CARTA stores a treasure trove of stuff, from dentures to rings, that has been left behind on its buses
Nate Kearse didn’t lose a single game during his high school football career, but he wasn’t so lucky with an ornate ring he received to commemorate the 37-0 run.
The hefty hunk of sports bling slipped from his finger during a recent sojourn on public transportation, leaving the former linebacker without a key keepsake from his glory days in Longmeadow, Mass.
While Kearse continued on his journey, his ring ended up in a little-known repository, tucked away in the bowels of the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority’s maintenance facility in North Charleston.
There, in a drab, gray cabinet in an equally colorless, cinderblock room, the ring found a temporary home amid assorted detritus cast off or left behind by passengers on CARTA’s fleet of buses.
A pile of plastic ID badges. A child’s pink rubber boot festooned with cartoon butterflies. An uncorked bottle of blackberry syrup. An electrician’s voltage meter. An artist’s portfolio filled with rough charcoal sketches of still-life compositions. A dog-eared romance novel.
They were among hundreds of items, from the oddball to the mundane, that make their way each year to this cramped corner of the Leeds Avenue bus shed after becoming separated from their owners.
From routes around the Lowcountry, bus drivers scoop up scores of cellphones and wallets that have tumbled from pockets and backpacks forgotten on seats in the throes of disembarking. During the summer tourist season, lost umbrellas and straw hats become the find du jour.
And the drivers come across plenty of curious treasures as well — dentures, hairpieces and wigs, hearing aids, rubber duckies, crutches and canes. Some finds puzzle even CARTA veterans.
“You need crutches to get on the bus, but you walk off without them?” said Jeremy Poulos, CARTA’s customer service supervisor. “How does that happen?”
Poulos and other staffers do their best to reunite people with their lost stuff. There’s one elderly gentlemen who misplaces his shoes on a bus nearly every week, and he calls Poulos for help tracking them down. Poulos recently found the man’s umbrella as well, which had been left on a different bus than the shoes after the passenger transferred mid-route.
CARTA Executive Director Christine Wilkinson said such stories are commonplace. She recalled one instance where workers found the grateful owner of a diamond engagement ring that had been lost on a bus.
Another time, workers located a Columbia woman who left behind a video camera. The woman sent them a tea service to thank them, she said.
Not everything finds its way home. CARTA workers tag and log lost items as they come through the door. The stuff that sits unclaimed after 30 days gets donated to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, Operations Manager Alisha Wigfall said.
As for Kearse’s championship ring, he hadn’t noticed it was missing until The Post and Courier tracked him down this week and told him of the find. You can likely forgive him, considering that his team went undefeated every season he was there. “I’ve got three more rings just like that at home,” he said.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.