Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Remembrance of Train Tickets Past

I TOOK A HALF day today to make the second of my yearly cleaning/checkup pilgrimages to the dentist. In recent years, these have uncovered no new problems, and this one fit the pattern. Both the hygienist and I agreed that visits as boring as mine are the best for all parties concerned.

My dentist's office is only a 10-minute walk away, which afforded me a luxurious stroll through the early-autumn afternoon. When I returned to the apartment, I retrieved a book from upstairs, bought some spicy tortilla chips from the Trader Joe's next door, and sat outside for an hour as the sun shined its late-afternoon rays on my neck. As I was folding up the beach chair to return it to my trunk, I noticed something very familiar amid the dead leaves next to my parking spot: a New Jersey PATH ticket. I didn't recall either taking anything out of my shorts pockets or even bringing any of my usual pocket crap downstairs with me, so I bent to retrieve what I assumed was a windblown, expired pass.

It was not expired. It was, in fact, the pass I lost as described here. My name and the promised reward for turning the pass in were on the back.

I retraced the past several days. Could this pass have been in this parking spot since I lost it earlier this month? Not likely. It has rained since that time, and the pass I was holding was intact. My actions during the week I lost it didn't seem to include any actions that would have gotten my transit passes and work IDs into my trunk, but perhaps I did it unconsciously. Perhaps, in pulling the lawn chair from beneath some crap in the trunk, I snagged the PATH pass and let it flutter into my parking space. Before I had a chance to dig through my trunk, however, I got an urgent call of nature (damn spicy chips), so I came back upstairs.

So now I have some archaeology to undertake. The loss of those tags has irked me since I posted about it, not for the money it cost to replace the transit passes as much as the sheer mindlessness that allowed the loss. Just knowing how I lost them would be key to avoiding such an error in the future. Already I am keeping my passes more secure: My building pass is tethered to my work bag with a lanyard, my office pass has a tag for shirt-pocket wear, and I keep the transit ones in an inner bag pocket unless I am using them. One loss in 7 years isn't so bad, though losing them all at once points to a fatal flaw in keeping them all in the same vulnerable place. No more of that. If I turn up anything interesting in the trunk, I'll bring you all up to speed. Should it turn out to be a chunk of a long-missing union boss, it might be some time.

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