Imagine if you lost a cucumber.

There was a cucumber in the lost property office.
It was found near the ticket barrier at the station.
No one came in to say it was theirs. The cucumber
sat on the shelf. It started to go soft. But still no
one came. Then it started to flatten out and go
mushy. The skin stayed more or less the same.
A bit wrinkly but still like a cucumber skin.

Inside, the cucumber became goo. It was smelling quite
strong. A fruity earthy smell. After a bit more time,
it started going dark grey. And fruit flies flew around it.

Then, about six months after the cucumber was
put in the lost property office, a man came in and
said, ‘Have you got a cucumber?’
The lost property office assistant said, ‘I’ll have
a look in the book.’
He got the book out and it said, ‘Cucumber.’
‘Can I ask you where you think you lost the
cucumber?’ he said.
The man said, ‘No, I’m sorry. I got on the train,
got off the train and went home. When I got home
I looked in my bag and the cucumber was gone.’

‘Can you tell me which station you got on at, and
which station you got off at?’

‘Well, my problem is that I got on and off at quite
a few stations that day,’ said the man, ‘and I can’t
remember them all. You see I deliver stuff for

‘Do you deliver cucumbers?’ said the assistant.

‘No,’ said the man, ‘the cucumber was for me
to eat.’
‘Can you describe the cucumber?’ said the

‘It was green,’ said the man.

‘If I said to you,’ said the assistant, ‘that this
cucumber was found at a ticket barrier, do you
think you could tell me which ticket barrier that
might have been? You see we have to make sure
that people don’t come in here and claim things
that don’t belong to them. You might come in
here and say that you lost a gold watch. I can’t

hand you a gold watch, just because you say

you lost one.’

‘I haven’t lost a gold watch,’ said the man.

‘I didn’t say that you did,’ said the assistant.

‘I lost a cucumber,’ said the man.

‘So you say,’ said the assistant.

‘Can I ask you if anyone has come in here and
handed in a cucumber?’ said the man.

‘I can tell you that someone has indeed come in
here and handed in a cucumber.’

‘That’ll be mine,’ said the man.

‘No,’ said the assistant, ‘what you don’t know is
whether many people have come in here
and handed in cucumbers, in which case we
would have the problem of finding out which of
the many cucumbers belongs to you.’

‘Have many people come in here and handed
in cucumbers?’ said the man.

‘No,’ said the assistant.

‘Well, that one lone cucumber must be mine,’
said the man.

‘Not necessarily,’ said the assistant, ‘someone
else could have lost a cucumber and it’s their
cucumber that was handed in.’

‘Oh, yes,’ said the man, ‘I didn’t think of that.’

‘Well,’ said the assistant, ‘if you can’t think
where you might have left the cucumber, I’m
afraid I can’t give you the cucumber that we’ve
got here in the lost property office.’

‘OK, fair enough,’ said the man, ‘thanks very
much for your help.’