A blind man's cane, an ounce of cocaine, bologna sandwiches and umbrellas -- lots of umbrellas.
What kind of motley collection is this? It's the stuff that's left over when the last Metro customers file out of the subway system at midnight.
The inventory of Metro's lost and found, tucked into cubbyholes in a storage room at Metro headquarters downtown, offers an offbeat insight into the life styles of Washingtonians.
Metro officials have found .38-caliber bullets in a backpack. They have found boom boxes, cameras, shoes, college textbooks, basketballs and a bag containing the worldly belongings of a homeless person.
At the end of the line, subway crews once discovered a wheelchair borrowed from a local hospital, and a pair of crutches, too.
The oddest thing recovered by the lost and found department was a set of hospital X-rays of the knee and upper body. But most lost items are keys, glasses and umbrellas, according to Rick Jones, director of Metro's lost and found department.
"We have been told to stop the train for an umbrella," said Jones, who remembers one desperate woman's plea. " 'That umbrella,' " he recalled her saying, " 'that is a Gucci umbrella.' "
Working with two clerks in the lost and found command center at Metro headquarters, Jones fields up to 200 calls a day. He has his finger on the pulse of a forgetful public.
The Red Line train from Shady Grove to Silver Spring carries the most absent-minded riders, he said. It has more track than the other lines and it "has more business people and their minds are more preoccupied. They will leave their briefcases. With making more money comes more responsibilities."
Sometimes they leave their money, too. And sometimes the people who find it even give it back. Jones recalled a case in which a rider turned in $800 in cash.
"There are more honest people than people tend to realize," he said. "It's the patrons that make the lost and found system work, because if people would not turn things in, we would not be able to help a lot of people."
And what about that blind man's cane found by Metro workers?
"I figured the person could see enough to get out of the subway," the lost and found man surmised.