Be­ware the land of the lost

HE­ROES OF THE GREAT HEAP

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - NEWS - Mi­randa Mur­phy is a mother of three and a jour­nal­ist at The Aus­tralian. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @mur­phymi­randa

OUR lo­cal pri­mary school — like ev­ery one in Aus­tralia — is grap­pling with a grow­ing mound of lost prop­erty.

It’s like the pupils there have in­cred­i­bly-early-on­set de­men­tia, the amount of stuff they for­get and leave be­hind.

Un­til re­cently all the lost jumpers, hats, socks, shoes, et cetera would get chucked into a huge wire bas­ket of cloth­ing next to the can­teen.

The over­all vis­ual ef­fect was of about 100 kids hav­ing been va­por­ised in an alien space­ship laser at­tack while in­no­cently lin­ing up for lunch, just piles of their in­de­struc­tible outer gar­ments left be­hind.

In or­der to find some­thing in the Great Heap, you’d have to don the Haz­mat suit and rum­mage through its un­speak­able hor­rors, in­clud­ing mouldy sneak­ers and The Lunch­boxes That Time For­got.

If you were “lucky” you’d resur­face, tri­umphant but trau­ma­tised, hav­ing squir­relled out your once-miss­ing item, which would then need to be im­me­di­ately de­stroyed to stop the spread of plague.

A heroic unit of bat­tleweary par­ents tried to keep the Great Heap at bay, giv­ing self­lessly of their time and health, un­til re­in­force­ments ar­rived a few months ago with a new­fan­gled sys­tem that’s so or­derly it puts air traf­fic con­trol to shame.

Now, these par­ents must be the sort of peo­ple who di­vide their Smar­ties into colour-coded groups, be­cause they spend hours sift­ing and sort­ing and cat­e­goris­ing all the lost items beau­ti­fully by type and size.

They then hang up the uni­forms from small­est to largest on a new Lost Prop­erty porch and put all the other flot­sam and jet­sam into des­ig­nated crates, ready for us to safely fos­sick through and re­trieve lost nuggets.

It’s glo­ri­ous, and it’s work­ing, and the chronic un­la­bellers (dec­la­ra­tion: me) do not de­serve their ef­forts.

But they haven’t stopped there. These wild op­ti­mists want to re­duce the re­cidi­vism rate by get­ting the stu­dents to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their own stuff.

They’ve dis­trib­uted signs and bag tags across the school with a natty mnemonic* to help the kids re­mem­ber not to for­get.

It’s L.O.S.T. — stand­ing for Lost it, Own it, Search for it, Tag it. This is a huge im­prove­ment on the one we have at home: Lost it, Own up to it, Search for your sis­ter’s, Take it.

It re­mains to be seen if the latest am­bi­tious plan of these hard­work­ing par­ents suc­ceeds — but we are grate­ful and if I could find my hat, I would tip it to them.

* Note to self: Achieve YouTube star­dom by film­ing a tod­dler say­ing “mnemonic” with a mouth­ful of dry Weet-Bix.

** Fur­ther note to self: Do this out­side.

There’s a school jumper in here some­where ... but you’ll be tak­ing your life in your hands try­ing to find it.

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