All lost in the lost-and-found


I’d lost my keys.

Which is unsettling enough. For you do not begin to truly ransack your brain — where in the rising sun could they be? — until you’ve ransacked your house.

And I mean ransack. Drawers emptied, floorboards pried, every pocket of every garment probed and probed again, and then family members frisked and forced to say, “Ahhh.”

But nothing. At which point you make the rounds of every door you can remember having darkened. The school. The station. The doughnut shops. The doughnut shops again, just to be sure.

And still nothing. So you begin to accept yourself for what you are — a keyless man in a Japan full of locked rooms. And at that moment a curtain of ransacked memory flutters and you recall.

I took a bus. For only a few stops. Yet . . . it is my final hope. I find the number and telephone.

“I looking for some lost keys,” I tell the man.

“Describe them,” he says.

“Well . . . they’re keys.”

“Three? A door key and two that look like locker keys?”

“Yes!” I say.

“With a green, plastic key ring?”

“Yes! Yes!”

“And the key ring is engraved with a locker number — No. 35?”

“YESSSSS!” I wipe a happy string of drool from my lips — and the receiver.

“Sorry. There’s nothing like that here.”

But of course there is. He just can’t remember where he’s put them. I hold the phone and listen. In the background, I hear drawers emptied, floorboards pried, pockets probed and a series of “Ahhhs.” At last, he comes back on.

“OK. I’ve got them.” He pauses — while I weep — and then tells me he will hold them at the bus company office. I can come get them anytime.

“Yet, you’ll need to bring photo ID.”

Now I have lived in Japan for decades and should know better, but still I ask . . . “Whatever for?”

“I mean, they’re mine. Who else would want them?”

“Well, without a photo ID, how can we verify that you are really you?”

“Does it matter? Who else would come to get those keys?”

“You could be a key thief.”

“And a photo ID will prove I’m not?”

“It will allow us to track you down once the real owner appears.”

“But the real owner is me.”

“Probably. But these are nice keys. The key ring is top of the line plastic. You could be some evil key ring collector who will stop at nothing to further your sinister gains.”

“Yet with a photo ID you would give them to anyone.”

“Don’t be silly. You also have to bring your personal stamp.”

“My stamp! But you’ll have my ID! Can’t I just sign my name?”

“Nope. With no stamp, we’ll have to take a fingerprint. Just to make sure.” And with this, I picture a torture chamber grin of bureaucratic glee.

“Is that all then? No DNA sample?” I hear him writing. “Not a bad idea,” he says. “With maybe a photo ID of the double helix?” More writing. “Gosh. You need a job? We could use a guy like you.”

But all I want are my keys. “How do I get there?” I ask.

“Do you drive? The best way is by car.”

I pause — and am about to weep again. “But . . . aren’t you the bus company? Can’t I get there by bus?”

“Of course, you can. It will just take a while, that’s all. Our location is not the best. Where do you live?” I tell him. “OK, it’s gonna take you longer than a while. If I were you, I’d drive.”

I tell him I don’t have a car. And even if I did, how would I start it? I am keyless.

“Listen . . . this is irregular, but . . . I live in that area myself. I could pick you up and drive you here.”


“If you pay for gas.”

“You mean . . . you will drive me to your office to get my keys?”

“Are we a great company or what?”

“Why not just bring me my keys?”

“Don’t be pushy. Hear this?” I hear keys being jangled. “And this?” I hear a john being flushed. “I’d try to keep those apart.”

OK, OK. I guess it’s a deal. “How will I get back?”

“You can wait till I get off and then I’ll drive you back. If you pay for gas.”

“Alright,” I tell him. “But . . . you’ll have to bring photo ID.”


“Otherwise, how can I verify that you are you?”

“But . . . Who else could I be?”

“I might have lost keys elsewhere too. I might have all sorts of key deals in the works. In the end, you have to prove who you are.”

He gives in. “And I suppose I’ll need my stamp as well. Anything else?”

Only one other thing comes to mind . . . “Doughnuts?”

Yet here he draws the line. Wise move too.

For if not, who know?

I might lose my keys more often.