Racing against the bank of bruise-black clouds on the immediate horizon, I was certain of just two things: that finding my car unlocked and running on the other end of the parking lot was the best I could hope for, and that things only got grimmer from there.
Clutching my canvas bag full of over-priced cleaning supplies, I was regretting my decision to leave my cell phone in the car, in the interest of “traveling light."
I was in the check out line when I realized that I had no idea where my keys were. I’d been at the part of the transaction where you grab the receipt and gather your personal effects—purchased items, wallet, and—typically—keys…only to discover that mine were, simply, gone.
I rooted through my bag of purchased items, and seeing no keys, decided to go with the odds and just head out to the car like nothing was wrong. Chances were, I’d find my vehicle waiting for me, unlocked and running, in the parking lot—just like last time. Failing that, the keys would just be sitting on the driver’s seat of the (again unlocked) car. Just like a bunch of other times.
With the first drops of rain already falling from an ever-darkening sky, I comforted myself with the knowledge that history was on my side, squelching the voice of the self-righteous “Told You So” character who kept nagging me about how stupid it was to leave my phone behind, and the equally annoying, “You Need to be More Responsible” figure, who kept trying to analyze What Went Wrong..
At this point, I was blaming it on the canvas bag—or at least an earlier decision to go back to the car for it. See, I’ve redoubled my efforts in my struggle against the ever-present Plastic Grocery Bag—call it my own personal “surge” in the war against terrifying encounters such as the avalanche of overstuffed bags of bags that rolled from my closet like so many snowballs down an Alpine ridge.
Now before you tell me how fashionable it is to shop with re-usable cloth bags, let me tell you that this is only due to the efforts of early anti-bag pioneers who endured the scorn of store clerks and jeering family members in a Less-Green Era. I have personally been traveling with canvas bags in my car for at least two years, but confess that my efforts had been whittled down to simply reducing and refusing plastic bags, due to a combination of forgetfulness and a certain amount of buckling beneath the contempt of the Unenlightened Public. Now the same stores that used to sneer at my little Save the Earth totes are even offering discounts to shoppers who employ Green Bags emblazoned with their own logo, and will gladly fill even the plain or alternately adorned shopping bag.
At the risk of having to weather a deluge of snide comparisons to the beleaguered Al Gore, allow me to veer slightly off the linear course of this narrative to state for the record that I’ve been on the cutting edge of a lot more than just green shopping. MTV? My Barbies were doing that in my bedroom in the late 70’s. Malibu Barbie and Suntan Tuesday Taylor were the first veejays, ever. I’m not even kidding. And reality TV? During a large segment of the third grade, I was convinced that my life was being beamed to the airways, live (a la Truman), but that’s less about me being a visionary and more about me being a little weird. But I digress.
Of late, I’ve resumed my assault against The Plastic Bag, full-on. “This can’t go on,” I explained to the children, “we’re being inundated.” One of them thought I was referring to some kind of legal action, and got really freaked out. So we’re all about the bring-your-own-bag movement, except for the times we forget to grab one on the way into a store. In an effort to reinforce the BYOB concept, I’ve taken to the extreme measure of returning to the car when I forget--which brings me back to the parking lot.
I was at once saddened and relieved to discover my car in a locked and resting state, which bolstered my feeling that whatever went wrong with my keys happened during my earlier retrieval of the forgotten shopping bag. I must have set them down on the floor, or accidentally tossed them into a console—or who knew—maybe even the glove compartment. I was grasping at straws. After peering forlornly into every window and poking through my bag some more, I figured I may as well go back and, you know, retrace my path through the store. What else was I going to do? Call someone? Nooo…I was traveling light.
I wove in and out of the cleaning aisles, eyes cast downward, knowing there wasn’t any way I could have dropped the impressive collection hardware that is my key chain without knowing it—unless the sound had been muffled by the peals of thunder that were now rocking the store. I interviewed my cashier and a handful of customers before I figured I’d better turn myself in.
I fidgeted with the handle of my bag as I waited at the end of a rather slow customer service line. I didn’t really mind the wait, as I had no idea what I was going to say when I got to the counter. I suspected that it was Phone-A-Friend Time, but I really wasn’t sure who to call. My daughter would be helpful, and amused by the whole affair, but she doesn’t have a driver’s license. OnStar could unlock the car, but that’s pretty much the extent of their services. They don’t send detectives, or even beach combers with metal detectors, angling for extra cash. I asked about that last time. And as far as my husband—he was about the last person to which I wanted to tell this story.
Repositioning the rather heavy bag on my shoulder, I was suddenly poked by a hard object. I reached into the bag and withdrew my keys, immediately making a discreet exit from the line. Hopefully no one would ever know.
“Oh, you found them!” a customer yelled in excited tones. “Where were they?”
Readers, there’s a whole lot that I don’t know. The events recounted in this post are a mere sampling of my deficits. But I am certain that there is really only one thing a girl can do in the aftermath of self-inflicted trauma such as I have described. I pointed my running vehicle in the direction of the nearest coffee establishment and drowned my sorrows in a large cup of iced joe as the sky opened and rain poured down in violent torrents.