Column: Losing your wallet and mind go hand in hand

By SCOTT SAALMAN

Rushing to a University of Evansville symposium honoring literary great Joyce Carol Oates (JCO) a few Saturday mornings ago, I pushed the fool button.

In Huntingburg, which was reached in record time from Jasper (a necessary pace due to running late for JCO), I realized my wallet was missing. Normally, it would be on my front passenger seat, but all I saw there was my ATM card, which had been used earlier to buy gas in Jasper.

The absence of my wallet resulted in a short-term memory flashback: I was pumping gas, the ATM card in one hand, my wallet in the other; the cellphone rang (the only time I ever get calls is when I’m near a gas pump — everyone I know seems determined to blow me up); I put the wallet atop the car trunk to free a hand so I could answer the phone.

Recalling the chain of events that resulted in a lost wallet, my mouth went dry. I immediately performed an illegal U-turn with the subtlety of someone in one of those high-octane, tire-screeching “The Fast and the Furious” films. Yes, there were expletives on the race back to Jasper. Where did I come up with such cuss-word combinations? I likely set a new land speed record through the WITZ Bottoms, as if I were actually speeding across the Bonneville salt flats, while scanning both shoulders of U.S. 231 for a brown lump that, if not a way-dead squirrel, might be my wayward wallet. Finding my wallet either on the roadside or on the road was wishful thinking for I knew there was no way it would have remained on the trunk lid for very long during my hasty departure from the gas station. I was filled with adrenalin, remember, with thoughts of seeing JCO, who is a National Book Award winner and has had multiple Pulitzer and Nobel nominations. Yes, I’m a literature nerd.

A wallet is a lousy thing to lose, for its missing state comes with a barrage of follow-up, time-chewing chores. I dreaded the thought of having to call two banks and Discover and MasterCard and VISA to cancel my credit cards or freeze my accounts. Worst of all, there was the prospect of having to return to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles for a new driver’s license — I always feel like a dead man walking when I go in there. Then there were the J.C. Penney, The Home Depot, Elder-Beerman and Anthem Health Savings Accounts card companies to deal with, not to mention having to get a new library card. I never felt too bad for Tony Bennett when he sang, “I lost my heart in San Francisco.” Had he lost his wallet there, I’d show more sympathy.

There was no cash in my wallet (there never is), so that didn’t generate worry, but there was a wad of ATM receipts (there always are) that had not yet been entered in the checkbook. Balancing the checkbook the following month would be a bear.

It was a helpless feeling as I backtracked to find my wallet, which I assumed was already in the hands of a Home Depot shopper looking to do some major home improvements, all on my tab.

When I lose things, I also lose my equilibrium. I can’t let it go. I am still fretting over losing the following:

”¢ Martin Scorcese’s “The Last Waltz” DVD, my favorite documentary. The movie chronicling The Band’s last concert waltzed right out of my life without a clue to its whereabouts.

”¢ My Van Morrison “Hymns to the Silence” CD.

”¢ Microcassette tapes used to record my grandmother telling her life story. I lost them during the dustup of a divorce that happened well before my grandmother died, but I was too ashamed to ask her if she could re-record her stories. She cried a bit dredging up old memories. I didn’t want to put her through that again. (I would willingly lose a hundred wallets if it meant finding those lost tapes.)

”¢ My iTunes library. An error message keeps popping up saying no such library exists because of my not keeping up with upgrades. God, how I miss my 45 rpm record collection, for it never required upgrades. Yes, I lost my 45s, too, though I suspect my brother sold them to make a quick buck when I went off to college. I am now doomed to forever listen to the same songs on my iPod Shuffle. I regret downloading the Bee Gee’s “Fanny Be Tender To My Love.”

Back at the gas station, I miraculously found my wallet lying on the concrete a few feet from the pumps. I assumed nothing would be inside. But to my surprise, other than tire marks (someone had unwittingly driven over it), my wallet remained unmolested. Nothing was missing. A customer pumping gas looked at me. Unable to contain my excitement, I shouted to him, “My wallet. I found it.” I waved it in the air. He gave me a thumbs-up.

It was a great feeling to recover the lost wallet. It was my lucky day. I somehow even made it to the JCO symposium on time, and later, at a restaurant, I way overtipped the wait staff, knowing I was lucky enough at that moment to be able to do so.

Scott Saalman’s next Will Read (and sing) For Food show will be at 5 p.m. Sunday, May 19,  at the Riverwalk Gazebo in Jasper. The show, part of Old Jasper Days, will benefit Community Food Bank.




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