Monday, July 28, 2008

How My Cynicism Took A Hit

There are moments in life that you just wish you could take back. The moment when you were at a party and said, “Sure, I’d love to try heroin,” for example. Or the time you decided it would be cool to play with fire on the living room floor. Or the one where you so unwisely decided to be honest on the subject of pants, specifically, the effect a certain pair had on a loved one’s bum. Seemingly simple moments like these can really rock your world when they take a turn for the worse. Sometimes they can impact your whole life, and they can always be traced back to that one moment when you were an idiot.

“If I could turn back time,” you think to yourself. “If I could find a way… I’d take back those words that hurt you. You’d stay.”

Well, I had one of those moments on Saturday. The day I was scheduled to leave. At this point, all of my major limbs were still present and I did not appear to have sustained brain damage so I basically considered myself off the nasty-vacation-consequences hook.

Obviously, I spoke far, far too soon.

I was in San Francisco, kipping at my business partner’s apartment. His lady friend, aka my sister, was there as well. (We all slept in one bed, like a pile of puppies. We thought this would be fun. It was just as cute and innuendo-laden as you’re imagining. And yes, there was a tickle fight.)

All three of us woke up at an hour in the morning which is undesirable if one was awake until the wee hours of the same morning. (I got zero sleep last week. Zilch. None.) BP’s roommate and his girlfriend were still sleeping, like normal people. So even though we had all planned to go out together, we elected to leave without them. My plane left at 3:30; we couldn’t risk them sleeping until 2:40. Hungry, we were.

So off we jaunted to a nearby breakfast place. Because it was a Saturday and this was a place that did not feature rats sitting openly on the register counting change, it was jam packed. We put our name down and went for a little stroll in the park nearby. Well, “park” in the sense that it had a few trees and also some sand. That’s basically it. There were also some big cement blocks. Benches for various sized arses? Modern art? No way to tell. We used them to play the lava game.

If you didn’t play this when you were a child, you obviously turned into a vicious killer and I didn’t realize that incarcerated criminals had Internet access, what a use of our tax dollars, good grief, etc, but I’ll explain anyway—it’s a game where you leapfrog across various playground equipment and do not touch the sand, which has magically turned into lava and will boil you up. (If you are getting the idea that the three of us have the collective maturity of a six year old, you are wrong. We have the collective maturity of a four year old.)

Anyway, this was big fun until I realized that it was not easy to jump a four foot gap while heaving a heavy purse (actually it wasn’t advisable for persons of our advanced ages to begin with; we’re lucky we didn’t break our necks!) and I…


…set down my purse.

Okay. So at first glance, this doesn’t seem like that big a deal. People set down purses all the time, and if they have their wits about them to the extent that they pick them up again at some point, everything is fine. I did not. We set off to breakfast, I was conspicuously missing a purse, and I was nary the wiser until about twenty minutes later, halfway through a plate of delicious French toast.

“Oh no,” I said, dropping my fork as I realized my grave error (only, I might add, because I was looking for a pen). “Oh no. Ohhhhh nooooo.”

“What’s the matter?”

“I left my purse at the park,” I murmured, face in hands as I had a painful flashback to the moment at which I gently set the poor purse on the ground, defenseless against attack.

“Gotta run,” I said, and I did. I ran back to the park as fast as my busted knee would allow. It hadn’t been that long. I held out hope that no bum had noticed my purse yet. After all, this is the same purse I’ve left in a couple of locations in New York City, retrieving it a few minutes later with no harm done. I wanted to believe that somehow, this purse had secured itself against my stupidity with some kind of Unscrupulous-Taker Invincibility.

But it was gone.

I didn’t panic. It’s not like I had anything important in that purse. Just my wallet (containing two major credit cards, some cash, all of my identification, some photos, and a few checks), two of my nicest necklaces, my apartment keys (main set and spare), two of my favorite books, my brand new iPod (that I had listened to for all of thirty minutes), an umbrella, a thin airline-issued blanket, my glasses, a few of my business cards, and my flight itinerary.

Oh, did I mention my plane was scheduled to leave in three hours?

Of course, I called to cancel my credit cards immediately. The lady on the other end of the line who had an uncomfortable amount of control over my financial well-being (do you ever pause to think about the fact that these people have the ability to just cancel your major credit cards whenever the whim strikes?) told me kindly that there was no fraudulent activity since the night before, when I had last used the card.

Good sign, for sure. A bum would probably have bought a hot meal, at the very least, right away. I canceled the cards and the checks and hung up. By that time, my sister and BP had rejoined me in the park, and the three of us kicked around the possibilities for a few minutes. We began to postulate about the possibility of a Kind Soul finding my purse, and what this Kind Soul would have done. Go to the police? Try to contact me? To the best of my knowledge, my cell phone number was not written on anything in my purse. At most, a Kind Soul could call my work line (which is listed on my business card) and I would be able to sort this out on Monday.

“I guess I better go file a police report,” I said. BP offered to drive me to the police station. I called my mother on the way, and she came to my aid as quickly as you would expect a mother who’s watched her kid get into all kinds of dumbass situations over the years to do. Because I no longer possessed photo ID, we weren’t sure I’d be able to get on the plane. So in addition to bringing me about $200 to tide me over until my new cards arrived, she also brought my birth certificate.

What would we do without mommies?

I called the airline and spoke to a woman who sounded delightfully unfazed by my plight. She told that if I came with a copy of the police report and was prepared to be strip searched, I could board the plane. So I filled out the police report and told my mom to meet us at the airport. We briefly returned to BP’s apartment to grab the rest of my stuff (which I stapled to my forearms in an effort to not lose anything else) and then set out for the airport.

Except for taking about an hour longer than normal, the security process wasn’t so bad. This is probably because I was doing my utmost to look cute, innocent, and safe (my guns were in plain view the entire time, and I think that helped everyone felt secure). Apparently lack of photo ID for a variety of reasons happens a lot, so they have ways to get you on the plane regardless.

My mother waited while this was happening in the event that something went wrong and we had to go home and figure out how long it would take for me to return to New York via camel. She wasn’t allowed in with me, but the guards were very nice and talked to her while I was walking through an obstacle course of security. On occasion, I caught her eye and she smiled encouragingly. If she was busy regaling the guards with tales of my past idiocy, she didn’t let on. Thanks, Mom!

I managed to arrive at the gate about an hour before my flight left, in total defiance of the laws of physics, so I set myself the task of figuring out where I would stay that night. My keys had been in the purse, and I thought—crazy I know—that my superintendent might not take kindly to me buzzing him in the middle of the night to let me in with no prior warning. So I called him and explained the situation via voicemail so he would not be without said warning. I didn’t think it would be a problem—an inconvenience, sure, but who’s going to let a 22 year old girl wander the streets of New York alone at night when she’s just returning from a long trip and has a lot of luggage with her? I wouldn’t. Especially if all I had to do to prevent this was wake up long enough to buzz her in and hand her a set of keys.

However, some tiny little wise part of me was screaming “Backup plan! Backup plan!” and since this was the tiny little wise part of me I so foolishly ignored earlier when it told me not to put my purse down, I’d really regret it, I decided to go ahead with this round of advice. I called three of my friends in New York, all of whom are the kind of people that you can call up and say, “Hey, I’m in a jam, can I crash with you tonight?” The first two didn’t answer. On the third, I struck gold. My ex, who lives in Long Island, agreed to help me out if I needed a place to stay. I got on the plane and tried to forget about the entire ordeal. The in-flight movie was Horton Hears A Who.

I turned my phone back on as we taxied to the gate, and found a wonderful surprise on my voicemail. My mother, practically giddy, excitedly proclaimed that my Kind Soul had materialized in the form of not one, but two men who found my purse in the park completely intact and had been trying desperately to find me ever since! I understand that their pooch did the actual finding via the Puppy Nose, so I hereby rescind all the bad things I’ve ever said about dogs.

I still can’t bring myself to joke about this part. It’s one thing to find a purse and turn it into the police, or make a halfhearted dig through it for a cell phone. That’s what a normal Kind Soul would do. But these two? They went way beyond that. Because of the area of town our lava park was in, they were extremely worried when they found my purse with nothing missing. They figured that discovery would be followed by another—my body. With that happy thought in mind, they went through the park looking for any sign of me (given how quickly I realized my purse was missing, we probably missed each other by moments only), and when they didn’t find any, they went through my purse looking for a way to find me.

They spotted my business card right away, and left a message on my work line, which as you recall was the very outer limit of what I would have expected of a Kind Soul. But when that didn’t work, they continued combing the purse and discovered a check I hadn’t yet cashed. They called the check-writer, a friend of mine from an online message board, and asked if she knew how to contact me. Frantic, my friend (who unfortunately had only my email, not my cell phone number) posted a message on the board asking if anyone else had my cell phone number or knew how to reach my family. A massive group effort was mobilizing to find me even as I was on my way back to New York. I did not find any of this out until later.

I can’t joke about this properly because I’m still too touched by the number of people that went so far out of their way to find and help me (in the case of my two purse-finding heroes and a number of my message board friends, they did this for a virtual stranger). My mom, my sister, and my BP did everything they could to assist me—helped me look for the purse, drove me to the police station and then the airport, spotted me money, and most importantly, helped me stay calm and maintain a sense of humor. BP, especially, was keen on reminding me that nothing irreplaceable had been taken. I still had my cell phone, for example.

And I’d be remiss not to mention my ex, who picked me up from my neighborhood at close to two in the morning because my super flat-out refused to let me in after 12:30, a deadline I had no chance of meeting given that my plane touched down at 11:30 and the distance from the airport to my apartment at that time of night takes two hours to travel, minimum. At first, I was a little mad about this. When I called him, I hadn't yet reached my ex (or anyone else). It was late, I was exhausted and, despite the happy ending in California, unbelievably stressed out. I was approaching frantic when I told him that I had nowhere else to go that night if he didn't let me in. His response? "That's really not my problem. I'm not a round the clock super."

Way to have some compassion for a girl in a tough fix, Mr. McLazy.

But it worked out fine regardless. My ex picked me up and brought my back to his house, where we fell into bed in an daze of utter exhaustion. It had been a long, long night. We woke up five hours later so he could take me home and I could grab my keys from Mr. McLazy. (I have to say, though my ex and I have obviously had our differences in the past, he is one of the few people in New York I can count on to be there for me when I need him, and the other night he was the only one.)

I am no longer angry at Mr. McLazy (although I will never forget the fact that he wouldn’t help me, just as I’ll never forget the people who went out of their way to do so). After all, I have karma to rebuild, as I’m sure this little event has completely depleted my supply. Besides, with so many things going my way, I don’t want to get greedy.

I’m very grateful to everyone who was there for me, and particularly to my Kind Souls. I know it was just a purse, but despite that, they searched for me until they found me, a complete stranger. No one can ask for more than that. I am also proud of myself. A year ago, a situation like this would have totally destroyed me (at the very least there would have been a lot of tears and panicking). As it was, I stayed calm, canceled my cards as fast as possible, and was able to gain some immediate perspective (nothing irreplaceable had been taken, it was just stuff, I still had my phone thank God, etc). There's a mantra I employ when these things happen-- "Stress occurs when the mind resists what is." A year ago I would have been crippled by emotion and basically unable to just deal.

Yay for personal growth.

Maybe my purse really IS covered by an Unscrupulous-Taker Invincibility. Maybe it's like the Sorcerer's Stone, and you can only take it if you don't intend to use it.

Or maybe I am just really, really lucky.


Mommy bird said...

Mommy bird say you are not have a guardian angel that is working overtime and needs his own vacation. God loves you and takes care of you...all the just noticed it more this weekend. I also have to thank the heroes of our story who found the purse. I got to meet them and I have to say if everyone was like them, we would have world peace. Bless you Guys and your wonderful dog! I have to say, I too noticed the increase in maturity in dealing with your baby bird was not hysterical or panicked but calm and reasonable. I guess she really is old enough to be out of the nest. Now if she could just figure out how to hold on to her belongings.....

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I believe the official title is "special lady friend".

Of course, this is proof that you should have stayed in California for one more day. You could have gotten your Sorcerer's Stone back, hung out with these two wonderful gentlemen and their dog, and I could have had you for another day!

I love you and I'm glad that someone, somewhere out there is bound and determined to turn you into an optimist.

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