Union Station lost and found regularly sees a fortune in misplaced cash passed in. A trusted system accounts for it and keeps it all safe until owners come calling. But what would you do if you found $605 or more?
It’s by your left foot.
Peeking out from under your UP Express train seat – someone’s well-worn leather wallet.
Go ahead and open it. Anything? Wait, there’s money. How much?
Your thumb flicks one, two, three, four, and five…no, six crisp American $100 bills. Hidden among them is an additional, and worn, US five dollar bill. So now, lucky traveler, what do you do with it?
And what if it’s not $605? What if it’s $6,000? Or more?
On most days, about 100 items are dropped off at the GO Transit lost and found office inside Toronto’s Union Station. The items range from tangled scarves and worn gloves to high-end computers and the finest phones. In one average month in 2018 – last July – 197 smartphones were passed in by passengers and passers-by. Of those, 143 phones were returned to owners, with those unclaimed being dismantled and recycled.
There’s also an assortment of oddities and curiosities. Last August, Marbles, a six-year-old border collie-shepherd mix, hopped onto a GO Transit train at Rouge Hill GO station and rode alone to Union Station. He was later reunited with his owner.
Last year, a full front grill from a car was turned in. Despite the fact it apparently had a license plate attached, the owner was never found.
There’s a sword hidden inside a silver cobra-headed cane waiting to be claimed in a back corner of the lost and found facility. Though sadly, it’s not part of a collection of custom blades lost a year ago by a female sword swallower.
Then there are occasional urns and ashes of souls who become lost in their afterlife travels. Along with, just before this past Christmas, a bundle of letters to Santa were found. Have faith – they were later reclaimed and apparently continued their journey northward.
But of all that’s handed in by passengers, cold hard cash is perhaps the most curious. Because what would you do if that wallet was found sitting by your shoe or dirty on a busy GO Train platform?
The $605USD is real and recently turned in when discovered by a passenger on the UP Express. So too are the thousands of other dollars honorable passengers constantly hand in. It’s all deposited and moved to a secure location.
Nancy McClure, supervisor of station operations central at GO Transit, constantly sees wallets, bags and suitcases packed with found riches.
“You would be gobsmacked – people leave thousands of dollars, along with their passports,” says McClure.
Nicoleta Ninciuleanu is a station attendant for GO lost and found. She’s had people come in and put down $50 and $100 bills found on the floors of Union Station.
In 2018, there was a piece of luggage with $12,000 inside. The owner had left it on busy Front Street as her son picked her up.
“She came in like nothing happened,” Ninciuleanu recalls. “It was like she came to pick up a pair of gloves.”
Others don’t take the loss so casually. McClure remembers the tears of a near-destitute man after staff managed to find his bag with $120 inside.
Some returns come with excuses. In 2017, it was a backpack with two MacBook laptops, passport and $6,700USD.
“(The owner) came to pick it up and he said he was tired, took his medication, fell asleep and he left his backpack behind,” says Ninciuleanu.
In one case, a lottery winner thought he had been targeted by pickpockets after his wallet – flush with $1,200 inside – vanished. He managed to find the wallet at the lost and found. It was empty. However, the stranger who found it included her phone number on the yellow card attached. She had his money, and wanted to make sure it was safely returned to him.
He had beaten the odds again.
Facility supervisor McClure points out lots of previously full wallets turn up empty, and there’s no accounting for how many people quietly keep money as manna from heaven.
But enough pay it forward, by passing on the cash they find at their feet to a GO lost and found system they have trust in.
McClure, looking over the six hundred dollars bills – and lone fiver – points out: “It says a lot about the people who live and commute here.”
Now, what would you do?
(Story by Thane Burnett, Metrolinx editorial content manager.)