Cathy Hamilton: Missing keys, sanity possibly hiding together |

Cathy Hamilton: Missing keys, sanity possibly hiding together

— I’m searching high and low for my blankety-blank keys.

It is 5:20 p.m., and I have just finished work for the day. I am tired, my brain has been exercised to exhaustion, and I want to go home. I want to walk through my door, jump into some sweats, order dinner and swan dive onto the sofa. I want to numb my mind with reality TV until I nod off under my fleece blanket.

But first I must find my blankety-blank keys.

I empty my purse onto the desk. I’ve rifled through the darn thing three times already, but the volume of junk inside makes looking for a needle in a haystack seem like child’s play.

Plus, the lining of my purse is black, which makes it impossible to find anything without a spelunker’s headlamp. Why can’t handbags have built-in lights like refrigerators and garage door openers? (Note to Kate Spade: Give me a purse that lights up and maybe, just maybe, I’ll give you 400 bucks for that boar skin leather tote. Until then, I’m shopping at Target.)

Out comes the wallet, which has somehow grown to the size of a giant burrito. (Note to self: Find large crate for frequent customer cards.) Next, a compact, hairbrush, cell phone, eye drops, breath mints, sunglasses, three lipsticks, four envelopes, seven books of matches and pens. Dozens and dozens of pens.

Like buckets of water from a leaky boat, I bail them out. Pens from the bank. Pens from the grocery store. Pens from antique shops, convenience marts, gas stations, restaurants. (Note to merchants: I am a pen pilferer. It’s a disease. I’m working on it. Someday, I will make amends and deliver cases of shiny new ballpoints to each and every one of you. In the meantime, please, batten down your pens. Tether them to your counters with chains. Fasten huge fake flowers to them. Or, better yet, tiny anti-theft merchandise tags like the ones on the coats at Kohls. I can’t be trusted. Consider yourself warned.)

It is now 5:35 p.m. Still no keys. Time for Plan B: Ransacking my desk.

The desk is where I usually find most of my errant belongings – coins, earrings, Chapsticks, tea bags, Splenda packets, miscellaneous receipts, parking tickets. If it’s not on the floor of my car, it’s on the top of my desk. But not today. My keys are nowhere to be found.

Plan C is to retrace my steps. I backtrack through the building, replicating my route since I returned from lunch. The restroom, fax machine, colleagues’ cubicles, mail area, break room. No keys. But I do find my coffee mug from Christmas 2003. (Score!)

It is now 5:50 p.m., and I come to the inevitable conclusion. I have locked the keys in my car. I set out to the parking lot to face the music.

Slowly, I approach the vehicle, scanning the ground along the way. I peer in the window, hoping to spot the keys on the floor or the seat. Not there.

I try the handle, never dreaming the door would budge. Because I’m a car locker. I lock my car every time. Every single blankety-blank time. Except for today.

Astonishingly, the door opens. I throw my purse in the back and climb behind the wheel. My keys are in the ignition. I’m saved. Sofa and sweatpants, here I come.

I give the keys a good, hard turn. Then I hear it: SCRREEEEEEEE! The unmistakable sound of a crazy woman starting a car THAT’S ALREADY ON! My car has been running – keys in the ignition, doors unlocked, console full of Putumayo CDs – since I returned from lunch 5 HOURS AGO!!

Suddenly, panic sets in. What if I’m losing my mind? What if this is it? The beginning of the end of my brain?! (Frantic note to self: Pitch the aluminum cookware. Throw out the vodka. Chuck the Diet Coke. Stock up on ginseng and crossword puzzle books.)

Then I stop and decide, for sanity’s sake, to spin this incident from a glass half-full perspective. After all, there was no damage to property, only ego. The fact that my car is not barreling down a back road in Arkansas right now speaks well of the world, of my fellow citizens. And the engine isn’t overheating, which speaks well of Toyota.

Besides, I think as I head for home, you’re only as crazy as people perceive you to be. And no one ever has to know what just happened.

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