Monday, March 24, 2014

Island of Lost Wallets

Sunday I went movie-theater hopping with Friend X, at the [redacted]. Two movies, a very simple sneak, logistically speaking, in terms of theater proximity and movie times. At the conclusion of the second movie, I stood up and gathered my things to leave -- gave myself the old pat-down to make sure everything was in its riiight place...

... and my wallet was missing.

Now, I imagine it's rarely a convenient time for ANYBODY to lose a wallet ever, but allow me to proffer that this was a particularly bad time for me to lose a wallet. Money being tight.

I double checked the seats, whipping out the flashlight app on my phone. (Slight tangent from an increasingly old man: if I'd lost my wallet twenty years ago, I would not have had this magical swiss-army-knife gadget that could act as a phone and alarm clock and email server and encyclopedia and TORCH. Twenty years ago, nobody carried flashlights with them... and now everybody essentially has a flashlight at their disposal... that also serves as a hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy.)

I scoured the seats, every popcorn-strewn angle. The rows behind and below ours.

Patted and re-patted myself, my coat.

Combed through every crevice of my backpack.

Fucking nothing.

Mentally retraced my steps.

Bought a movie ticket. Went to movie theater #1. Sneaked into movie theater #2. Ran to the bathroom quickly and returned to movie theater #2. And then, no wallet.

Naturally, movie theater hopping doesn't place you in the best position to seek help from the management. The two employees who'd "cleaned" movie theater #2 hadn't found anything, but that hadn't been particularly thorough. No one had turned anything in to Guest Services.

My mind switched from mild panic to acceptance to damage control. This was a pain. This would cost me. But people lose wallets every day, I rationalized, and there is a process that you go through to replace everything you've lost. I started to make a mental list of everything I'd need to get canceled and/or replaced. Driver's license, credit cards, membership cards.

My friend suggested we wait to go back to movie theater #1. Another show was still playing but we could wait it out and head back in there. We had played a bit of musical chairs in there because the chairs were all busted and leaned way too far back, so it was possible that my wallet could have fallen out during our initial seat-testing session. I was pessimistic about this suggestion. I was ready to go. I'd already unhappily accepted the loss. I figured, I would have noticed if I were missing the wallet in the walk from the first theater to the second one. And if I'd lost it in theater #1, what were the odds it'd still be there after another show had played? After a cleaning and a new audience?

But I waited. Just to make sure.

Twenty minutes, half an hour goes by. People start walking out of the theater. I go in during the closing credits.

It's dark and I wait until the end-credit-watchers start to get up to leave before I switch my phone to flashlight mode. I don't exactly remember where we were sitting but it's not a very big theater and I start sweeping the rows...

... and lo and behold, I find my motherfucking goddamn wallet. Fallen in the crack between chairs. Untouched. Cash intact.

I guess if you have an environment where employees don't give a shit about people theater-hopping, and they're not particularly thorough about cleaning the theaters between shows, it makes sense that something like a wallet hidden between chairs could be missed. And when you sit down in a dark movie theater, you're not necessarily going to double check to see if anyone's left a wallet under the chair before you sit down. And apparently I didn't notice I was missing my wallet in the walk from theater #1 because I was more focused on the sneak into #2. That small, illicit thrill of sneaking a second feature distracted me from realizing that a wallet-sized weight was suddenly missing from my left pocket.

Words cannot adequately describe the sense of relief that overcame me. The sense of gratitude. If I hadn't lost my wallet, I would have taken it for granted and I would have walked out of that second movie without any great sense of accomplishment. But because I lost my wallet and FOUND my wallet... it felt like I had won the lottery. A rather poor lottery, perhaps, but a lottery won nonetheless.


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