Over the last few years, I’ve developed a bad habit of misplacing essential possessions. Most times, I don’t discover their absence until I’m about to leave the house, and then only when I’m already five minutes late for whatever appointment I’m supposed to be at that day.
Maybe it’s increasing absent-mindedness.
Maybe it’s encroaching senility.
Maybe it’s just simple stupidity.
All I know is my stuff has gone missing.
In our house, we keep all of our most valuable items in one central spot for safe-keeping.
One spot to safeguard those things that we hold near and dear.
One spot to rule them all, one spot to find them, one spot to bring them all and in the kitchen bind them.
And we call that spot the junk counter.
In our house the junk counter is a 22-by-25-inch countertop next to the stove. And while it’s an essential part of the kitchen, it’s never used for cooking. Nothing mundane as food or plates or utensils ever graces its surface. No, it’s real estate value far out-weighs any mere culinary concerns.
It’s here, in this hallowed place, that we dump all our folding money, credit cards, spare change, car keys, house keys, cell phones, USB chargers, wallets and identification – virtually all of our most important pocket items … as well as junk mail, bills, flyers, magazines, items that need to be brought upstairs, items that need to be brought down the basement, items that need to be brought somewhere else though exactly where we haven’t quite figured out yet.
Think of it as a temporary transfer station, a place to store things in the short-term, although that short-term sometimes stretches out for years.
And it’s here I keep the one and only electronic key to my car, the one that unlocks the doors, opens the trunk and shuts off the alarm every time I accidentally set it off.
Except it’s not here. Or in my coat pocket. Or on the dresser by the front door. Or in any of the half dozen other places where I usually misplace it when I fail to put it on the junk counter.
My key has gone missing.
Usually it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except the only spare I have is a valet key – an old-fashioned kind of key without the fob to lock and unlock the doors, open the trunk or shut off the alarm. It works OK in the ignition, though I’m not 100 percent confident that it reliably will unlock the doors or trunk.
I could get a new electronic key made, except when I call the locksmith he tells me they can’t cut a key for a 19-year-old Mercedes, and I should call the dealership. So I call the nearest dealership, which evidently is over in Orland Park. Sure, we can cut a new key for you, they say, and it’ll only cost $271. Which is almost as much as I paid for the car in the first place.
I decide to continue my search.
My initial reaction when facing any such dilemma is not dissimilar from the five-stage grief model developed by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Except, like any typical husband, I tend to filter all my grief stages through my wife. As in: “Sara, have you seen my car key?” And “Sara, where did you put my car key?” And “Sara, can you help me find my car key?” And, finally, “What are we going to do, Sara? I can’t find my car key.”
No matter what stage I’m in, her counsel is always the same: “Where were you the last time you saw them?”
Well, I remember parking the car in the garage. And I remember holding the key in my hand. And then I remember walking out to the mailbox to check the mail. And then I remember putting the mail on the junk counter. After that, everything goes black.
In the end, I narrow my investigation to five possible options:
• I dropped it somewhere in the car.
• I dropped it somewhere in the garage.
• I dropped it somewhere in the house.
• I dropped it in the garbage when I was removing the junk mail from the junk counter.
• I dropped it somewhere outside. Perhaps by the mailbox.
Logically, it’s got to be in one of those five places. Except it’s not in the car. And it’s not in the garage. And it’s not in the house. And it’s not in the garbage.
Which leaves one place, and one place only.
Unfortunately it snowed about 12 inches before I realized the key went missing, 12 inches I shoveled off onto the lawn in big heaping piles. Piles that probably won’t fully melt until next week. Or perhaps the week after that.
So, for the time being, I figure I’ll stick with the valet key.
And leave the car doors unlocked.
And wait for the spring thaw.