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Falling Between the Cracks

scatterbrain-book-coverI think I’m officially losing it. In this case, “it” refers to pretty much anything of importance I lay hands on. My mother called it carelessness. It’s not a recent affliction with me, but it may be getting worse. It’s definitely getting more frustrating. After my most recent episode I realized I need to take action.

I come from a long line of losers. My forebears by marriage lost waterfront property on the coast of Maine by neglecting to pay the back taxes. My loved ones have misplaced everything from wallets to watches, cell phones to shoes, coats to cameras (remember those?). I managed to lose one of my few valuable pieces of jewelry, a single sapphire earring, at my daughter’s wedding in England last year. I beat myself up over that one for days.

Not long ago I got a call from a recycling company in Ohio. Had I left a laptop on an Amtrak train to DC? No, but the daughter to whom I’d lent it had, I discovered. I couldn’t even be mad at her because it’s exactly the sort of thing I’d do. My new friend in Ohio reset the computer’s password and mailed it back to her in Brooklyn, gratis.

A couple months ago I misplaced my keys. I lent them to one of my kids who borrowed my car and promptly returned them. Moments later I sped off to the Cape for the weekend in my trusty, keyless-entry Prius. When I pulled into the Harwich Stop & Shop and tried to lock the car containing my priceless (to me) pup, the key fob had disappeared. I checked pockets, purse, on the seat, under the seat, around the seat. Nothing. But since I was able to restart the car by simply pushing the ignition button I wasn’t too worried. The key, with its proximity sensor, had to be nearby. When I got to the house I turned off the engine, then immediately tried powering it back up. Upon hearing it purr to life I unpacked the Prius and figured I’d look for the key in the light of day.

Big mistake. The next morning my no-longer-trusty vehicle refused to start. But the key had been in the car last night! So I did the only logical thing—I repacked the entire car and tried again. Still nothing. Had I lost my mind in addition to my keys?

The neighbors got involved. Flashlights were produced and magnets deployed to search the ground cover by the driveway. Apparently starved for a challenge, they volunteered to turn my house upside down, which was far more alarming than the actual loss of the key. I ended up borrowing my neighbor Jen’s car and drove back to Norwood to retrieve the spare key which was, miraculously, exactly where it belonged. I returned to the Cape, refilled the tank, picked up a gift card for Jen, and frantically attempted to tidy the house in case my well-meaning neighbors pulled a fast one. Being a loser can be physically and emotionally exhausting.

With all the advances in technology, I wonder why they can’t design an app to find your…. fill in the blank. Like a universal Lo-Jack. The Find My Phone app has been a godsend, but why stop there? Someday such a thing will no doubt exist, but probably not in time to save me from myself.

For the next week, my spare key and I were inseparable. Pulling up to my house one day I heard a faint thunk from below. Again, I retrieved the flashlight to go exploring. And there it was, lying oh so innocently directly beneath the driver’s seat, taunting me with its presence. Dueling emotions flooded in: relief at finally having found the blasted thing and embarrassment at having to admit where. It must have slipped between the car seats and decided to come out of hiding only after I’d suspended the search. Why my Prius didn’t register the proximity sensor remains one of the Great Mysteries of Life.

I enjoyed a few blissful weeks free of separation (from my stuff) anxiety until the monster struck again. This time, the missing item is gone for good. On the plane to Mexico last week to attend a time-share presentation in exchange for some dubious perks, I whipped off an entire draft of this column on the stresses of preparing for a trip. With the deadline a mere day after our return, I had to get cracking.

So when the fourth consecutive day dawned cloudy and cool, I broke down and stuffed pen and pad into the beach bag to begin the editing process. Putting down the engrossing memoir, The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood, by New York Times White House Correspondent Helene Cooper, I reluctantly reached inside my satchel. You can perhaps guess where this is going. My legal pad, alas, was por ningun lado–nowhere to be seen. In a word, desaparecida.

Frantic calls to Lost and Found, Housekeeping, and a visit to the front desk to personally scan the list of found items (lots of shoes, shawls, a stray Nintendo) proved unsuccessful. Seriously, who would want to abscond with a stranger’s chicken scratch? I wondered aloud. “No one,” my husband assured me. “I’m sure it got tossed.” It must have fallen between the chairs and been discarded during the nightly beach sweep.

There was obscure comfort in the knowledge that no matter how diligently I searched, my legal pad would never reappear. I pictured the crumpled yellow pages moldering away in a remote Mexican landfill, and moved on.

Determined that this latest loss would not be in vain, I vowed to mend my miserable, misplacing ways, or at least try. I could either pray to St. Anthony, the saint of lost things, or seek help from the library. During the COVID-19 quarantine I plan on perusing Organized Enough: the Anti-Perfectionist’s Guide to Getting and Staying Organized, by Amanda Sullivan. And if I don’t misplace that, I might make a stab at Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment—and Your Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I’m particularly intrigued by Henning Beck’s recent Scatterbrain: How the Mind’s Mistakes Make Humans Creative, Innovative, and Successful.

That last one might be a stretch, but what have I got to lose?

April Cushing is the Head of the Adult and Information Services Department at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Look for her article in the March 19, 2020 issue of the Transcript and Bulletin.


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