It happens to all of us some of the time and to some more often than to others – especially as the years pass.  We all “lose” things – until we find them.  That scenario, however, can be most unsettling, even terrifying.  Any item is fair game, but typically we’re plagued by a small number of possessions that we discover are not where we assumed they were.  Misplaced?  Lost?  That is the question.

We enter a restaurant having parked the car in the street several blocks away.  But upon leaving and preparing to head home, the car is not where we remember leaving it.  About to head out we make sure we have our house and car keys, but we don’t.  Or it may be a wallet we assumed we’d left on our desk.  Often it’s a cell phone that’s missing; best not to leave home without it.  Then there’s the contact lens that has fallen out (or is it still in your eye?), or the earring that slipped off.

Once we’ve discovered our “loss” we can expect to pass through several stages.  Initially there’s surprise.  We were sure we knew where the car had been left.  Why isn’t the cellphone where I “knew” I had put it down?  Next come mild anxiety, accompanied by an effort to check out those places where in the past the wallet had been left.  But in short order, after much scrambling about, all possibilities have been exhausted – you’ve drawn a blank.  Up to this point you’ve gone about it somewhat haphazardly, without a plan.  With your confidence fading, it’s time to proceed more systematically, to retrace your steps, reconstruct recent activity.  Did you change jackets earlier?  Maybe the wallet is in one of the pockets.  You made a call from the car.  It’s not unlikely you left your phone there.  Could the keys still be in the door because you rushed to get the phone when you walked in.  Earrings have a way of bouncing erratically upon hitting the floor.  Expand your search area.  Try recalling the stores along the route after you left the car and headed to the restaurant.

None of this works.  You’ve hit the wall – dead end – finito.  It’s time not to panic, but to consider the grim consequences of your loss.  Having to get a new cell phone – what a bummer.  Your keys, sure you could make another set, but would you need to change your locks?  The car was stolen; you’ll have to locate a policeman, file a report.  Besides you loved that car.  It’s late.  How in the world will you get home?  The wallet?  You don’t want to think about what it will take to restore all the items – driver’s license – all those credit cards (and the automatic payments linked to them) – family pictures – health insurance cards, etc., etc.  The money?  That’s the least of it.  You feel so vulnerable, angry, helpless, also incredibly stupid – all at once.  It’s a bad time.  First off, others are waiting; worse, they’ll blame you for the screw-up.  They’re right!

And then the miracle (at least most of the time):  Your wallet had slipped out of your pocket and come to rest under the driver’s seat.  Your wife had mistaken your phone for hers and placed it in her pocketbook.  You blindly stumble upon your car, the search complicated by the fact that you’d left the restaurant from a different door and headed in the wrong direction. Your keys had been hidden under clothes you’d piled up for next day’s excursion to the dry cleaner.

The sense of relief is monumental.  The tension vanishes; the state of emergency is over.  You’ve been given back your life.  You promise; no, you swear it will never happen again.  You will always pay attention and place items where they belong.  That is, until the next time when you’re once again off on a frantic search for something you’ve “lost”.

Leave a Reply