Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers
I’m in big trouble. In two weeks I leave for a month-long trip to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, and I can’t find my big black suitcase.
That suitcase, the biggest one I have, has lived in the secret storage closet since I moved into this house six years ago. I call the closet “secret” because there are hinged bookshelves in front of it, but the trim around the closet door makes it not-so-secret after all, because that trim is visible over the top of the shelves. I really wanted to take that suitcase with me, instead of the carry-on size I usually use for two week trips.
I looked three times. The suitcase isn’t there. I looked in another closet where 99 per cent of the rest of the suitcases, duffels, handbags, etc., are stored. It isn’t there either but the matching suit carrier is. I also looked in the dry storage under the house. I didn’t find the suitcase but I did find the empty plastic bins I was looking for a week ago so I could pack away some clothes I don’t wear right now.
I remember seeing the suitcase in that secret closet last fall during my latest binge to maintain order in this house. It was right there in the far corner, next to the suit carrier.
I couldn’t have given away that suitcase, could I? Was it with the truck load of stuff I donated to the second hand store in Seward? I was being pretty ruthless in my sorting, but why would I do that? I would have been more likely to donate the suit carrier, which I never use, than a perfectly serviceable and like-new suitcase. Apparently I took both of them out and put boxes of cookbooks in their space, because that’s what’s there now. I had to move the cookbooks to make room for all the other books I’ve been buying.
I even went up to the old garage that’s on my property and looked there. I didn’t find it, but I did find the wheeled duffel bag that was my second option—the one I thought was under the house and couldn’t find earlier. In a side pocket of the purple and aqua duffel were receipts from a trip to Hawaii in 2000, and a couple shell leis that the nice lady at Hilo Hattie’s gives you when you walk in the door.
Things seem to want to live in certain places and when I move them, they disappear for weeks. Sometimes forever. Maybe when I’m thinking their name, they abscond to a parallel universe until I’m not thinking about them any more. Then they sneak back into my universe and I trip over them.
This compulsion to put things in order gets me into fixes regularly. I’m still looking for the two bottles of apple and distilled vinegar that I last saw on my kitchen counter three years when I was cleaning out and reorganizing the pantry cabinet. For many years I could blame this stuff on my husband, who had a habit of putting things wherever there was an empty flat surface. He didn’t care about putting apples with apples and oranges with oranges, the way I do. All he cared about was a flat, empty surface on which to put something. Then he’d make me look for it later, and give me “that look” when I found it. You know the one—“if we didn’t have so much stuff I could have found it myself.”
Well, he’s been gone a couple years, so I don’t have him to blame. I can’t blame the parrot, either, the only other living creature in this house. Besides the plants, I mean, and I certainly can’t picture the African violet running off with the big black suitcase.
I don’t win at Spider Solitaire as often as I could and I recognize that my habit of putting things in order is the reason. I could leave the string of red cards on the black card, and open up another move, but no! I have to put things in order first.
The only time this compulsion paid off was when I owned and operated a restaurant. I kept the kitchen organized, put things with like things as much as possible. I even had the jars of spices and seasonings in alphabetical order to eliminate long searches for the cumin or marjoram. My reward for attention to detail came when a very experienced server came to work for me. “This,” she said, “is the most well-organized restaurant I’ve ever worked in.”
You should see my pantry cabinet. All the canned goods are arranged according to type. The beans are on one shelf, soups on another, fruit on another. Everything is neatly stacked and all the labels are facing out. In my loft, all my books are arranged according to genre, then according to author. I have a basket where I drop all the cords for the electronic stuff, though I forgot which cords go to what machine so often that I finally labeled them. I have seven drawers of files, all in order. The theory is that I can find any piece of paper instantly. Unless it’s on my desk. That’s a different story.
With all this attention to order, you think I’d be able to find anything at any given moment. So, how come I can’t find the big black suitcase? And, yes, I already looked under the stacks of papers on my desk where just yesterday I was looking for the propane bill that seems to have disappeared.
April 14, 2008 Gullible