Je n’y croyais plus
September 12, 2017 11:01 PM   Subscribe

On the southern edge of Paris, a five-thousand-square-foot basement houses the city’s lost possessions. The Bureau of Found Objects, as it is officially called, is more than two hundred years old, and one of the largest centralized lost and founds in Europe. Any item left behind on the Métro, in a museum, in an airport, or found on the street and dropped, unaddressed, into a mailbox makes its way here, around six or seven hundred items each day.
posted by Chrysostom (22 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
What a delightful story.
posted by not_the_water at 11:49 PM on September 12 [4 favorites]


That was great.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:51 PM on September 12


When I ask Cassignol why this department is called the Bureau of Found Objects, rather than the Bureau of Lost Objects, his answer was pragmatic. “Because we do not know if they were lost or stolen. We know only that they have been found.”

Why French is considered a great language for logical thought in one pithy, very French statement. I cannot help but read that and hear a thick French accent in my mind at the same time.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 1:28 AM on September 13 [16 favorites]


This is so much more satisfying to contemplate than what I consider to be the American equivalent. Wonderful story.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:11 AM on September 13


I remember the feeling if the day I left my phone on the red line in Chicago downtown, and it managed to make it all the way to 95th lost and found.

I love this.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:24 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]


Why French is considered a great language for logical thought in one pithy, very French statement.

Seems like English handled it OK, too
posted by thelonius at 3:36 AM on September 13 [5 favorites]


Seems like English handled it OK, too

How so?
posted by Mister Bijou at 4:08 AM on September 13


"Lost and Found" and "Bureau of Found Objects" are pretty close to each other in meaning, but "Lost and Found" implies causation where none is known. The French is more truthful and not idiomatic.
posted by ardgedee at 4:25 AM on September 13


(In Australia) I once got a phone call during the day at work. It was the central railway station, calling to say that they had my house keys. I hadn't even realised they were lost. Then I realised that they didn't have any identification or phone number on them, so I asked how they knew. They said that there was a tag on the keys with my Automobile Association membership number (no name, though) and that they had called the Automobile Association (and presumably sat on hold for a while) and told them the situation and asked them if they could get my phone number so they could call me and tell me they had the keys.

I was super impressed with the effort they had gone to. (Slightly less so with the Automobile Association's approach to customer privacy).

On the other hand, I lost my watch at Sydney airport a couple of weeks ago, and it did not get handed in. On the plus side, travel insurance still had it covered so now I get to buy a shiny new watch instead.
posted by lollusc at 4:33 AM on September 13 [9 favorites]


Yes, in France all lost & found bureaus are called "services des objets trouvés". You can of course say "objet perdu" as well, but if you're looking for a place for them, they're "objets trouvés".

As for the "thick French accent", that remark is likely unnecessary twice over – first, for certain, because all of us have an accent, second because it was probably translated into English. Possibly even thrice unnecessary since you've no idea whether the person involved would speak English with which accent. Not all Frenchpeople have French as their native language, for one.

I had to leave French wine at the lost and found in Gardermoen, sniff. That's what I get for not travelling by air for ten years. Bottle of Bourgogne in my carry-on without a receipt, oups.
posted by fraula at 4:35 AM on September 13 [5 favorites]


I've often thought that there should be a website that does this - a single repository for anything that's been found. Or maybe there already is?
posted by Flashman at 5:09 AM on September 13


I imagine a vast, dim warehouse staffed entirely by the cast of Delicatessen, slowly trundling carts of items back to the storage areas. You most definitely do not want your lost suitcase stored in the dripping room with the snails.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:34 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]


I imagine that same warehouse as the one at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark...
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:39 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]


What a great piece (by Nadja Spiegelman)! It's full of wonderful bits, like "There is a plaster statue of Jesus, which Cassignol, as a joke, once brought over to the church next door, announcing that he’d found its lost Saviour." But this is just bizarre:

The bureau does not have a dedicated number to call

Why on earth not? That's nineteenth-century technology—they can't say "Oh, it's hard to keep up with the times"!
posted by languagehat at 5:52 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]


Why French is considered a great language for logical thought...

Yes, a language where "plus" is a negative...
posted by Laotic at 6:08 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]


> Yes, a language where "plus" is a negative...

No it's not. Ne ... plus means 'not ... any more,' and it works just the same way. Can we perhaps not get onto a stupid derail about stupid cultural/linguistic stereotypes?
posted by languagehat at 6:11 AM on September 13 [6 favorites]


Languagehat, the linear structure of "discussions" on mefi regrettably hardly allows for meaningful branching into separate subthreads, but:

Plus besoin (de) - (there's) no more need (to/of)
Plus de + noun - (there's) no more + noun
Plus maintenant - not any more, not any longer
Plus que + noun - (there are) only ___ more

Plus takes on a negative meaning.
posted by Laotic at 6:26 AM on September 13 [4 favorites]


On the next episode of Hoarders...
posted by amanda at 6:34 AM on September 13


And of course, they have a whole system for disposing of items on the regular. Gahdamn, everyone else is better at this than Americans!
posted by amanda at 7:02 AM on September 13


As for the "thick French accent", that remark is likely unnecessary twice over – first, for certain, because all of us have an accent, second because it was probably translated into English. Possibly even thrice unnecessary since you've no idea whether the person involved would speak English with which accent.

All these things are indeed true, which is why I imagined it in my head since M. Cassignol was only quoted on paper. Regardless, it's a charming little story that illustrates for the New Yorker's predominantly American audience a tiny sketch of French culture.

American media should spend a little more time illustrating France and its culture for their audiences, I feel, it seems like such a missed opportunity—we practically ignore our oldest ally. I know it's a little silly, but can't help but think it would be useful for Americans to be exposed to more examples of a French approach to a problem. It's just enough askew from the way we'd approach it that it reminds you to question your own assumptions. That seems useful.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 9:31 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]


> Plus takes on a negative meaning.

Only if you omit the "ne," which yes, is done colloquially, but it is not part of standard French. In any case, the structure of French grammar has nothing to do with logical thought.
posted by languagehat at 2:11 PM on September 13 [2 favorites]




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