Jeff and the Case of the Missing Keys

As you may have heard, I celebrated my twenty-::coughcoughmumblemumblecough:: birthday last week; belated electronic giftcards will still be graciously accepted at  Admittedly, I was not making a big to-do about this birthday: between upgrading our phones and our big trip in just about a month, both Lance and I figured that we’d stay low-key for our birthdays to save some cash.  I even deferred my birthday dinner—our one significant recognition—to when we’re in Tokyo Disney (if any of my Disney pals knows how to get reservations at Magellan’s, please let me know!).

Now, even though I was having a self-imposed un-birthday, I still wanted it to be as stress-free as possible.  Unfortunately, pretty much right off the bat, this was not the case.

I had also scheduled to work-from-home on my birthday, originally intending to save myself the hassle of a 45-minute commute each way.  That was birthday gift enough, yessir.  Unfortunately, through a series of events where I was being a pretty awesome and considerate husband, I had to take our car in for service.  On my birthday.  Even though Lance had the day off just the day before and could have gone himself, but did not tell me this until it was too late to change my appointment time…on my birthday.  {You hear that cha-ching sound? Those are brownie points, my friends, with no expiration date and redeemable at any time.)

As we were leaving the house, I grabbed my house keys and my car keys, which is, you know, completely normal.  Lance, who does the most of the driving and was going to drive us to his work, also took his car keys with him.   We then switched drivers and I continued on to the dealership, with Lance’s keys still in the ignition, so now I had two sets of car keys.

Keep in mind that I did drive like 40 minutes from home to Springfield, where the dealership we bought the car from is located, if only because I’m a creature of habit and know what I’m getting to there as opposed to a service center closer to our house.

Well, fine, I could go to the dealer and piggyback off of the free wi-fi from Dunkin Donuts right next door. No biggie.   Which is what I did from about 8:30AM until around noon.  Yep, a good three-plus hours.  On my birthday.   I collected all of my keys (my house keys, my car keys, and Lance’s car keys.)

Now, I’ve got an hour break for “lunch” before I have to be back, plugging away on work stuff, so I had an ambitious plan to stop at Target and pick up the latest season of everybody fave TV show, “Supernatural” (Lance later nicely summed up our thoughts on the show as we watched the first episode in this set: “I forgot how dumb this show was.”).  I would then grab some lunch and then head to a Starbucks near Lance’s work and work there until it was time for me to pick him up around 4:00.

Once it’s time for me to leave, I gather up my belongings, only to then notice: waitaminute.  I only have one set—not two—of car keys with me. Lance’s car keys, sufficiently bedazzled with a Dollywood key chain, are missing.

I scour around my table, crawl under the seat, jam my fingers between the cushions (and pick up any number of communicable diseases) to no avail.  I go out to the car to search, upending my backpack, sifting through old receipts, Canadian currency and out-of-date train schedules…and still nothing.

I start to panic.  I’ve already travelled about 50 miles today, and have made at least half-a-dozen stops.  Jeebus only knows when or where I misplaced them.  Were they left unknowingly abandoned in some parking lot like a baby nobody really loved?

I go back into Starbucks, hoping I’d just left the keys at the fixins station and that somebody had passed them along to the baristas.  Nope.  I leave my number and a description of the keys if they turn up.

“A Dollywood key chain, you say…?” notes the barista, with a little too much enthusiasm for the role.

I go back to the car.  Not only am I now going to be late to pick up Lance, but I also have to tell him that I lost his keys.  I try to rationalize with myself to keep calm.  “Okay, okay, well, we have a second set of car keys, so we can get by for awhile.  Not the end of the world. Everything’ll work out.”

After sitting in traffic for another 45 minutes, ample time for a stress headache to take root and blossom around my left eye, I get to Lance’s work.  I try to put on a good front, which is also an effort on my part to preemptively disarm Lance’s seething anger toward me.

“Well, we have a second set of car keys for awhile,” I start. “And I’ll obviously pay to replace the key fob if we can’t find them.”

“We have to find them,” Lance states firmly.  “My work keys are on there.”

“Okay, but if you had to, you could get a backup copy for awhile, right?” I ask nervously.

“We have to find them.” He’s not playing now.

First, though, we have to head home to walk Ripley. On our way, it starts to pour and doesn’t let up.  Now we’re about 30 miles from Springfield, and I’ve called every other place I visited–Best Buy, Pei Wei, Target, the dealership–when I was down there; nobody’s reported a found set of keys.

The rain is coming down thick, so heavy you can’t see more than 15 feet in front of you and nobody’s going over 30 miles an hour.

I really feel like my only sliver of hope is the fact that there are actually two Targets about a half-mile from one another in Springfield.  Maybe the one I called earlier to check was not the one I actually visited?  I find the phone number for the other location and give them a call.

Nobody picks up.  I try the pharmacy, and they try to route me to the customer service desk, but it rings and rings and eventually the line is dropped.  I try to call Electronics, but the line is busy. Wash, rise, repeat for an hour as we creep along in the sucky weather.

Finally, a good four hours after I originally discovered that the keys were missing, I’m running, soaked with rain, into the Target I was in earlier in the day.  Lance heads down to the men’s department, where I figured that if I lost the keys anywhere, it had to be there…while I was sizing the Mickey Mouse tees against my scrawny-ass body.

I head to the customer service desk, convinced that they must’ve been swamped with returns of unwanted Carly Rae Jepsen CDs on a random Tuesday.  Of course, since why else wouldn’t anybody’ve answered my frantic phone calls?

And, of course, there’s nobody there but one single, solitary employee, standing there by herself, zoned out and gazing into the distance.


“Wha?” says the employee.  She seems half-awake.

My heart is pounding in my chest. I am terrified that the keys won’t be here and I am SCREWED, since there’s no other place they’re likely to be.  “Did anybody bring a lost set of keys here?”

The employee shrugs. Her expression has not changed since our exchange began. “I dunno. Let me see?”

She pulls open some drawers.  “We don’t have any keys, just this.” Then she lifts out the keys, Dollywood keychain and all.

“YES!” I scream. “Yesyesyes, those are them!”

I can’t measure the size of the sigh of my relief here.  I was so thankful to the goodness of mankind, the key gods, whoever.  THANKYOUTHANKYOU!

But then I started to think…why the hell didn’t that Target employee just pick up her damn phone and save me hours of grief?  If I’d known the keys were there, I could’ve saved at least an eight of an inch of lost hairline.

I started spewing expletives about this employee, who was obviously just too lazy to pick up the phone right next to her.  “That miserable fat turd!” I yell when we get back into the car.  “Why didn’t she just pick up the phone?”

Now, as a former fatty, I am sensitive to how society belittles larger people, and there’s no reason why her inaction had anything to do with her girth. Still, it was an easy shot and I was so mad at this woman who extended my grief.  To borrow a phrase from a friend: she seemed miserable. And fat.

So that was my birthday. Not the greatest, but since I’m reserving my actual birthday celebration, I’m not going to count it.  Here’s hoping Take 2 is better!