“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”– George Santayana, philosopher, essayist poet and novelist.
I wasn’t in a rush, not daydreaming particularly, no pressing or urgent problem taken control of my brain. Of course it was a cerebral lapse, I don’t deny that, but with a heavy assist from an attire problem, and as I explained and re-explained and re-re-explained to my wife at the end of the day, that needs to be taken into account. You see, I was wearing a pair of nylon sweat pants whose pockets had had gaping holes for bottoms for four of the five years I’d had them and a CBA sweatshirt…without pockets.
As Saturday afternoons go, I had a fairly short list of errands to do: 1) I would have two tacos at La Ensenada; 2) I would stop in at the Sears Catalogue Store and buy a new 3 gallon, 1 horsepower, 120 PSI air compressor; 3) I would stop at the Shell station and fill up the old F-150; and 4) I would loop back toward home and buy fresh ingredients for the lovely little pizzas I planned to make for Saturday night dinner.La Ensenada was simple enough. I’d had two al pastor tacos and a medium diet Pepsi there enough times to know exactly what it would cost—three dollars and eighty cents. I walked into the little storefront with a fiver wadded in my hand and smacked it down on the counter even before I made my order. ‘Keep the change,’ I said congenially.
The next stop was Sears and again I used the one-hand strategy, this time my Visa credit card clutched in my hand. And, having learned from so many, many times before, I asked the sales clerk to ‘please don’t let me forget this’ as I handed her the card…before I even told her what I was there to buy. As I carried my new air compressor out to the truck, (I was buying a new one to replace the old one that had been terminally damaged when it fell off a work bench in my shop onto the concrete floor, a victim of having ever-so-gradually shimmied off the bench over the three-week period I’d inadvertently left the machine’s on-switch on thus causing it to turn on when, after a few hours, the air in the tank would, due to a tiny leak in the hose, get low enough to activate the one horse), I was feeling pretty proud of myself on two scores: uncharacteristically I’d done a week’s worth of web exploration and phoning around to find the absolutely best price–$110—AND, I’d walked out of the catalogue store with my Visa card still in hand.
Next it was on to the Shell station for a fill-up. This time I got out of the truck with my entire wallet, stepped to the left rear of the Ford, fished out the Visa card and carefully place the wallet on the ledge of the bed, having, of course, no pockets in which to stow it.
Finally, I drove the couple of miles to Safeway for the pizza fixings. I remember thinking as I pulled into the scaled-down mountain-version of the shopping mall that my four-stop Saturday errand run was, dare I say it, going off without a hitch. Unless, I realized the instant I parked and fumbled for my wallet, that you could call losing five or six major credit cards, my Blue Shield card, a $45 Orchard Supply gift card given to me for Christmas…two years ago…by my neighbor, another gift card, Bose, for substantially more from my staff when I retired, my California Drivers License, my Triple A card, and $122 in cash and a business card from a masseuse on the back of which were written the chord changes to Old Dangerfield, a hitch.
I drove, as slowly as Saturday afternoon traffic would allow, the two miles between the Shell Station and the Safeway three times before finally accepting the inevitable and making the long, tortuous drive back to Whiskey Creek. In the fourteen or fifteen minutes it took to make the drive, I test drove several strategies for dealing with what was, without question, my biggest problem: I could be angry, to the point of rage, ranting at the Gods and fate so maniacally Lynn couldn’t get a word in; I could go the manic route, so depressed over the loss of the wallet I seemed almost in a daze, almost out-of-touch, (suicidal?); I could go on the attack—why in four years, for God’s sake, hadn’t at least one of the pockets in the sweat pants been sown shut; or, finally, I could just breeze in all casual like, make a little joke of my forgetfulness, promise to call the credit card companies first thing in the morning and, well, c’est la vie. Rather than making a final decision as I drove up the driveway, I thought I’d just decide on what strategy to take when I walked through the front door and, as it turned out, I ended up with one, two and four, wisely steering away from three, in quick succession and in reverse order. (In truth, option three was never on the table.)
All things considered, (and Lord oh Lord are there many things to be considered after thirty years living with me), Lynn’s reaction to my screw up was calm and even consoling. I fetched her purse, she found her ATM card handed it to me with a ‘hang on to that, now’ and I was off to Safeway for a second time. This round trip I would bring home Saturday night dinner groceries or die trying.
Of course I made another pass over the well beaten trail between the Shell and the Safeway…still no wallet…and then proceeded to buy groceries. I was half way back to Whiskey Creek when my cell phone rang.
“I’ve got it,” was all Lynn said.
“A guy, Clay Stark, up here visiting from Petaluma, was right behind you at the gas station. He said your credit cards were strewn across two lanes of Mono Way. He gathered them up and checked your photo idea and, what do you know, he recognized you from the CBA. ‘Another bluegrasser,’ he said. So the guy does a Yahoo driving directions search on his I-Phone and next thing you know he’s at the front door. A charmed life, Mr. Cornish, you live a charmed life.”
Some may recall a somewhat similar story back in June of 2011 when on that very same F-150 I laid my fiddle down, just for safe keeping, just for a moment, and drove off to Grass Valley with it still sitting on the cab roof. It took four days for the fiddle, my beloved, to wend its way back home, but home it came.
So, charmed, maybe. But I prefer to think of it as a sort of karmic evening of the score. And, yes, there’s the George Santayana warning, which I’ve now, finally, taken to heart and which will be a beacon for my remaining years on this old earth of ours. But there’s just one thing that’s bothering me. I wonder if Santayana believed the old wives’ tale about calamities coming in threes.