Today I did something dumb. Actually, it was less dumb that is was classic me, scattered and thinking about too many things at one time. My problem is that I forget things everywhere. I lose stuff like a bird molts feathers. I lose stuff like that guy on the stool in the corner of the bar loses on VLTs: frequently and despite his hopes and wishes. Today, I lost my keys.
The detail that makes this story extra fun is that I was picking up a couple of things at Southgate, including a big bottle of my favorite perfume and a beige bra to replace the one that got in a fight with the washing machine. It was a pretty quick shop, really. Then I had a chicken sandwich and a Diet Pepsi in the food court, texted my sweetie, and prepared to leave.
As I walked across the food court and reached into my pocket, I realized that my keys were gone. I assumed that I had left my keyring on the tray and rushed back to the garbage bin to see if they were there. I braced myself for the rubble and mess at the bottom of a food court garbage can. Apparently, the custodians at Southgate Centre are so efficient that during the time it took me to realize I had lost my keys, the garbage had been picked up and the custodian had disappeared. There was nothing in there but a spanking new garbage bag. Seriously, it was an I Dream of Jeanie sort of speed: poof, the garbage was gone.
I spoke to the concierge and she tracked down the man in charge of food court cleaning at the time. He said, “Sorry sweetheart, but as soon as the garbage is picked up we take it to the compactor.” There is something about the word “compactor” that causes heart palpitations.
I really need to put my real life keys on a lanyard around my neck like my work keys, which keeps me (usually) from losing the darn things at every turn, except that every now and then someone opens a door from the other side while I’ve got my keys in the knob, and I have a brush with death by strangulation.
Anyway, back to my situation at the mall. Another custodian, this time a sweet grandmotherly type –young spritely grandma, not frail grandma–asked what was going on. She quickly found the man with the garbage trolley before he went back to the compactor. Then, she snapped on a couple of rubber gloves and started digging through the garbage looking for my key ring.
If my keys didn’t show up, I would be stranded at the mall. Truthfully, I could have hopped the bus home or walked if I was feeling ambitious: it’s not like I bought a new rocking chair to carry home, after all. My house keys were also on the ring, though, so I would have gone home only to sit in the backyard and wait for my sweetie to finish work so he could bring me a key. It was a less than ideal situation. All my money is going to bathroom renovations right now, so it’s not like I could afford to have a fun afternoon shopping at the mall.
While I waited and felt terrible that someone’s grandma was digging through garbage bags because I am lame and forgetful, I started to think about what would happen if I ended up stranded forever at the mall. It was sort of like that Tom Hanks movie, The Terminal, and I envisioned myself washing up with those little lemon scented hand wipes and sleeping on a different sample mattress each night in the Sears Home Furnishings department. Sometimes I rush straight to worrying about the worst case scenario: I’m working to curb that.
After tunneling through four bags of crud twice in search of my keys and reassuring me that she often did this in attempts to find people’s accidentally tossed keys, orthodontic retainers, and cellphones, the food court lady declared that my keys were not in the garbage. She also said that she prefers to look for cellphones because at least they can be called and a ringing phone is much easier to find than a ring of keys.
I did eventually find my keys, which I’d left on the counter at La Senza. Thank goodness. I could have gone back to the stores where I’d shopped first before asking the lovely folks in the food court, but then I would have missed the garbage trolley and the threat of the compactor would have been very real. When retracing steps, which I end up doing way more than the average bear, it’s important to go in reverse chronological order, which I did.
The foodcourt staff at Southgate Centre went far above and beyond to help me find my keys. I was flustered about my keys (and in the back of my mind planning a life subsisting on New York Fries and Purdy’s chocolates) and forgot to get the name of the sweet lady who was so helpful.
Foodcourt lady with the sparkly crystal earrings, thank you for your help. I was amazed by how willingly you tried to help me solve the problem caused by my absentmindedness. There are not too many people in the world who would tunnel through sloppy garbage to help a complete stranger. I wish you good things. Hey, tens of people read this blog, so someone might know who this lady (or her boss) is and pass on my gratitude.
I think I need strings for keys like second graders have for their mittens. Oy.
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