The following is a true story about losing your car keys in the one place you shouldn’t lose them. In the future, when we have “Star Trek” transporters, it’ll be tough to find your keys. OK, I came in the house. I put the milk away. Then I went to Berlin for coffee. Oh, man, did I leave them at the Pfeiffenalbrechtstrasse? At least now you know they’re in the house, because the fact that you are there means you got there by car, and, hence, the keys must be somewhere there.

Step One: Confidence. They’ve gotta be close. Check the jacket pockets: No. Drat. Wait — it was warm, you wore the other jacket. Check that one. No. Well, check the pants you wore yesterday. You did wear pants, right? Probably; don’t remember any snickers in the skyway. Fish them out of the laundry basket; no. Consider pawing through the basket in case the keys fell out, but you know that didn’t happen.

Step Two: Concentration. Retrace your steps from the previous day. You brought in the groceries, went to the storage room and rearranged the K-Cup coffee boxes by expiration date, because these small assertions of order help compensate for a world that seems spinning toward madness. You would have set the keys on the shelf. You saunter to the storage room, whistling. But the keys aren’t there.

Think! What next? Groceries. Right. The frozen stuff would have gone in the freezer first, lest the ice cream slump and turn into that miserable icy stuff that’s like eating cold sand. Are the keys by the freezer? No. Consider looking in the freezer for a second, but c’mon. That’s, like, laundry-basket likely. Next step: upstairs. Possibly you groaned with the weight of the bags, because men like to bring in everything at once, feeling like Olympic weightlifters. I can do this! Strong like bool! You would have stopped in the kitchen, tossed the keys on the counter. But they’re not there.

They’re not anywhere.

Step Three: Desperation. You check the laundry basket and the freezer. Twice. You spend 37 minutes looking at every reasonable place in the house. You actually consider the possibility that handling meat at the grocery store lent your keys a bovine bouquet the dog could not resist, and he ate them. Perhaps if you take him to the garage and squeeze him tight, the car alarm will beep.

Step Four: Paranoia. SOMEONE STOLE THE KEYS. Or, perhaps, Daughter or Wife took them by mistake. But have you ever found someone else’s keys in your pocket? It’s like wearing someone else’s underwear; it just doesn’t happen.

You consider that life might be a dream, and you will wake soon and find yourself in 2157 A.D., struggling to explain over the breakfast table what you were searching for. You will realize that the “keys” symbolized your search for the meaning of life, and thus begins a journey that ends in a Winnipeg monastery where bald monks keep alive the teachings of Dr. Phil.

Did you check the drawer? Four times, but check it again.

Step Five: Madness. Perhaps they’re under the bed in the guest room. It’s unlikely, but since you’ve looked everywhere else they could be, it’s time to consider alternatives. So you get down and look, but it’s dark. You get the flashlight out of the closet, the one that has your daughter’s name Sharpied on the side from long-gone days of summer camp.


Brush away a pang of sadness, consider the passing of time, think of your own summer camp. You remember how you went out in the woods with a flashlight and a paper bag, looking for snipe because the big kids said it was a test of your courage. On the way back something moved in the bushes, and you ran back to the cabin, burst in and said, “I didn’t catch a snipe but I saw one on the way back!” Everyone burst into mocking laughter.

It was humiliating, but it taught a good lesson: Big kids really hate it when you put a lot of salt in their bedsheets.

Unfortunately, the flashlight is dead. Open it up, hope the batteries haven’t leaked out their poison tears; nope. Look for two C cells. Check the basement supply closet; find a bag of rubber bands you bought because you never have one when you need them. That was 2004. You try one; it snaps. Try another; it falls apart. Try one more: still good. Well, better sort them out while you’re here.

And if your wife comes home and asks why you are standing in the basement with a hundred broken rubber bands, you would yell, “I lost my keys, that’s why!”

Ahh, this isn’t helping. Get the good flashlight, the one with so many lumens that staring into its beam means you walk into walls for three days. Look under the bed. No keys, but you think: “I should dust under here. In case people come over and want to look under the bed.”

Step Six: Acceptance. You give up. Use the spare key that is in your desk drawer. Except it isn’t. Apparently at some point in your life you said, “I shall place the spare car key in a shot glass from a 2012 cruise-ship vacation.” But you won’t know this for another 10 minutes.

Nine hours later, you suddenly remember: There’s a bag in the storage room by the K-Cup Coffee Reserve. It’s labeled Food Shelf Contributions. You didn’t look there. Granted, you didn’t look 6 feet up the chimney, but let’s check it, anyway. AND THERE ARE THE KEYS.

Step Seven: Readjustment. You think: I’m going to look in the furnace room so no one can say, “Bet they were in the last place you looked” without being able to respond: “Actually, no. Second to the last.”

I still haven’t looked under the guest room bed. I’m saving that for the next time I lose them.