I’ve Lost It!

by Pat Fortunato

As a result of watching far too many versions of Law and Order, I have become incredibly jaded, desensitized to the viciousness of violent crime, and suspicious of everyone. But that’s not the problem.

The thing that really gets to me is that when they search a suspect’s apartment (that’s “toss the perp’s crib” to you, bub), looking for a piece of evidence—a gun, smoking or otherwise, or a ticket to Tahiti — they find the damn thing in what seems like mere moments. “What do we have here, Lennie? Looks like the professor is planning a little sabbatical.”

Or, the exact opposite happens: they don’t find what they’re looking for —and are absolutely Positive that it isn’t there. “The place is clean, Liv. Let’s take a look at the car.”

I, on the other hand, am constantly losing things in my apartment, things that go missing for hours, days, months, years, and in a few sad cases, forever. That poignant phrase, I know it’s here someplace, can be heard echoing endlessly throughout my kingdom.

So what I want to know is this: Is there any way I can hire the people from Law and Order to search my crib, er, apartment. Not for tickets to Tahiti (I should live so long) or guns (I have no weapons except for cooking knives, which are rarely sharpened). Not for any kind of incriminating evidence actually, although that depends on how you define “incriminating.” No, I need these people to search for things that are missing in inaction (MII) and that I have all but abandoned hope of ever finding.

Some of these items are about the size of a gun, or not much smaller, so the cops should have no trouble succeeding where I have failed. Hey, Mike, have you seen my travel iron, last used in 1996? (Mr. Big can toss my crib any day.) Or the travel alarm clock, which probably became MII about the same time as the iron. How about the tape measure that is “always” in the closet in the den, but isn’t there now. Or the one remaining hot plate that isn’t cracked. (Didn’t I have dozens of these at one time?) Or the color photograph that was on the bookcase since New Year’s Eve 2000 (a group of us celebrating the Millennium at the Algonquin) that has suddenly disappeared. How about the gold and green eye shadow I used on New Year’s Eve? I really liked that. Haven’t seen it since the first of the year.

And the misses just keep on coming. . . A partial list of what I’d like the detectives to find include a heating pad, a hairbrush, a pair of plastic earring backs, and an extra key for the apartment. And I can never find a nail file when I need one. Yes, those last few items are small, but these guys find things as tiny as hairs and hairpins (DNA! DNA!). Surely, a nail file or a key would be no problem. Then there’s the heart-shaped bookmark from Tiffany’s.

Actually, there were two of them, one traditional and one in a more abstract shape from Elsa Perretti. And the robin’s egg blue pen, also from Tiffany’s. Okay, someone may have taken the bookmarks and the pen (unlikely, but possible), but who would walk off with that ratty heating pad or the earring backs?

The detectives are also good at finding evidence in the form of paperwork. A suspicious bill from Guns ‘R Us, or a receipt from the One Night Stand Motel doesn’t stand a chance when they’re on the case. Hell, I’d even give them a heads up. Don’t bother with the rest of the apartment, guys. Go directly to the den. There you’ll find the File Cabinet from Hell. And in it, somewhere, are the following items that I’d pay real money to find:

•The manual for the Sony TV purchased about 8 years ago so I can figure out how to use the closed caption feature.
•The list of restaurants in Paris for a friend who’s going there this week (I smell overtime pay on this one).
•The letter that was supposed to be attached to my will that specifies that you must all tell a “Pat Story” at the funeral and get very drunk afterwards.

Actually, I’d like to keep the entire staff (staffs) of L&O on retainer so that I could call night and day for emergencies. For example, to find the envelope I just had in my hands (IN MY HANDS!) five minutes ago (FIVE MINUTES AGO!) and can no longer find. I’ve searched all over. Retraced my steps. Went back to the kitchen. The bathroom. The closet where I was foraging around for gum (which I also didn’t find). The stack of newspapers to be thrown away. My purse, where it had been earlier.

Here’s the thing: I can’t find an envelope that I had five minutes ago, but they can find an important piece of evidence which may or may not exist, may or may not be in the apartment they’re searching, and if it is, could be just about any place. I realize that there is a difference between Life and TV, but this is ridiculous. I just know that if Vincent D’Onofrio, who played a detective on Criminal Intent,would tilt his head the way he always did (that man must require serious chiropractic care), he would tell me where – and why —I lost the letter. He knows everything.

Maybe I should see a shrink: Am I losing all these things in place of my mind? Because I harbor hidden hostility to heating pads and hot plates? To create confusion so that I don’t have to think about real problems, such as why do I watch all those episodes of Law and Order in the first place? Is there a void in my life that I have to fill with reruns? To replace the important things I’ve lost. Like my youth? Hell. Where is Doctor Wong when you need him?

Or maybe this is a purely practical problem of too much stuff/not enough space because I insist on living in Manhattan. Although on the surface the opposite might seem true, it’s actually much easier to lose things in smaller living spaces than larger ones. You have no attic, basement, or garage for storage, so you are forced to pack everything, densely, in boxes and drawers, beneath the bed, under the sofa, behind the sofa, jammed in closets and cabinets, high and low, in an apartment so crammed with things that you can’t bring in a deck of cards without destroying the delicate ecological balance.

And yet. I do suspect that there actually is some underlying psychological cause for all this losing of things. It must have something to do with sex. Everything does, or so it seems. Anyway, I finally found the envelope. It was buried in the bedclothes. See? I told you it had sexual undertones. Or is it overtones? Geez, now I’m even searching for the right word. Those detectives are never at a loss for words. Always there with The Wisecrack. They used to feature their smartass remarks in The Case So Far, a little segment that summarized what had happened up to that point, in case some of us viewers got . . . lost.

Sorry about that; I am getting punchy thinking about all the things I have lost in my apartment that they could find if I were a victim (Let’s not go there!) or a suspect. Hmm. What if . . .. I were to become a suspect in a crime. Something I didn’t do and could, eventually, prove my innocence. Would they let me watch while the cops searched my apartment? Would they find the hairbrush? The tape measure? Would they get cranky if I even mentioned the travel iron?

Look on the bright side; if all these things are lost within the four walls of my apartment, they aren’t truly lost, are they? They’re only misplaced. Ergo: I could find them if I conducted a thorough enough search. I know it wouldn’t be easy, even though those shows drive me crazy by making it look like it is. Still. What if I devoted a day, or two, or three, or however long it took, to sifting through all the stuff that I have accumulated. Would I find anything interesting? Incriminating? Things I forgot I had. Would I get all nostalgic and start Googling people I’ve lost track of? Would I find useful things? Or duplicates and triplicates of things I had already replaced?

Maybe, just maybe, I would actually throw away some junk and clear out places so that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have this problem so often in the future. I did this when the kitchen was remodeled and I hardly ever lose anything in there anymore (except the knife sharpener—and the hot plate). Could this level of organization coexist peacefully in the entire apartment?

And what would I do with all the time I now spend looking for things? Would I read more? Would I write more? Would people laugh? Is that a good thing?

Frankly, detectives, I don’t have a clue.

Pat Fortunato: After working in the publishing business for many years, I now write for pleasure, especially for my blog: MY AGE IS UNLISTED.