Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Losing it


By JOELLEN COLLINS

OK. I know I am aging, but what just happened to me is something I have always experienced. When I was a toddler, my mother used to call me "the absent-minded professor" or would tell me that if my head wasn't attached, I would lose it. I have been a noted dingbat for more years than I would like to remember. One of the positive things about writing this column is the occasional expression from someone who says, "I've experienced the same thing." I have told people about this recent lapse and been reminded by others that they, too, have been as batty.

So here's what happened. Last week I went to the Magic Lantern Cinema, one of my favorite haunts in Ketchum, and dropped my wallet (and the salt shaker in my purse) on the floor under (way under) my seat. I didn't think about it until I got home and checked my purse for the extra set of keys I carry with me (guess why). Because it was late at night, I waited until about midnight to start obsessing about it.

As you may expect, I kept telling myself that there was nothing I could do until mid-afternoon the next day. I still was sleepless, and, in spite of anticipated futility, left a message on the Magic Lantern phone machine. Later in the day, I received call from Steve Bynum, my friend and manager at the cinema. He asked me to hold, went into the theater and found it, cash and credit cards intact. Later, after thanking Steve (I think I told him I loved him), I thought about why I live in a small town: I probably shouldn't have lost sleep over this incident here, where everything I have misplaced has been returned.

Actually, I have been very lucky wherever I have lived. My daughters well remember the time we were headed north to San Francisco from Santa Monica to spend the holidays with my best friend. After a brief pause at a place that advertised "Eat" before we headed up California's Highway 5, I put the girls' snacks in the car, got in, and drove off with my wallet on top. Probably because I had a luggage rack, the wallet tucked itself into the bars and didn't fall off until I was on the freeway. Thank goodness it was Christmas morning, with no traffic, so I got off the next exit, drove back, and retrieved the wallet and most of its contents scattered about the empty highway.

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Several years later, I was pumping gas in west Los Angeles at the intersection of Westwood Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard, paid for my fuel, and drove off without my wallet (you can imagine where: on the top of my car once again). A few hours later I received a phone call from an unemployed Guatemalan busboy who had found it; I drove back to the locale that night, gave him an unexpected reward and thanked him profusely. When I asked him what had propelled him to return my wallet, he simply said, "My mother taught me to be honest." Kudos!

Being a cockeyed optimist, I was thrilled with his response, but it merely reinforced my conviction that most people are honest, especially in a small town and even in a metropolis like L.A. In contrast, my wallet was stolen in Italy a few years ago, at yet another Christmas time. I can't even plead naiveté since I am a seasoned traveler who has learned all the tricks of the trade, such as wearing a waist belt with valuables, carrying duplicate copies of my passport and travelers' checks, and stashing some cash in a hidden place,

However, I was a besotted fool delighted with the excitement of Florence in December. A group of young girls (probably Gypsies) complimented me on a hat purchase while they lifted my wallet after I paid for the cute red chapeau. I did lose some cash—all the American consul told me the thieves were interested in. Later, thanks to a copy of my passport and credit cards and an "in" with the consul because she saw via computer that I had been a volunteer in the Peace Corps, I was rewarded with a new passport and cash from American Express.

I thought I had learned my lesson. Apparently, it didn't stick with me at the Magic Lantern last week. Thanks be to honest people everywhere who help me out!






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