Somewhere lives the Patron Saint of Lost Keys, somewhere resides the Karma Imp of Misplaced Things. Somewhere…somewhere lurks the Custodian of Put-That-Someplace-Special-So-I-Can-Find-It-Later. That Triumvirate is a fickle bunch, bestowing gifts of returned items in random fashion. They toy with us, take pleasure in our suffering, revel in our gyrations, our flung drawer contents, our foot-stomping and head-scratching. Occasionally, and on a timetable known only to them, they are kind enough to have those items mysteriously reappear.
This is nothing new, it happens to us all. For instance, from the time he turned sixteen, my little brother, who is now forty-ish-something, has endured the same repeated question from our Dad. You got your keys? Little Brother has lived in Nash-vegas for twenty-plus years, and every time he comes home, it’s the same. Where are your keys? Searches in places, likely and unlikely, ensued. Now, the question usually leads to Little Brother, and me, patting down pockets to make sure we have our car keys. Our Dad’s a smart man (and he gets smarter every year, as far as I can tell). However, when Little Brother visited this summer and Dad asked, Little Brother regressed, the search began, the Triumvirate snickered. A few hours later, the locksmith arrived, jimmied the lock on the family SUV, and reunited Little Brother with his keys.
For me, car keys were only an issue once. I’d been driving for a couple of months. I wheeled into the school parking lot, the ’71 Maverick shining from the latest wash and wax, ZZ Top’s “Heard It On the X” in the eight track, the chorus bouncing the Craig speakers. Oozing cool, I rolled up the windows, checked my flowing tresses in the rear-view, and hopped out, locking the door in the process.
I knew instantly. Dangling from the ignition, the keys mocked me. The Triumvirate mocked me by allowing whatever coolness I thought I had to leap right past the girl-of-the-week-I-was-trying-to-impress and land on my best friend, Newt, and his ’69 Camaro. In those days, a coat hanger did what the locksmith does now, so I retrieved my keys quickly. My reputation cool-factor took a slight hit, but it was high school—someone else was in the barrel by second lunch, my transgressions forgotten.
I’ve not forgotten—or lost—my keys since. I’m constantly touching my pocket, though, reassuring myself. Some might call it another manifestation of my OCD tendencies; I prefer to think of it as my way of silently answering Dad’s question. I lose plenty of other things, though, and more often in the past couple of years, but never my keys.
There are doctor’s forms, acceptance letters, game tokens, job postings, recipes, faded phone numbers of important contacts, and sunglasses, sunglasses, sunglasses. There’s a lucky rabbit’s foot, a penny smashed by a train, an unopened Mickey Mantle baseball trading card, and one of Eric Clapton’s guitar picks that proves I was at the Double Door the night he dropped in after his Charlotte concert. A band flier signed by Sting one night at the Milestone, my original birth certificate, my first driver’s license, and the key to the Masterlock for the trailer hitch on a Dodge truck I sold a couple of years ago, which, yes, I will send to the guy soon as I find it. For starters…all of which I’m waiting patiently for the Triumvirate to return, especially that sealed Mickey Mantle card.
I’ve not lost faith in the Triumvirate though. I received a sign just the other day. Two signs this week, actually.
Several years ago, when I first started here at Gate State University, they gave me a very nice University umbrella, which I promptly misplaced. Sort of. I know what I did with it, know exactly where I put it (isn’t that always the case?). I walked across campus to Faculty Lunch, and since it was drizzling, I carried the umbrella. Trying my best to follow protocol, and at least create some air of refinement and culture (admittedly, I can be a bit rough around the edges, an acquired taste, in some environments…academia being one environment), I shook the umbrella and placed it in the outer coat room, following the lead of my esteemed colleagues. When lunch ended, my grip on refinement slipped and I forgot all about the umbrella. Naturally, when I remembered where I’d left it (yes, it was the next time it rained) and went for it, it was gone.
First of the week, someone left a shiny, new Gate State University umbrella in the study area outside my office. The Karma Imp of Misplaced Things, I first thought. I admired the umbrella, twirled it in my hands a time or two, rested it jauntily on my shoulder. It felt good. I felt vindicated. Then, I felt guilty. In a moment of ethical angst, I doubted the Karma Imp of Misplaced Things. My faith slipped. Perhaps, I murmured, another Karma had brought this umbrella to me, the Big Karma, the one you don’t want to piss off. Perhaps this was not my original umbrella at all, but belonged to someone else. Karma’s sneaky that way, you know. Ultimately, Big Karma won out and I left the umbrella where I found it, but not before acknowledging that the Karma Imp of Misplaced Things fulfilled her obligation.
The other sign? My son, who is a part-time musician and employed full-time in the music/entertainment industry, is getting married in a few weeks. His mother and step-dad are putting together a video loop of pictures from his and his soon-to-be-bride’s childhood. Months ago, my wife and I went through all of our pictures, which immediately became a tear-stained walk down the clichéd memory lane. Selections made, she gathered them and put them away “someplace special so we could find them” when the time came to make the video. Yep. You guessed it, had no idea where they were when the time came. We were heartbroken. Then, this week—oh yeah, it was right there. Neither of us recalls putting it in that particular, out-of-the-way drawer upstairs, but it must’ve seemed logical at the time. Regardless, the Custodian of Put-That-Someplace-Special-So-I-Can-Find-It-Later blessed us. Good thing, too. It would have been a shame to lose all those photos. There’s truth in the cliché—every picture does tell a story:
Until next time, Peace!