It’s not that I don’t care, or that I want to lose things. I find the experience perennially exhausting, in no small part because of its un-waning inevitability. But I have to accept that I leave my shit in places I do not intend. Spinal Tap tell us there is a fine line between clever and stupid. I prefer the analogy of a cliff-edge, where clever is atop the precipitous decline and stupid is repeatedly diving onto the rocks just to clamber up in shame looking for my wallet.

I have a team around me, press-ganged by fate, hapless victims who keep an eye out for my stuff, dragged unwittingly into the vortex of my functioning social incompetence. Sometimes, they just sit by and laugh. My friend Dorothee in Zurich used to say that leaving things behind in her house was a clear sign I wanted to go back there. This was hard to contest, as I did want that and still do. But I am indiscriminate as to where I forget things. I left my wedding present watch from my wife in the seat-back pocket of an A-380 a few years ago, and by way of demonstrating to my spouse that this in no way reflected a diminishing of my affections for her, when she bought a beautiful replacement watch I left that on a 747 just a short while later. I now own a small collection of children’s watches that I never take off on a plane. Today, I misplaced my hat.

I finish teaching my fun undergrad class in Manhattan and notice I am not in possession of my inexpensive black felt Fedora. I ask the students still milling about in the room, “was I wearing a hat when I came in earlier?” Giggled consensus is that they don’t think I was. Optimistic, I check again under a chair and behind the computer podium and don’t see it. It is probably in the rest room, and not without good reason! Just last week I left my mobile phone in two different bathrooms on the same day – one in New Jersey, the other in New York. In New Jersey I left work, got into my car, then tried to fire up the GPS which was on my phone in the men’s room inside building I’d just departed. Later in the day I taught a graduate research class at NYU and afterwards hastily made my way to the subway. I reached into my pocket to check some emails but encountered no phone. I needlessly checked all my pockets and my bag. Recalling my New Jersey success, I felt confident the phone would be in the men’s room at NYU. I returned to the building through a blizzard to find it was. 43 minutes later, I was again New Jersey-bound, texting my friend to say I would arrive an hour later than planned.

After class today, then, I am pretty sure my hat will be in the water closet. I bound eagerly to the second-floor all-gender bathroom (where the soap dispenser is not broken – #winning). There is a queue and an inconvenient wait, so when it’s her turn I dive between the woman in front of me and the bathroom door, saying I think I left my hat in there earlier. She is aghast, so I scout the room in earnest. No Fedora. Confidence dented, I check with security downstairs, aware as I clumsily conflate janitorial and security roles, they will never tell me that they have my hat. They don’t have it.

Undeterred, I return to the principal business of my afternoon: I probably left another cheap hat in a nearby restaurant last night. It isn’t in the bar I went to afterwards (my friend checked), so there is a fighting chance it’s in Cuba.[1] The server approaches me with a menu. The pained awkwardness of my countenance advertises that I am not here to dine so I tell him I left my hat there last night (there is a 70% chance this is true). I describe the hat, he reaches into a cupboard and extracts it. Amazed and grateful, I do not tip. I wonder briefly whether I should, but I have not the cultural competence to calculate the gratuity on a service that was possibly free. Half anticipating the waiter to give chase, I depart for the subway. I board the train, wearing my hat. Just not the one I brought with me.

[1] The name of eatery – I was not so drunk that I visited a Caribbean socialist republic on the way home.




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