Jewish World Review June 14, 2001 / 24 Sivan, 5761
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- SAN FRANCISCO | The little cable car didn't climb halfway to the stars, but it did huff and clank its way up Powell Street here, hauling me back to Fisherman's Wharf to pick up the camera we had left at Scoma's restaurant.
Why do all of us lose stuff, fail to keep track of things, misplace what we own? And why is the experience of loss so often indelible? Beyond that, why are you asking me these cosmic questions? I had an answer a few minutes ago, but I've lost track of it. Maybe it will show up again.
When I was a boy traveling by car with my family in the West, we stopped for a meal in Cheyenne, Wyo. When I went in, I had my Cub Scout cap with me; when I left, I didn't. But I didn't realize that until we were 100 miles down the road and it was too late to return. That was almost 50 years ago, and the experience still is stuck in my cranium -- or wherever memories reside.
The left-behind camera wasn't, it turned out, as irretrievable as my old cap. We realized it was missing just minutes later when we were on a cable car heading back to our hotel with friends. A cell-phone call to the restaurant verified it had been found and would be waiting for us to claim it from the hostess at her station. Which I did.
But the frustrating reality of our lives is that we lose stuff, leave it behind, misplace it or -- often -- throw it away the day before we need it.
Why can't we do better with all this misdirection, this inattention, this carelessness? It may not surprise you to learn that I have a theory. It is, in fact, a fabulous theory because it suggests that a lot of the problem is not our own fault. I believe deeply in this theory, now that I've found it again.
Look. It's not that we couldn't be more careful or that we shouldn't get so distracted.
But I think the problem is fundamentally more complicated than that. I think the problem has to do with the rotation of the Earth.
What happens when you spin a lazy Susan or a merry-go-round too fast? As any curious kid can tell you, stuff flies off -- or, in the merry-go-round case, not stuff but people. Usually little people.
And what's the most-heard complaint in our culture? Altogether now: there aren't enough hours in the day.
This complaint is directly related to the problem of losing stuff. Earth is spinning too fast. It takes only 24 hours for it to turn once around on its axis. At that ridiculously speedy rate, not only are there not enough hours in the day, but stuff gets flung out of our grasp.
A few minutes ago, I had two pens here. Now there's only one. The other one got hurled away by the centrifugal force of the rotating Earth. You know I'm right about this because you, too, have had these same experiences.
I have a section of a bottom drawer in my dresser at home devoted to nothing but single socks, the mates to which have spun out of my gravitational field due to the stupid speed of the Earth's spin on its axis.
Keys disappear, homework gets lost, pocket change vanishes. Do you really think all this is due solely to our carelessness? I refuse to believe it.
My guess is that sometime between our salad and our main course at Scoma's seafood place -- after my bride had taken a photo of friends across the table from us -- our camera simply drifted off our table and, thanks to the force field created by the spin of our planet, wound up where the hostess sits.
All in all, though, losing a camera wouldn't have been such a
tragedy. I recall the story of a guy named Tony who claimed to have
left his heart