I am good at finding things. When the remote is missing, my wife can’t find a book she’s been reading or one of my sons is missing his left shoe, they ask me where it is. They often don’t bother looking for things themselves, I’ve heard my eldest say “dad where is the remote” as he walked down the hall to the living room.
The reason I am good at finding things is that I’m even better at misplacing things. I’d like to blame getting older, but I’ve always been this way. When I was 16 I would lose my car keys at least once a day. I am absent minded and always have been. That simply means that my mind tends to be thinking about ‘what’s coming’ while I’m finishing whatever I’m doing.
My wife is not that way. This was made clear to me the other day while we were looking for part of a defective video game we needed to return. As I was looking for it I started opening a drawer on the entertainment center. “Why would it be there,” she demanded. The question left me speechless. She repeated it, not without some irritation.
You see, she’s not absent minded. When she’s done with something she puts it where it is supposed to be and double checks to make sure it’s there. She’s orderly, she knows where each object should be and can tell if it’s even slightly out of place. “Why is the salt shaker on this said of the oven?” she might ask. Oh yeah, I think, we do have a salt shaker, don’t we!
The question “why would it be there” struck me as absurd. One thing you learn when you misplace things often is that you almost never will know why something is where it is until you find it. “Oh yeah, I walked into the boiler room while talking on the phone, that’s why the phone’s in there.” Once you’ve checked the places you think an item should be, all you have left is places in which you have no clue why they might be there.
One time I was finishing up an egg and cheese sandwich when I walked to the refrigerator, sandwich in hand, to refill my water. The phone rang. I put what was left of my sandwich on top of the refrigerator as I walked over to the phone. After a nice 10 minute conversation I went back to the table with my glass of water and saw my plate was empty. Odd, I thought, didn’t I have some sandwich left? Looking around the kitchen there was not a trace of an egg and cheese sandwich so I figured I must have downed the last piece before answering the phone.
Two days later I hear “what the heck is THIS doing on the refrigerator.” My wife is giving me an accusatory look, holding a small bit of an old egg and cheese sandwich.
“What’s that, that’s not mine,” I protested.
“Really,” she said, obviously not believing me. “It was on the top of the fridge, did the boys put it ther?.” This was a few years ago when the oldest was probably about 4 so I did find it unlikely that they would have stored a sandwich there.
“Well, I didn’t…” I started indignantly, irritated about being falsely accused. Suddenly I stopped and sheepishly added, “oh wait, that is mine.”
My wife didn’t congratulate me for acknowledging the obvious. Instead her face said “why would someone put a sandwich up on the fridge and if they did choose to do such a strange thing, why wouldn’t someone remember?!?”
Like I said she’s not absent minded.
Yet on those rare occasions where she’s distracted enough to actually not put something in the right place, I’m usually the one to find it. I’ve had practice finding things. The first rule is “it’s probably under something.” Most people look for things by looking around the room. Many times a sheet of paper or a napkin might cover a set of car keys. The second rule is to check out the ‘usual suspects.’ For instance, I misplace my glasses about twice a week. OK, twice a day. Sigh, to be honest, twice an hour. So I check – by my computer, downstairs at my desk, on the dresser, on the telephone table near the entrance…90% of the time it’ll be at one of those places, often under something.
Another rule — and this is something that orderly people don’t get — is that getting irritated about not finding something only makes it harder to find. I think it’s up there with the law of karma in cosmic importance. When my son angrily stomps around looking for his DSi he fails to notice that it’s on the edge of the table he’s standing beside. Not that my son is orderly — he has my absent mindedness along with the temperament about misplacing things as an orderly person. But he’ll learn — we absent minded people do, in time.
In the end this means that if something is missing, I’m usually the one to find it, and I’ll often be working downstairs and hear “dad, where’s my DSi Pokemon game” screamed out. I run up and find it. That’s my role in the family. I’ll mutter the fatherly, “you really need to learn to look for and find things yourself,” but I like feeling useful.
Yet sometimes even as a finder I fail. Last August I finally went in and had spare car keys made — two sets. I had lost my spare and had gone three months with just one set of keys. That’s dangerous for an absent minded misplacer of things. It cost $100 to get the new set ($25 for a third), and it didn’t even have the buttons to unlock the doors or open the trunk. That’s a scandal in and of itself; when I was first driving I could go to Ace Hardware and have a new key made for 75 cents!
So I now had three sets of keys, one with the buttons and two new ones without. I decided to use a key without the buttons as my main key, just in case. Now I cannot find the FOB – the key with the buttons. I only have my two spares. That means I’ve now lost two FOBs and I have no idea where they are. Moreover, it seems I lost the second shortly after I had the new spares made, a weird coincidence. I believe with slight confidence that somewhere in this house two of those key FOBs are hiding from me. I believe with a tad more confidence that they are somewhere in this universe.
I could ask my family to help me find them, but I suspect the response would be “where did you put them” or “why aren’t they where they’re supposed to be?” Meanwhile, I’d best get a couple extras made, just in case.