Sometimes you just have to write…

On losing things

One day, in a strange city, my husband took out his wallet in a telephone booth to find a number he had scrawled on a bit of paper and stuck inside. Or maybe he was looking for small change in his wallet. I don’t know. What I do know is that he put his wallet down on the little shelf next to the pay phone and when he was done with his call, he walked away … without his wallet.

He got it back. I don’t remember whether he went back for it when he realized he’d left it, or whether someone found it and turned it in, but he got it back.

The reason my memory is so fuzzy is that this happens to him all the time: he leaves his wallet, his camera, his phone, and he always gets it back.

This has happened so often that he’s gotten very relaxed about losing things. He’s built up this absolute confidence that whatever he’s lost will always reappear.

A few years ago we took a trip to China with my daughter and foster daughter. We took the train to the airport, then checked in and went through the passport check. Once we were in the departures hall, we had more than two hours to wait (at Schiphol you’re expected to check in three hours before inter-continental flights). So we headed up the escalator to the food court for a bite to eat.

Halfway up, Albert reached for his wallet in his back pocket and realized it wasn’t there anymore. Panic. Not just me: Albert too. (And given my fear of flying, I didn’t need any extra stress on top of the prospect of a long flight.) We were on our way to China for a month, after all. We needed his bank cards, credit cards and so on.

Me: Do you still have your passport?

Albert: Yes.

Me: You’ll have to call all the companies and cancel the cards. You’ll have to report it to the police. Can I access your bank account with my card if your card gets cancelled? Do you have enough money in that account? Or is it in another account? Can we still afford this trip?

I peppered him with questions.You see, I had arranged this trip (I usually do the planning). I had paid much of the cost so far: the flights, the hotels, the internal transfers were all arranged. Albert had pitched in, but the deal was that on the trip itself, he would pay for all out-of-pocket costs: meals, shopping, admission fees, etc.

Albert took off, back out of the departures hall, and found the airport police to report the missing wallet. They helped him call the train company to ask if it had been turned in – it hadn’t – and he made the phone calls to cancel the cards.

Meanwhile, I sat in the food court with the girls, worrying. Could I afford to finance the rest of this trip? I calculated that, if we didn’t do any shopping and only paid for our food, we could possibly keep it under €80 a day, if we assumed not more than €10 per person per meal (breakfasts were included with the hotels). Of course, I had no idea what food cost in China, so I took what I hoped was a high estimate. So that would be more than €2000 just for food, and that was not including whatever costs ran up, like admissions to sights.

I didn’t have that much money. I’d pretty much cleaned out my account planning the trip. I knew I’d get paid in about three weeks away, and I was allowed to overdraw up to a certain amount. My daughter offered the rather meager contents of her bank account too. I decided I wasn’t going to throw this trip away, and we’d go anyway. Panic over.

And we did. Albert got back in time to catch the plane with us. And it turned out that food in China was far cheaper than I’d estimated – usually no more than about €3 per person, including drinks, and sometimes half that – so I didn’t even have to overdraw. We could do some shopping as well. And Albert had brought cash in his money belt. (It was a great trip, by the way. If you want to read my China observations, click here.)

When we got home, Albert checked with the train company. Sure enough, someone had found his wallet and turned it in, with all its contents included. I am constantly amazed at his luck.

But the side effect is that I worry. He doesn’t, but I do. Someday, somewhere, that wallet/camera/phone won’t find its way back to him. So nowadays, instead of just checking that I haven’t forgotten anything, I feel like I have to check him as well. It’s exhausting!

toothbrushesAnd I always forget something. So far – knock on wood, or, as my Aunt Sylvia used to say a lot: kenahora it’s always been something unimportant and replaceable: a toothbrush, often, or a comb, or something like that.

So when I’m packing for a trip, I start early. I start throwing things in a suitcase days ahead, then sort through them the day before leaving. I leave things where I can’t fail to notice them before I leave, for fear I’ll forget them. Albert, on the other hand, packs on the day we leave or, if I nag, the night before. And he never worries that he’s forgotten something.

It’s infuriating. And I can’t decide if it’s a blessing (He’s carefree.) or a curse (He’ll lose something and it’ll turn into a disaster.) What do you think?


Do you forget things? Do you get them back? Leave a comment if you have a story to share!

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This entry was posted on August 2, 2013 by in China, Family, Travel and tagged , , .
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