On those we left behind

No! It’s not a depressing post. It’s about what happens to our books when we accidentally (on purpose?) leave them behind in public places. I call the phenomenon of things lost and found in public places like train stations, taxis, restaurants, parks, etc, “The Great Umbrella Exchange”. It’s an economy predicated on need. The rain stops or starts and you forget your umbrella or sunglasses because they are not needed at the moment. You finish a book, same. Eventually, someone else picks up whatever you lost when they do.Of course, none of this holds true for my hometown of Belfast where anything left behind triggers a bomb squad call. An offshoot of this is “The Great Charger Exchange”. You’ll thank me for this one. If you travel (travelled) regularly for work and sometimes forget your phone charger, just go down to the hotel desk and say, “I stayed here a while back and left a Samsung phone charger in my room. Can I check the lost and found for it?” Bingo. Then when you do leave, leave the charger behind. Good karma.

I have a bad habit of leaving books behind as I travel. Once I’ve finished with them, and as long as they’re not library books or books I’m sure I’ll reread, they feel like a physical burden. I’m reluctant to tote these along on lengthy travels. So I’ve spontaneously left books in hotels, trains, and buses, in addition to the more usual suspects (little free libraries, charity shops, waiting rooms, with willing friends, and my office).

I’ve always guiltily hoped that the books wouldn’t be discarded, but have had no proof of this. A hotel receptionist once told me, clutching the book to her chest, that she would read the China-set sci-fi novel (Maggie Shen King’s An Excess Male) I’d just finished and left in my hotel room. Another time, after having been unexpectedly given some terribly erudite books on international relations that I knew I’d never get around to reading, a colleague told me that the hotel cleaners should be able to sell the tomes I’d left in the room.

So I admit that I’m an unscrupulous discarder and regifter of books. And I’m likely not the only one, as I’ve found books in some unlikely places as well (most recently on a park bench).

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