Friday, October 21, 2016

"The Loftiest Accolade"

Somebody recently called me a genius.

Let’s let that sit there for a second. 


I like the sound of that.  And although in some contexts such an accolade might – stop it with the “might” – would be screamingly unwarranted, I most humbly acknowledge…

Not this time.

For in this case, as in no other I can think of or actually exists…

I am a genius.

I’m a genius.  I just am.

When somebody recently called me a genius, I appreciatively said, “Thank you.”  But “inside” there was another reaction:

“I know.”

What makes me a genius?

I concocted a theorem.  A dictum.  An axiom.  A truism.

One of those four.

Not only did I concoct a theorem, or one of the other three, which, by itself, would not qualify me as a genius…

It actually works.  (A surprising amount of the time.)  (Which does.)

Okay, no more stalling or pussyfooting around.  Here’s what it is:

You lost something and you can’t find it anywhere.  What I have discovered is:

“When something is not where you think it is, look for it where you think it isn’t.”

It’s as simple – and as genius – as that. 

On its face, it appears obvious.  You can’t find something where you imagine it might be, look in the other place:

Where you can’t imagine it might be. 


Because, after searching where you think it might be and not finding it…

That’s the only place that’s left.

What astonishes me is, if it’s so obvious, how come no one I am aware of, besides myself, ever does this?

They never look where they think the thing they lost isn’t.

Instead, they search multiple times where they think the thing should be and, on every occasion, they don’t find it.  Why do they keep doing that?  I have no idea.  The thing wasn’t there the first five times they looked there.  Why would it be there the sixth?  Or the sixtieth?

Okay, so a good friend of ours lost her sunglasses.  I don’t know about where you live, but in California, sunglasses are, as Joe Biden said about Obama passing health care, a big fucking deal.  People here would no more go outside without their sunglasses than they would go anywhere without a bottle of water, fearing certain dehydration and shriveling up like a raisin en route to their destinations.  The assumption appears to be:  No sunglasses; you go blind!

Plus, sunglasses are expensive.  (Although once I lost a pair of $8 sunglasses and I was equally distressed.  It’s not the price; it’s the sunglasses.  You lose your sunglasses in California and you somehow suddenly lose your mind.)

We had been invited to dinner.  Although always hospitable, our gracious hostess was, that night, uncharacteristically distracted.  You’d talk to her, and while pretending to listen, she was instead – and you could see it in her eyes – retracing her steps, reconstructing the scenario, searching for the moment when her indispensible sunglasses were no longer in her possession.

She remembered the places she had visited, calling them all, hoping somebody had found them.  But to no avail.  No one had seen her sunglasses.

After dinner, although it was dark – this is how desperate she was – she planned to – and subsequently did – literally “retrace her steps”, walking back to the local “convenience store”, in the “last ditch” belief that her errant sunglasses had inadvertently slipped to the pavement and she would discover them on the ground, waiting for her.

That’s when I mentioned my theorem, or whatever.

“When something is not where you think it is, look for it where you think it isn’t.”

Her reaction was polite.  But I could tell she was skeptical.  Not hostilely skeptical, as in,

“Why don’t I look for them in China?  I’m almost certain they’re not there!

But benignly skeptical, as in,

“‘Look where I think they aren’t.  I’d have no idea where to start.”

An understandable reaction.  My proposal seemed not only nonsensical but functionally impractical.  “Looking where you think it isn’t” That’s an awful lot of places to look.  On the other hand, how much sense does it make to look for something where you were unable to find it before?  As in, “The tenth time is charm.”

Anyway, I suggested what had worked for me, and we said goodbye.

The next day, I get a call:

“You’re a genius!’

What happened?

She had looked for her sunglasses where she believed they weren’t – in her laundry basket…

… and there they were!

Postscript:  You might think that was an accident.  What can I tell you? 

Except this.

Last night, I had dinner with my friend Paul at a Chinese restaurant, where I took home the leftovers.  We then proceeded to a bookstore, where I purchased a “Book-On-CD” – Erik Larson’s “Dead Wake” – after which we “Ubered” home to our respective domiciles.

This morning, I was unable to find my “Book-On-CD.”  I immediately took stock.  Had I left it behind at the bookstore?  Had I forgotten it in the “Uber” car?  Had it slipped out on my way into the house? 

I had drunk alcohol.  Anything was possible.

Before retracing my steps, I recalled my own dictum, taking a chance on a long shot unlikelihood. 

And it worked.

I found my “Book-On-CD” (with my Chinese food leftovers)…

… in the refrigerator.


What can I tell you? 

It fits.


The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

It's a brilliant thing.
I'm awful when it comes to finding 'lost' things.
i shall try this.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I find the following method works well: walk around the house loudly proclaiming that you DO NOT NEED the thing you are trying to find. Aggrieved and anxious, it will shove itself under your nose.


FFS said...

Isn't it always in the last place you looked?

Unknown said...

So, you can be a genius and an idiot at the same time!