26 November 2010

more on how i lost my wallet

My sister keeps pestering me for the end of the wallet story. {Read the beginning, if you'd like.} So even though she got the full rendition yesterday at Thanksgiving—and before that, had heard the full story from our mom—I will tell it again, for her reading enjoyment.

Oh, and for your reading enjoyment, because I bet you weren't at Thanksgiving with me.

If you were and if you'd been sitting at the kids' table {the youngest kids are 25}, you would've been regaled with this. Such regaling I did—so much, in fact, that I didn't eat at the same pace as everyone else. I was on the mashed potato course {it has its own course when you love mashed potatoes as much as I do} while everyone else was deciding what kind of pie to have.

There are leftover mashed potatoes beckoning to me now, but I will resist their siren song {my Irish roots are showing in how much I love potatoes} and at my sister's request, finish the wallet story.


It took about three minutes for me to realize that I'd left my wallet in the bathroom at O'Hare. Three minutes, in the scheme of life or even just a day, isn't that long. It's like a commercial break. Or how long it takes to make microwavable popcorn. You think not much can happen in three minutes. It is, however, enough time to order a soy latte and decide what kind of sandwich to get at Starbucks.

It was past 8pm, and I'd just flown in from a business trip to Miami. While my boss waited for his luggage at the baggage claim, I offered to pick us up something from Starbucks.

Looking back on the actions that led to me walking out of the bathroom wallet-less, I can find so many moments that would change the outcome of that Sunday night. So many decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse, as Prufrock famously blathered on about—we all do this when something big, be it good or bad, happens.

We start thinking in sentences like, "If I hadn't gone into that store, something I never do, to buy that thing I didn't need, I never would have tripped over that poorly placed power cord and fallen straight into his arms. And now we're married."

You don't even have to try that hard to start seeing your days in this domino effect way. If you hadn't spent two minutes looking for your gloves, you would've made the train. You wouldn't have been late to work. If you hadn't, then you would've.

I generally stop this line of thinking when I start to feel that life is one big happenstance. It's best not to linger on what could've been and instead focus on where you are.

Which in my case was standing at the end of the Starbucks counter by baggage claim 3 at O'Hare, digging through my computer bag, looking for my wallet.

It goes in the big inside pocket; that is its place. When things are out of place, it doesn't take long for me to panic. On the inside, of course.

On the outside, I kept up an easy chatter to my boss, who'd gotten his luggage and was now waiting for me. "Well, hmmm, that's funny. My wallet is always right here, but maybe I...no, it's not in that section. It'd be crazy if I put it...oh, nope, not in the suitcase."

Commence intense rifling through personal belongings—simultaneous to intense internal re-tracing of my steps.

  • Decided to go to Starbucks.
  • During walk to Starbucks, pulled wallet out of computer bag and then took debit card out of wallet.
  • Put debit card in back pocket when I decided that I should stop at the bathroom first.
    In the bathroom, I put the wallet on top of the toilet paper holder and my computer bag on the ground.
  • And then I walked out of the bathroom with just my computer bag.
I could see it all so clearly, and I laughed as I said to my boss, "Oh gosh! It's in the bathroom! You stay here by my stuff, and I'll be right back."

Because at that moment, I really did believe that I would walk back into the bathroom stall, and there it would be. My green wallet. Just waiting for me. Right where I'd left it.

I thought this because I forgot that I wasn't in Iowa anymore. Nor was I in my suburb that functions like a small town: there, you can leave your computer on the table at Starbucks, right in plain sight, while you get a refill on coffee. No one will take it; you probably have a higher likelihood of someone giving you a tip on how to make your computer work better. Or telling you about a Glee song they just downloaded that keeps their toes tapping all day long.

This is the world I live in, one where wallets are returned and everyone laughs over your moment of silliness.

O'Hare is not in that world.


I'm not doing this on purpose, only telling part of the story at once. I really would prefer to get this all out and done with, as I did at Thanksgiving. It would've been easier if you'd all been in Iowa for Thanksgiving, I have to say.

But right now, I have to go eat leftovers. My mother is calling me, and you do not tarry when your mother calls you. I don't care how old you are—that rule still applies.

{And I'm doing this piecemeal to annoy my sister. I will forever be the pesky little sister, even on the Internet.}

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