Read and comment on my blog.
The other day my daughter came in from walking the dog with a gadget she had found in the street. It looked like a beefed-up tricorder from the original Star Trek. It had a large, greenish yellow LCD screen and lots of buttons with curious inscriptions, and it was evidently designed to take abuse. It’s rubberized case was further protected by a leather jacket. Lettering on the front indicated that it was a Wavetek SDA-5000 Stealth Digital Analyzer.
A quick Internet search turned up the information that the device was a specialized meter used to measure the characteristics of broadband signals on cable, the sort of cable people have going to their cable television or cable Internet. I also found that they sell for $5,000 to $6,000. Whoever lost it would probably want it back.
I turned the thing on, and after a brief initialization, it informed me that it could not find a telemetry signal. Great. Not very useful. I soon got the hang of navigating the menu system and eventually found my way to an info page. There was an Operator field with a name in it.
“Why don’t you look for the name on Facebook?” my wife suggested.
Sure enough, there were two hits. But how could I be sure the name listed was the person who lost the meter? Viewing the profile page was unhelpful. Like most Facebook users, the profile pages show only the name and photo to users who are not friends. There were also photos of a few friends and a link to see all.
I clicked the link.
Nearly all of this person’s friends were in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul network. Several were also in the Comcast network. Ah-ha! This person was a Comcast technician in the Twin Cities who used the meter in the course of his work. I decided I had enough confirmatory evidence to contact him. I sent him a message through Facebook and asked him if he had lost an SDA-5000. I also asked for additional descriptive information to assure myself that he really was the person who lost it. After all, there was no guarantee that the name in the Operator field was really the name of the operator.
Within hours I had a response with an accurate description of how the meter looked. It also included a phone number. Since it was late, I called the next morning and told the owner where he could pick up his meter. He came over later that same morning and picked up his meter, rewarding me with a few bucks for “lunch on him.” I split the reward with my daughter.
Later, another of my children said, “You should have kept that thing and sold it on eBay for $1,000.” I doubt she believed it. We pay lip-service to the ridiculous notion that money is the highest good, as if the simple kindness of returning something lost were somehow foolish. What nonsense! I only acted as I would wish some other person to act if I were the one who had lost something of value. It took me no more than 15 minutes to track down the rightful owner, thanks to Facebook. I did the right thing, and that is worth more to me than any money I might have gained from selling that meter on eBay.