Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Losing it

Just recently I wrote about the fear of losing Sarah's most precious possession. I guess it's the way these things work -- a few days later we were visiting G. in her assisted-living place, Sarah opened her little bag and burst into tears when she found it empty. No collection of hair bands but more importantly, no Peeper. Because it was Family Day, we'd had to park on a busy street a few minutes' walk from the place because their parking lot was full. So while Ben tried to comfort Sarah, I immediately retraced out steps to the car, on the off-chance that she had actually left the stuff there . I hadn't gotten far when I saw a blue hair band lying on the sidewalk. And then a pink elastic. And then another. It was like Hansel following the breadcrumbs. Obviously her bag had come open as she trotted along, and it was only half an hour ago, so Peeper HAD to be here somewhere. I forced myself to walk slowly and swing my gaze from left to right so as not to miss any bit of the sidewalk or gutter, paying special attention to clumps of dead leaves which happened to be exactly the color of Peeper. I looked for benches or other surfaces where someone might have placed a little stuffed tiger they'd found at their feet. But... nothing. Not in the car either, or under the car or any of the nearby cars. I started walking back, hoping that I'd see something from the reverse direction that had been hidden before. I went more and more slowly as I got close to the entrance. And then for no particular reason, I looked up and to my right. I guess some bit of color caught my eye. Bordering the the sidewalk was a black wrought-iron fence made of half-inch-wide spikes joined by a long horizontal piece. And what did I see? Peeper perched jauntily if somewhat precariously on the cross-piece, along with two of his little friends I hadn't known were in the bag with him. I was so relieved I grabbed him and impulsively kissed him right on the face. Then I dashed back to Sarah, who was huddled next to Ben, and happily handed the animals to her. I guess I was expecting an outburst of joy, but she was surprisingly low-key -- relieved but not noticeably happier, more like emotionally drained -- and that's when I really realized how unhappy she had been to lose Peeper even if only temporarily. That was somehow more heart-breaking than her initial grief when she discovered she'd lost him.

Of course, adults lose things too, but they don't get so emotionally involved. Like me, for instance. About a week ago I was about to go upstairs to bed when I realized my credit card was in my pants pocket for some reason, so I went to put it back into my wallet in my backpack, only to find the zipper of the wallet compartment open and no wallet. Very strange, but perhaps I took my credit card out at work the day before and left my wallet on my desk. Checked work the next day -- no wallet. Checked more thoroughly at home in all sorts of odd locations over the next several days, as well as under car seats. No wallet. I had the clever idea of checking my web-browsing cache to see if I had bought something on a web site at work on the afternoon in question, which would make it a lot more likely that the wallet had disappeared at work. No purchases, but it turned out that I had visited a site that sold Butch Hobson bobble-head dolls and considered getting one. Butch is a former Red Sox third baseman and later manager who was eventually demoted to managing a minor-league club and then busted for having a bunch of cocaine mailed to him. More recently he is, or was, manager of the independent Nashua Pride. Anyway, I decided not to get the Butch bobble-head because what I was really after was an El Guapo bobble-belly doll and they weren't available. This made me think I must have gotten out my credit card, decided not to buy, then put the card in my pocket and forgotten to put my wallet back in my knapsack. This would indicate a theft from my desk by the cleaning people or maybe even a passing fellow employee, which seemed highly unlikely, but you never know. So I went ahead and canceled my other cards, applied for a duplicate driver's license, etc.

Fast-forward to yesterday morning, when I got a call from some guy who worked for a company that did property management or maintenance in Cambridge. Somehow he tracked me down to tell me that someone else had found my wallet and brought it to him. I was so flummoxed that I didn't manage to get the full story about exactly where it was found, only that it was somewhere near the Alewife subway stop where Route 2 joins the Alewife Brook Parkway. And suddenly, a flash of clarity. I remembered that the day I lost my wallet, I stopped for gas on the way home. Self-service, of course. So I took my credit card out of my wallet, which I rested on the roof of my car next to the gas pump JUST for a second while I pumped the gas. And then drove through most of Cambridge before the damn thing finally flew off as I accelerated up a hill toward the highway. The guy who returned it put it in a large paper envelope, and as I tore it open, all the various cards and other bits of paper that used to be tucked into the wallet pockets fell out. This is because the wallet was somewhat the worse for wear -- OK, flattened -- from being run over a few times in the roadway. Also rained on, so photos and stamps were all stuck together. Also empty of cash, though I don't think there was much to begin with, but it did make me and Ben wonder about the moral relativism of someone who would be honest enough to turn in a wallet but only after filching the bills and coins while leaving the credit cards. Meanwhile I'd already ordered replacements for most of the contents as well as a new wallet, so it wasn't a jump-for-joy moment when I got the old one back. It was more satisfying from a mystery-solving standpoint and to be reassured that I don't work in a den of thieves. And of course as a source of what I'm sure will be long-lasting amusement for Ben. What a yak I am.

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