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Living in the lost and found

© St. Petersburg Times
published May 28, 2002

I don't know about your house, but at ours, we seem to have a knack for losing things.

It dates back to early in our marriage, when we were renting an apartment and lost the lease. Rent control was still in effect then, at least in Des Moines. But despite that, our landlord informed us that our rent was being raised.

Of course, we wanted to exercise our rights against any increase that was prohibited under the rent control provisions. Having no copy of the lease, we thought we might be in a pickle. But I contacted a college fraternity brother who by then was a young lawyer in Des Moines, and somehow or other he worked his legal magic so we avoided the increase.

I have no idea now how the lease read, and at any rate, at about the same time we were in the process of buying our first house. Nevertheless, I always have given credit to my friend, although I gave him nothing else because he never billed me. I probably figured that was what fraternity brothers were for.

No matter; ever since, when we are on the search for something we have lost, one of us always remarks. "Maybe we'll find the lease." Naturally, we never have, and since that all happened 50 years ago, I think it is very unlikely that it ever will turn up.

If it does, the finder most likely will use another of our "family codes," this one to announce the lost is found: "I get a bumper sticker!" That dates back to the days when we saw so many bumper stickers proclaiming, "I found it!"

We no doubt will have an opportunity to make that proclamation again, for it seems that at any given time these days, one of us is missing something. As a rule, my wife is better at losing than even I, sometimes being on the search for as many as three items at a time.

But up until this week, I was conducting an ongoing hunt for two. That is down to one since I found a missing Cross pen that has had a regular place on my computer for years. And then, after a couple of months of off-and-on searching, I had a sudden inspiration and dug back into the top desk drawer. I thought I had emptied the drawer at one point in my hunt, but apparently not. For there, in the far back of the drawer where I couldn't see it, I could feel that pen, and it once again is in its longtime resting place.

Then there is the matter of the American Stage courtesy card, which entitles members to discounts at four or five restaurants. Several times since this card was mailed to us last year, I have been reminded of it when getting out our tickets for the current production.

But a month or two ago when we decided to take advantage of the card and have a buy one, get one free dinner, the card apparently had taken refuge in an unknown place. We have not used the card this season, and it is not something I ever carry with me, so I feel certain it is hiding somewhere in our little condo. Whether it, like the pen, will turn up unexpectedly remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, all this puts a damper on my "Oh, not again!" attitude when my wife tells me of her latest loss. Her most common hunt is for the one pair of her four or five pairs of eyeglasses that she wants at that particular moment. Or it may be the magnetic prescription sunglasses that attach to one of the regular pairs. Often it is an earring, but sometimes maybe an item as large as a purse.

The latter turned up "missing" a few years ago when we were vacationing in New England. We had been in a pub in Boston, and after we returned to our hotel in Cambridge and she had a nap, she awakened to find her purse "missing."

After returning to the pub (where we had had only one beer) and not finding it there, we went to a pharmacy to obtain some necessary medication she was carrying in her purse. Then we returned to the hotel, where before long she called my name and sheepishly held up her purse. It had been on the window ledge in our room, behind the drapery.

I was sworn to secrecy about this "loss," but I later heard her telling the story, so I have felt free to do the same. It was just another, if more spectacular, loss in our long losing history. Pending another, more vital, loss, I'll now keep an eye open for that missing restaurant card. Whether I find it or not, chances are pretty good that I'll come across some other item one of us has lost, even though we may have given up on finding it. But after all this time, I don't think it will be that lease.

Write to Jay Horning in care of Seniority, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731; or send e-mail to

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