony is of course the Lost and Found corner at the Student Affair’s Centre (SAC).

Recent housekeeping efforts have transformed the SAC into something almost unrecognisable. Where once the items stood tall and proud out in the open, they are now tucked neatly within boxes. And though the bottle population has been more or less decimated, the collection of watches and other assorted valuables remains thankfully untouched.

The rotation of items at the Lost and Found doesn’t follow any fixed pattern, but items which settle there for more than a few days tend to stay that way. Keen-eyed observers would have noticed a few familiar faces among the pile of waylaid items, constants in that ever changing sea of missing connections, unwanted and unremembered by their once owners.

The Student Affairs Center takes care of lost items by placing them in boxes – allowing owners to trace back their items

But what do you do with these orphaned items? According to the Hullett Memorial Library custodians – you throw them away. Visitors to the HML are now duly notified that any items left there at the end of the day will be discarded. Wasteful? Maybe. But perhaps its better than letting a pile of unclaimed items accumulate over time, turning segments of the school into glorified landfills?

The Shaw Foundation Library takes a rather different approach. Those in need of fresh stationery can rejoice, as a charity box has been set up near the bag shelves of the library, inviting patrons to take their pick from a wide selection of owner-free pens, rulers, erasers, and even staplers – truly a hallmark of modern day efforts to give these objects new life. The SAC itself seems to have taken up a similarly environmentally-friendly approach.

What is it about school life which prompts so many to relinquish their earthly possessions? Is it perhaps something about the environment – sprawling and gargantuan, students scurrying about from venue to venue at the toll of each period bell? Is it something about the students – playing into the ‘absent minded genius’ character trope, heads so filled with academic mugging that they’ve become unaware of their immediate surroundings?

Maybe it’s the age that we live in, so saturated with consumerist ideology that we scarcely care when we lose something, opting to buy anew rather than to expend the effort to recover what we have lost.5 Or maybe it’s the age that we are – perched on the precipice of adulthood, readily embracing its freedoms, while lacking the experience and responsibilities that come with the years.

Or maybe it’s none of the above. Whatever the reason, the fact remains – RI students are losing items faster than they walk to the MPH under the watchful eye of Mr Tan Boon Poh – and more often than not, they don’t find them again. Of the survey respondents, a little more than half reported being unable to find their item – with around 30% finding them of their own accord and a little under 10 percent recovering them at the Lost and Found.

Shaw Foundation Library also leaves lost items in a box to be collected by their owners

Part of the problem is, of course, the lack of consensus on what to do with lost items. Respondents were split on the matter, with roughly two thirds opting to leave items where they were and the other third being partial to bringing it to the SAC instead. But the effectiveness of the SAC Lost and Found is questionable at best, given that less than half of respondents reported checking the SAC at all during their quest to recover their items.

What can one do to improve one’s chances of being reunited with estranged possessions? One surefire method of improving the odds dramatically is simple but effective – writing your name and class on your items. It makes you look like a primary school student, true, but simply putting down these basic details is tremendously helpful. And given the interconnected nature of the student body, the probability of a friend or acquaintance chancing upon your missing item is higher than you might think.

Another intuitive tip is to start looking for your items as soon as possible. Not only does this reduce the chances of it being spirited away by other helpful students, looking while your memory is fresh will also help you backtrack more efficiently and productively.

And finally, the best way to avoid unnecessary loss? Stop leaving your things around in the first place. Get into a habit of keeping your immediate surroundings well organised, and make a point out of scanning the area for any overlooked items before leaving. The time you spend making sure you haven’t forgotten anything could save you a lot of grief and searching in the future.