At a loss

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Things I have lost this year:

  • My wallet (contents included my license, two credit cards and my social security card—not a good combination to lose—as well as seventy dollars in cash.)
  • My new cell phone
  • My glasses (found them later that day, but it was an awful ten hours; have you ever tried to look for your glasses when you couldn’t see at all, because you weren’t wearing your glasses?)
  • My car key

Earlier today I was at the state library association convention. Nebudchadezzer, Persepolis, and I presented a readers’ advisory/collection development program on current trends in reading. were my co-presenters; my topics were Nonfiction Graphic Novels and Slipstream/New Weird/Literary Fantastic. The conference this year was located in a rustic little town deep in the mountains, which had the anticipated effect of making me terribly, terribly homesick.

(I have lived in the South my entire life and have yet to feel like a southerner. I don’t even have the accent, despite twenty-six years of immersion. I certainly don’t feel like a Virginian yet. But I strongly identify with Western North Carolina and with mountains. I am meant to live in mountains. This flatland stuff is killing me.)

Like many of my fellow mountain folk, I have blue collar attitudes. Though I have a master’s degree and a salaried, indoor job as an information professional, I will always think and act like a poor white girl. This is why I was uncomfortable at the swanky resort where the library conference was held.

I liked the cushy pillows. I gulped down my pinot noir with gusto. I savored the yummy food. I do like creature comforts. But I recoiled at the price of the rooms (the library paid for them, but still), and I bristled at the fancy atmosphere.

For example—and bear with me, this is leading somewhere—I didn’t like surrendering my key to the valet guy. I wanted to park my own car, thanks very much. It was with great reluctance that I pulled my key from the key ring.

I got my key back, of course. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to drive the four hours back to Wilhelmsplatz.

When I got back to town, I was sorely tempted to stop in and see the cats, but I decided to go straight to the grocery store. I needed to stock up on Diet Coke for the weekend.

So I pulled into the Food Loin parking lot. (Another class complaint: why does this town have a gazillion pricey grocery stores and only two Food Loins?) Then I went inside to purchase my Diet Coke, some lettuce, ravioli, a bag of cat fud, and a beer. Might not sound like much, but it was just right for me: Enough to justify a trip to the grocery store, but not so much that carrying it up to my apartment would be a Herculean effort. One heavy bag, that’s it for me.

(“One heavy bag.” Remember that detail.)

Then I trotted my grocery bag out to my car, pulled my keys from my purse, and…

And there was no car key. House key, mailbox key, library key, weird miscellaneous keys whose purpose mystifies me, but no car key.

(It must have slipped from my key ring somehow. I blame the valet. )

Then, carrying my heavy grocery bag, I walked back into Food Loin. A friendly clerk helped my look around the store. No key. The friendly clerk walked me back to my car, scanning the lot. No key.

This was at night, and it was cold, and the wind was blowing.

I reacted as I always do in these situations: I called Mom and Dad. They live seven and a half hours away, but what else is a girl to do?

“Get married,” Mom suggested. “Then there’d be someone else with a key.”

Thanks, Mom.

A more helpful suggestion came when she read me off the number for the Triple A membership.

I called Triple A. It was onerous:
AAA: Is your car 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel?
Me: I don’t have the faintest clue.
AAA: Just take a guess.
Me: Lady, I don’t even know what those words mean.

(Really, I don’t. It was not a consideration when I purchased my car. My consideration consisted of precisely one question: Which is the cheapest car on the lot?)

They finally said they’d send out someone to pick me up and to make a new key, but that I’d have to wait by the car.

Did I mention it was dark, cold, and windy?

I waited by the car. I froze.

(An attractive gentleman, approximately my age, politely asked if I needed a lift. “No, no,” I said. “Someone from Triple-A will be here soon.”)

He drove off. Triple-A called to tell me it would be an hour.

Please, God, please assure me that I did right in turning away the friendly attractive gentleman. Please tell me he was an axe murderer.

Triple-A further informed me that they couldn’t replace the key, but that they could tow me to the dealership the next day to get a replacement, for the low low price of seventy-five smackeroos.

At this point my phone broke into two pieces. Know that little hinge that lets the phone flip open? It jumped ship.

Struggling to hold the two halves of the phone in one place, I told Triple-A to forget about the lift, that I’d worry about towing the car to get the replacement key tomorrow.

Then I worried about how I’d get home. It’s probably a 40 minute walk from Food Loin to my house, maybe less, but consider this:

  • It was dark
  • It was cold
  • The wind was blowing
  • I was dead tired from the conference and from driving
  • I was wearing conference shoes. (Comfortable shoes were inches away, but locked in the trunk, and I believe I’ve already mentioned the bit about not being able to find the car key)
  • My grocery bag was heavy

In better circumstances I’d have walked it, but a weary young woman stumbling home at night in the cold dark wind does not seem a recipe for success.

At least I was no longer obligated to freeze by my car. I dragged my heavy grocery bag back into Food Loin and, precariously holding the two bits of the phone in the right positions, I called Nebudchaddnezar, who gamely drove all the way across town to give me a lift.

Here at home now, I am realizing that my toiletries, my iPod, my books I’m reading, and my fuzzy pink slippers are still locked in my trunk. And I am going to have to get my car towed tomorrow, and then I’ll have to sit at the dealership while they make my key, and I won’t have anything to read, and it will cost me $75 that I don’t have.

“This stuff always happens to you,” Mom observed.

“I don’t get it,” I said. “Why the karma? I’m basically nice to people.”

“And you’re kind to animals.”

“And I haven’t murdered anybody. What gives?”

I’m stumped. Maybe I should become a vegetarian? Then I’d be really nice to animals.

(I was a vegetarian once, but then my kitchen ceiling caved in, because of the heroin addicts who lived above me, but that’s a different story.)

Oh, one other thing. I have gray hair now. Something went funky when I touched up the blonde the other day. Some of my head is blonde, like I intended, but other parts turned silvery gray. Kind of like the color of my Corolla, sitting all alone and unloved in a grocery store parking lot. But I think it’s a pretty effect, albeit unintended.

Now I am going to go to bed with my teeth unbrushed and my feet unslippered,


6 responses »

  1. Seventy-five dollars for a new key!?? I’d go back to Food Beast (umm, I’d offer you a ride, but I have to go grocery and other shopping with my man) and look for the key again in the light. It has to be there somewhere. It might even be worth a taxi ride there and back. Why do these things keep happening to you?? You are a nice person (despite not being a vegetarian).

  2. the queen of clairmount

    There’s always something positive to consider (I watched "The Secret" last week – gaggggg), butcount your blessings that you weren’t on this side of Jimmy Creek where 3-As doesn’t really exist, cell service is spotty at best, and there’s not a grocery store for 25 miles.And you WERE the one begging for cold weather a few weeks ago!Be careful what you wish for! (Did I really end that sentence with a preposition?)

  3. Ohmygod, I have nightmares that run along the same lines. I hope that you were able to get your keys and wallet back — that you have a happy ending by the end of the day.–Greg "The Undead Rat"

  4. Sad news…sometimes keys just runaway…I’d like to hear the Heroin neighbor story…When we purchased our new family van…it only had 1 key. Go to the dealer in the ‘burg and becasue of the fancy computer things inside the key(I’d really like to see that just to be sure…at one point I did live in Missouri) I paid about $150.00 for the new key. I could have had a cheaper key 40.00, but that key just opens the doors, no engine opportunities.I bet that key has engine-envy.On that note…I hope everything turned out fine the rest of the weekend.

  5. eleemosenary archivist

    One should hope that time&inclination conspire to allow further issues of this column to reach respectful and appreciative readers lookin at life through similarly oft-lost eyeglasses. best regards to a witty Bibliophile. There may well be a cosmic order.

  6. eleemosenary archivist

    Let us hope time & inclination conspire to allow further issues of this witty & well-written column to reach appreciative, respectful readers worldwide.{not to be too schmeichelhaft}.best Solstice regards to those gazing through similarly oft-lost eyeglasses why is this posted twice?Maybe cosmic order is like an i-pod without a charger.over


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