At work and in my family, I am known as Finderman.
Identities, information, missing persons — whatever you need, I’ll find it if you give me enough time and free pizza.
Sadly, this superpower does not cover where I put my keys. Keys are my Kryptonite. And so it was that I accidentally re-organized my dresser last night.
If that doesn’t make sense to you, it didn’t make sense to me, either. Not much does anymore, to tell you the truth. But here’s what happened:
My family made a pilgrimage to Costco to buy stuff, and lots of it. If you’ve been to Costco, you know that nobody goes to Costco to pick up a few things. They shop at Costco to keep the world’s economy from collapsing. Need socks? You’ll leave with a 10-year supply. Olives? Prepare to hoist a jar of olives the size of a Smart car. Aspirin? Your medicine cabinet will be stocked with enough extra-strength Bayer to cure Bavaria’s Oktoberfest hangover.
Costco is to groceries what Gulliver was to Lilliput, but with a 12-gallon tub of bright-orange cheese puffs tucked under one arm.
I drove us to Costco, shopped, drove us home. Parked our van in the garage, used my keys to unlock the back door, grabbed a mover’s dolly and wheeled the olive jar into the kitchen.
So far, so good. Nothing out of the ordinary. Barely memorable.
I reluctantly made dinner — who wants to cook when there’s a restaurant on every corner? — while my wife, Kerry, yelled at our son, Gabe. Gabe recently started driving. Unfortunately, he runs out of gas about once a week and calls us for help. This makes us unhappy and bitter, so we take turns shouting at him until one of us runs out of energy, caves in and agrees to bring him gas.
Kerry left and I stayed to put away the groceries. Our oldest daughter, Rudy, helped me while my youngest daughter, Lindy, ignored us and watched television. Lindy loves television so much that I wouldn’t be surprised if she elopes to Vegas to marry a Samsung, gets pregnant and gives birth to a DVR. Unfortunately, television also makes her lazy, which makes me unhappy and bitter.
I briefly considered yelling at Lindy using a modified version of the lecture Kerry had used on Gabe. But in a rare display of passive-aggressive behavior, I loudly and profusely thanked Rudy for not being lazy like her sister. That incited a somewhat less passive-aggressive shouting match between Rudy and Lindy, followed by a Screamapalooza between Lindy and me.
Nothing out of the ordinary here, either.
Sure, my lazy daughter, my incompetent son and the rigors of Costco gave me a pounding headache and threatened to rob me of the will to live. But this is how it is in my family, so I swallowed a fistful of Costco aspirin and labored on. Just another miserable day in the life of Michael Denisovich.
Kerry came home. A few minutes later, her sister, Kitty, and our niece, Kodie, dropped by to bring us some coffee cake. I politely chatted it up with them for a few minutes, then headed upstairs to change into a pair of sweatpants so that I could descend into the basement to hang upside-down on the inversion machine. We bought the machine at Costco, partly because lifting Costco’s giant jars of olives hurts my back.
My back did hurt, but that isn’t the main reason I went downstairs. Mostly, I just didn’t want to talk to anybody anymore, especially if it was going to lead to conflict. Intense emotional outbursts apparently make great reality television — Lindy can back me up on this — but they’re not all that entertaining in real life. I needed to be alone for a few minutes.
Again, nothing unusual here.
Hardly worth mentioning.
Sometimes I seek solitude because I am – at heart – a troubled, self-centered loner with poor social skills who uses a lot of first-person personal pronouns like I, me, myself and mine. This is a fact my friends and family despise but also grudgingly accept, probably because they’ve heard that troubled loners are often troubled in deeply troubling ways and shouldn’t be pestered by their loved ones without the aid of SWAT teams and attack dogs, which you can probably buy at Costco along with 100-pound sacks of attack-dog food.
Kitty and Kodie left while I stretched my back on the inverter like a bat, sweeping the floor with my hair and wondering if the blood pooling in my head would give me an aneurism. I’m not afraid of death, but I don’t want to die upside-down. I don’t know why, but it just feels wrong to exit life the same way you entered it: hanging from your ankles, gasping for air, face bright red, spit and snot running down your chin.
I didn’t die, of course.
In fact, nothing dramatic happened.
I came upstairs and joined Kerry, Rudy and Lindy for dinner. We ate Costco rotisserie chicken, rice pilaf and fresh green beans, a dinner so ordinary that I’m tempted to say it’s the very definition of bland.
But this is when the story gets interesting.
No, not interesting.
This is the point in the story when something actually happens.
I suddenly remembered that I’d left my cell phone in my car. Cell phones are Kryptonite to me, just like keys. Also, reading glasses, gloves, coats, wallets, knapsacks, pens, notebooks, fingernail clippers, iPods, cameras and my shoes — basically, anything that’s not attached to my body. Once, I even lost my car at the airport.
And so it came to pass that I re-arranged my dresser.
You see, I couldn’t find my keys to open the car. They weren’t tucked away in my jacket or pants, resting on the kitchen counter or hanging in the back door, hiding underneath the couch or in my wife’s purse. Everybody helped me search for them for the next hour, even Lindy. She didn’t get out of her armchair or put the tv remote down, but she turned her head and glanced around the family room.
In fact, Lindy’s willingness to look away from the tv for a few seconds indicates how serious this crisis was. It had reached DEFCON 2, and was about to hit DEFCON 1, the point at which I give up hunting and start angrily accusing people of deliberately hiding things from me.
Thankfully, I had a calming thought before pushing the panic button and launching the warheads: Could it be that I’d dropped my keys in the dresser when I changed into my sweatpants?
I ran upstairs and flung the dresser doors open. A shirt fell out on my feet. And that’s when I had a second calming thought: This thing’s such a mess, I’ll never find my keys unless I clean it up.
An hour later, I returned downstairs with an armload of shirts and pants — most of them Costco purchases — that no longer fit me. Upstairs, my dresser was tidy. Neatly stacked, color-coordinated.
I felt triumphant.
“Did you find your keys?” Kerry asked.
“No, of course not,” I said, shrugging.
But I did find them about 2 hours later. They were sitting on a table near the inversion machine, exactly where I put them so they wouldn’t fall out of my pocket while I was hanging upside-down.
I’m sure you understand the profound implications of this story.
My keys were lost. Everybody was looking for them. But I succeeded where they failed.
*cue the heroic music*
I am Finderman. Look for me at Costco.
*zoom out, fade to black*