Lost and found

Whether it’s a title, a pet or just a pair of pants, losing stuff isn’t fun

David Matthews / March 04, 2019
David Matthews

A fierce battle is brewing between two rival nations, and Fortune, fame and even A world record are on the line.

What’s this epic showdown all about? Hills. Steep ones.

Residents of Harlech, Wales, are confident that their ultra-steep street, called Ffordd Pen Llech, is the steepest in the world.

However, the current record holder is Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand, and locals there refuse to lose that title without a fight.

Guinness World Records determines the steepness of a street by measuring its maximum gradient over a span of 10 meters, and by comparing the street’s vertical rise to the horizontal distance.

A large group of Harlech residents recently spent a day climbing up and down Ffordd Pen Llech, surveying, measuring, and fighting dizziness. Their calculations must be verified and sent to Guinness for an official ruling, but the residents believe that their hill’s steepest 10-meter section has a gradient between 36% and 39%, while Baldwin Street’s is only 35%.

The final ruling will take months, but Dunedin is already considering some extraordinary actions to retain their hill’s status. After all, Baldwin Street is a major tourist attraction for the city, and residents don’t want to lose the revenue that comes from curious visitors and Instagram-crazed millennials.

Some have suggested resurfacing a section of the street to increase the gradient. Others think they can fool tourists by simply changing Baldwin Street’s title to “World’s *First* Steepest Street.”

And then there’s Dunedin’s mayor, Dave Cull, who suggested that the city could harness the power of one of its occasional earthquakes to give Baldwin Street some extra tilt.

United pet savers

A lost dog found itself in extremely dangerous circumstances in January, when it was trapped on an icy pond in a residential area of Bozeman, Mont.

The dog, a young Wirehaired Pointing Griffon named Sadie, was 10-15 ft off shore with thin ice all around her. An older man from the neighborhood spotted her and tried to reach her in a rowboat, but the ice prevented him from getting close enough.

Then an unlikely hero heard Sadie’s frantic cries for help: the UPS man.

Ryan Arens, a dog-lover and owner of a 14-year-old Malamute/Shepherd cross, was delivering packages when he spotted Sadie in distress.

Realizing that the dog wasn’t going to survive without immediate help, Arens stripped down to his boxer shorts, dove into the 16-ft-deep icy pond, swam to Sadie and pulled her back to shore.

Wrapped in blankets, they headed to the older gentleman’s home where Arens and Sadie jumped in the shower together to warm up. The local sheriff’s department and animal control arrived soon after to take over care of Sadie.

With the dog in good hands, Arens put his uniform back on and delivered 20 more packages that evening to finish off his route.

Lost treasure

They say that one of the best ways to understand a society is by studying what it leaves behind. If that’s true, then our transit lost-and-found departments paint a perplexing picture of modern civilization.

The New York City Transit’s Lost Property Unit has recovered over 275,000 lost items, the most common being MetroCards, cell phones, wallets and house keys.But there’s plenty of not-so-common things, too, such as prosthetic limbs, trumpets, answering machines, air conditioners, a pet rabbit and thousands of pairs of pants.

London’s metro lost-and-found receives up to 1,200 items each day, and requires a staff of 65 to manage. Its three-floor office houses some seemingly hard-to-lose gems, like a 40-in. TV, a judge’s wig and a life-size gorilla.

On the Toronto metro, roughly 50,000 items find their way to the lost-and-found each year. Among the most bizarre were a sword hidden inside a cobra-headed cane, a suitcase containing $12,000 and the entire front grill of a car.

Spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins told the Toronto Star that she likes to visit the lost-and-found to learn more about the city and the people who inhabit it, even if she sometimes learns a little too much.

For example, she points out, “You know when the sex show is in town.”

About the Author

Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news since 2000. The stories are all true.

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