Friday, 6 February 2015

Missive from the Great Western Underworld

I Look Like This
I am a small laptop computer in a pouch decorated with a reproduction of the Rosetta Stone 

On Wednesday January 21st my owner, a middle-aged woman academic, left me in the café on Oxford Railway Station platform 2 at 4.18 pm.  The nice man who makes tea in the café handed me in to Lost Property. A guard wrote up the Oxford Station Lost Property Report Form no. 21411 (this old-fashioned paper document physically exists) and sent me on my way, he believed, to the Great Western Railway Universal Pound at Bristol Temple Meads. But I never made it. I am lost without trace.

Satanic Symbol
My distraught owner, who has stored on me pictures of her pets and children, along with lots of strange images of ancient Greek & Roman actors and six half-finished books, has since spent many hours on the phone to the Acolytes of Hades employed by Great Western Railway. One, who barks like a triple-headed Cerberus, woofs mystifying things like “just popping you on hold.” But the Gods of the GWR Underworld have decided that My Case is Closed. Moreover, they may already have auctioned me off since I “do not exist in the system.” I am an Ontological Anomaly. I Am and I Am Not.

Visiting the Epirote Oracle of the Dead
An article about Lost Property in the Ancient World happens to be on my hard disk. Jewish Law is unequivocal: “If you see your fellow’s ox or sheep going astray, do not ignore them; you must take it back to your fellow. You shall do the same with his donkey; you shall do the same with his garment; and so too shall you do with anything that your fellow loses and you find; you must not remain indifferent.” [Deuteronomy 22.1-3]

Hadrian: demands half my value
In ancient Greece, my owner would have gone to the Oracle of the Dead  near Albania. She would have raised the ghost of one of her dead relatives to harass any felons and find me. It could not have been scarier than the GWR ansaphone. 

Under the Roman Emperor Hadrian, since Oxford station was built on land belonging to him, my value, when I was found, would be split between him and the Professor Woman. I am sure she would think even that was a good deal.

"Return my lost Insignia or Die!"
But I would like to draw my captors’ attention to the most ancient edict on Lost Property, contained in the Code of Hammurabi. According to Babylonian law of the 18th century BC, the individual “who willingly withholds an item lost by its owner is a thief and SHALL BE PUT TO DEATH.” This is not a laughing matter. Please return me immediately. You have not heard the last of me.

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