… Where’d I Leave That Stinkin’ Basket?
By Jeff Salter
To blog about things I’ve misplaced – or had misplaced FOR me (by someone else) – would take-up the space of the old Encyclopedia Britannica. So, I’ll just focus on a few.
Over these six decades of my life so far, I’ve written quite a bit. Those little rhymes or couplets of my childhood initially may have all fit neatly into one folder, and later into a one-ream box. But as years went on, my poetry began spreading [at least 1000 completed poems, plus as many unfinished ones]. By then, it was boxes-full. And, yeah, I kept the rough drafts too. [Just because when you cull a line from one poem, doesn’t mean you won’t need that gem in a completely different poem!]
When I began writing non-fiction books (two published), I found that my research, notes, and drafts for each monograph could fill a 10-ream ‘copy paper’ box. [I know, some of you are asking why I kept research, notes, and drafts. If you’re rolling your eyes … you wouldn’t understand.]
My point? In writing, I have produced mountains of paper, which (prior to the advent of personal computers) was the only means of preservation. Did I say ‘preservation’? Ah, there’s the rub: sure, those early paper works are ‘preserved’ … but WHERE the heck do they currently reside? I knew where they were when we lived in LA. But we’ve moved twice in the past six years and lots of our stuff went directly to storage. I wasn’t here when 90% of it was unloaded, so I didn’t SEE where things went. Long whine, short: I can’t find most of the paper copy of what I’ve written.
For writing I began AFTER about 1990, I probably have an electronic copy somewhere. But that, too, is fraught with ‘misplacement’. I never imagined, in those early years of automation, that things should be stored in electronic folders, or housed on thumb-drives, or backed up by external drives. In the early days (which actually go back to the early 1980s when I had access to computers at work) I had a single 8 inch floppy disk on which I stored everything I input. But where did that content go? Did I take the time and trouble to transfer it to the 5 inch floppy … or, later, to 3.5 inch diskette? Did I transfer all that stuff to the newer forms of word processing software? [Some of my earliest computerized writing was on the antique IBM 5150 series PC AT (or XT) using a proprietary system called “DisplayWrite” — try finding a conversion from THAT!]
Well, I think I’ve whipped this horse enough. You understand my fretfulness: a goodly portion of my early writings (including nearly all my short stories) are on paper and I don’t know where those pieces are anymore. And, that writing I’ve done with computers has been on some dozen different machines, with possibly that many different software components … and in the early days, I didn’t comprehend the need to back-up my files.
Get the picture? Yeah … I’ve misplaced a LOT of my life’s work [i.e., creative writing].
When I’d completed 2.5 years of active Air Force Reserve, after 3.5 years of active duty Air Force – i.e., my total six-year enlistment ‘obligation’ – I hung-up my cleats, so to speak. I sold a lot of items in garage sales … then stuffed all my remaining uniform components into boxes and put them in dusty storage. I didn’t think to set aside my dogtags … or if I did, I can’t remember WHERE I put them. Later, in the Army National Guard, I presume I got a new set of tags. Can’t recall where THEY went either.
Among the items I treasure from my Dad’s (and my favorite uncle’s) WW2 years are their dogtags. When I came into possession of those, I began looking for my own. Nope. Can’t find them. I’ve looked every place which may have been logical spots (at the time) … and still come up empty. Therefore, I conclude that my tags ended up in some illogical place. Ever search for something that’s almost certainly in an illogical place? Impossible.
You think I’ll ever find them? As hard as I’ve looked, I can’t imagine any place they could be. Yet I KNOW I did not toss them away. And I’m positive that nobody would have knowingly discarded them. Which means they must be inside something, somewhere. And it will likely be my own kids who finally locate them … long after my passing.
And that saddens me, because I’d like to hold them again.
When I was in grad school, I served a semester as president of the student association. As a parting gift, my colleagues took up a small collection and presented me with a gold-filled Cross ballpoint pen. That pen meant a lot to me. I carried it in my shirt pocket practically every day for the next 20+ years. You could hardly find me anywhere – if awake – without that gold pen.
Then came that fateful day as a library conference was ending and I was about to check-out of a motel. A friend and I were discussing my collection of militaria and I pulled out my pen to write a short list of items I still wanted to acquire. I guess I laid the pen on the bed instead of replacing it in my pocket. When I stood, it must have rolled under a fold in the blanket.
I checked out and left for home … some 250 miles away. About half way home, I reached for my pen to make a note of something. Gone. I immediately flashed back to my last use in the motel. In those days, we didn’t have cell phones, so you had to actually GET to a phone before you could make a call. So when I finally got home that evening, I immediately called the motel and asked if anyone had turned in my gold-filled Cross pen. Nope. Would they check the room for me? Yeah, begrudgingly, they’d check with housekeeping. Or so they said. I said I’d call again in the morning. I did. No pen.
I know for certain that pen was left on the bed. Assuming the housekeepers made up the room, they HAD to see my pen. I conclude somebody liked my pen so much that they kept it. It made me sad to lose that pen — a gift and my constant companion of so many years. I later tried to replace it on eBay … but the one I bought was the ‘silver’-color and didn’t look or feel ‘right’. Soon I stopped carrying a pen. My entire pen-universe had been disrupted!
All because I hurriedly wrote down that short list and placed my pen on the bed.
Don’t keep all your PAPER rough drafts.
If what you wrote on paper is worth keeping, SCAN it into electronic form.
Keep all your electronic writing files ORGANIZED … and properly labeled.
BACK-UP your files!
As far as personal belongings: either (A) take better care of them, or (B) don’t get so attached.
Finally – and this will get a laugh from people who know me (since I’m a clutter-bug) – get RID of excess clutter. Your clutter makes it much more difficult to keep track of that small percentage of important items.
What have YOU misplaced that you really wish you still could find?
I would not know where to start with things I have misplaced or cannot find! Best situation was when I was a kiddo buying a xmas pressie for my sis – I must’ve been 7/8. Sharing a little room with two sisters I hid it well! Only to find it only about 5/6 years later. Unfortunately she didn’t like Barbie anymore, but appreciated the present. I’m constantly looking for things, it’s driving me insane – but unfortunately it’s the story of my life!
Great post, Jeff. Shame about your pen. I can understand that it wasn’t the same anymore with a different one. It’s like a good friend, you can’t just replace it!
Yeah, Iris. That pen had been through a LOT with me. And I had previously misplaced it — but FOUND it again. And one time, somebody walked off with it (presumably by mistake) and I called them and tracked it down! So that pen and I had a lot of history. Sad to leave it in a Lafayette motel room.
As a gift, from colleagues, it meant a lot more to me than just a pen I’d purchased somewhere.
Great post, Jeff! Guitly of excess clutter here too! LOL It’s my filing system and it works for me. Well most of the time. 🙂 I’m always putting things, important things, in a safe place. So safe, I can’t even find them. (I’ve started making notes on my phone now in order to find them later. So sad. Especially if I lose the phone or it stops working.) You should see my kids eyes get wide when I tell them I’ll keep something safe for them. Right now we are searching for my oldest’s charm bracelet. She wants to take it to college with her next year. Hope I can find it by then. 🙂
Good luck finding that charm bracelet.
The old maxim is that you only find something when you stop looking for it. Hmm. I wonder how many years later that maxim is fulfilled?
Funny thing is: I’m very good at helping my wife find stuff that SHE’s lost. And I usually don’t give up until we locate it. (Often, however, that quest is complicated by the fact that I’ve never seen it before and may not even know what it is).
I had a blog ready on losing my camera, then Danica did one.Then I thought about works I had lost; now you have done it.I have a new take on things.Thanks for kicking me out of my complacency! The blog has become a real excersize for me!
I’d love to read a second blog of losing a camera. Go with your original thought … some of your readers won’t have seen either Danica’s or Mine.
Kind of you ,Jeff, but I came up with something else.I hope that if people come in, check out our blog and read past postings, that they will find a variety. As I said, it presses me to WORK;it’s good for me!
The one thing I am good at is backing-up my files.I have a great deal on floppy disks and now, I use flash drives.I LOVE them!
Yeah, I love flash drives. I also have an external hard drive which does a daily backup automatically.
I missplaced a diamond stud earring my mother had bought me for a milestone birthday. Since I couldn’t just buy one, I bought a new identical pair so she’d never know. I really have no idea what happened to it. I have tons of sunglasses and umbrellas I’ve lost or left behind. But, on the bright side, I was cleaning out my office space and found the key to the women’s bathroom I thought was gone forever. I was too ashamed to ask for another one and so I’ve had to use the handicap bathroom that doesn’t require a key. Not anymore 🙂
Sorry to hear about that missing earring.
I lost my wedding band for several months. Know where I finally found it? At the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper!
It’s amazing how much stuff I find that I’ve been looking for for ages when I’m looking for something else entirely. That may be months or years after the fact, too…
As for your written works, time to go box diving in the storage units? Since you’re specifically looking for your writing, you may actually find other stuff you’ve “misplaced” over the years.
True. I might even find my dogtags! LOL
My husband says I’m always two steps ahead of where I’m actually at, so I tend to, um, misplace things regularly. Sigh. At the moment, I need to find my favorite coffee travel mug, which is MIA. There’s always something. Oooh, wait a minute. I went to a sprint writing day at an author friend’s house. Maybe I left it there? Thanks for jogging my memory, Jeff!
Or, perhaps in someone else’s vehicle?
Thanks for commenting, Laurie. Hope you find your mug.