Helen Chappell - April 2007

Where Did I Put That?


Helen Chappell

   Someday, thousands of years from now, every piece of flatware I’ve accidentally tossed in the trash is going to reappear. I’m just glad it’s all stainless, but I sure would like to know how so many forks and spoons end up, in spite of my best efforts, in the Talbot County Sanitary Landfill. This used to be a 108-piece set; if I lose one more dinner fork, I’ll be eating with the oyster prongs.
    In 5,000 years, when that guy who yells at you if you pick around in the trash isn’t there anymore, looters or scavengers or archeologists or somebody are going to turn up those missing dinner forks and tablespoons. They’ve got to have gone into the trash. There’s no other explanation for their mysterious disappearances over the years, unless you count poltergeists, which I do not. Yet.
    My mother was right. I shouldn’t have nice things. This is why my good sterling sits in its chest, unused. I’d probably have to commit seppuku to placate my mother’s and grandmother’s poltergeists if I lost a piece of that.
    Face it. I lose things. As the years go by, I tend to become more and more the absent-minded professor, misplacing a trail of goods from here to Florida. At least I’ll always be able to find my way back, just by picking up the trail of single gloves, newspapers, scarves, single earrings, business cards and pens that have littered my travels.
    I’m lucky if I can find my glasses in the morning. There have been times when I’ve put them down, forgotten where they are, then had to get my other glasses so I could see where the first pair is hiding.
    It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that if you have two socks, one will disappear in the laundry. I’d really like to know where those socks go, and why they part company from their mates when being swirled around by the agitator. Sometimes, they reappear as mysteriously as they disappeared, hidden inside a contour sheet or a pillowcase or a sweater. Sometimes, by climbing on a stepstool and executing a feat of gymnastics involving Yoga and a wire coat hanger,  they can be found in the dusty, linty Gaza Strip behind the washer and dryer, having fallen into that abyss while being stuffed in a machine. Sometimes, they are never seen or heard from again. Not even a postcard from South America, where one leopard-print fleece sock is lying on a tropical beach drinking mai-tais. Once AWOL, they never write, they never call. If you didn’t have the lonely mate, you’d think they had never existed at all.
    The same can often be said for underwear. I once had a washing machine that wouldn’t drain. The repairman found a pair of pink flowered underpants clogging the drain hose. They weren’t mine, and I have no idea how they got there, or who they once belonged to. These things, not quantum physics, are the real mysteries of life.
    Pens do a bunk all the time. Usually, I replace them by borrowing other people’s or businesses’ pens, thus recycling writing instruments in a way that keeps everyone happy. Except I do wonder how I ended up with a pen from the Midnight Bunny Ranch, a legal bordello, in Nevada.
    I haven’t been to Nevada in 30 years, and even if I had, I can’t see The Midnight Bunny Ranch as a business that serves my needs. The only pen I’ve ever been able to hold onto is a gold Mark Cross, presented to me by my fellow employees at Macy’s Herald Square Maternity Department when I left the city years ago. And the only reason I can hang into that is that I keep it in the original box, in a desk drawer.
    Otherwise, like my socks, it would have moved on to greener pastures decades ago.
    My question is, with so many pens, how come I never have one when I’m at the grocery checkout line with eighty people behind me?
    This is one of those questions we’ll understand by and by, but I’m willing to bet there is no answer. It just is.
    What really drives me crazier than I already am is putting something up somewhere, sure I will recall where it is later. Later comes and I have no idea what I did with it. Not as much as an inkling.
    Since I have been losing things this way all my life, you would think I’d know better by now.
    You would think that I’d put that object right out on the counter, where I would see it, and remember to deal with it.
    You would be so wrong.
    Whatever it is, or was, it can be gone forever, or merely misplaced for a few minutes, but that’s still enough time for me to mentally castigate myself for being such an idiot as to do that again.
    The thing about misplaced items like that is that they rarely turn up when you need them. Inevitably, you spend hours searching all the logical nooks and crannies looking for them. In the process, you may find 20 other things you’ve been looking for, but it doesn’t do you any good. You want that item.
    The sure thing is this: that missing item will turn up days from now, when you don’t have the time or the energy to deal with it. Or, horrors, you don’t need it anymore. This has happened to me so much I take it for granted before I even start what I know is going to be a fruitless search.
    Someday, I swear I will get organized. I’ll pin my socks together in the laundry, I’ll put things back where they came from, or store them where they belong. I’ll organize my books for easy reference and I won’t leave my gas card in my coat pocket. I’ll remember exactly why I walked into a room and what for. I’ll open the refrigerator and take out exactly what I needed and remember to put it back.
    And someday, I will be Queen Marie of Romania.