“Where’s my key? Gone!” My husband halted in his tracks in dismay, then performed some intricate dance steps, eyes searching the ground, right hand deep in his trouser pocket. We had been strolling towards the car park after attending a wedding, a heavy lunch inside us and a friend whom we had offered to drop home beside us. “Key? What key?” I asked. “The car key!” he snapped. “Did you think I was talking about the Treasury strong room’s keys?” He calmed down and confessed, “My trouser pocket has a hole.”
“But I darned it the other day,” I protested. “That was the other pocket,” he clarified. The hole in that pocket had been discovered when, trying hard to keep pace with him as he marched ahead, I almost stepped on his mobile phone that, becoming truly mobile, slid out of the bottom of his trouser leg.
“Why don’t you get a new pair of trousers?” I asked. before I could stop myself. I knew this was not the time for petty carping. His look said as much. I tried to make amends with a brilliant suggestion, “Let’s look for the key.”
We looked around for the key and our collective hearts sank. The car park was huge, stretching over a few acres, and was the reason why my husband had agreed to attend the wedding in the first place. Parking is always a sensitive issue with him, but when he heard the name of the venue, he had brightened, even though it meant a long drive.
“Wait a minute,” soothed my friend, “let’s not get worked up.” Turning to my husband, she said, “First, the key question. Where do you think it could have fallen?” “That’s exactly what I’d like to know,” he rejoined, his patience wearing thin at our unhelpful suggestions.
“Let me do a recap,” he said and mused while we stared hard at the road, willing a key to appear there. “I had the key when I got out of the car,” he began. “Obviously,” I commented and was hushed up by my friend. “I put it in my pocket, then walked to the hall, went in with both of you, found seats...”
“Changed them twice,” I added. “Waited in a queue,” he continued, “before going to the stage to greet the bride and groom, walked to the dining hall for lunch, came out and, well, here we are.”
“Which means everywhere!” I groaned. The impossibility of the task hit me. Even the proverbial needle in the haystack would have been easier to find. And the hall was too far from the city to go home by auto for the duplicate key.
The search begins
We decided to re-trace the path we had taken since stepping out of the car. “I’ll take baby steps from the entrance to where I’d parked the car while you search inside,” my husband said. “Gladly!” I responded. It was blazing hot outside. Wearing our glasses, the better to see the floor with, we set out, eyes glued to the ground, inviting curious glances with the action replay of our peregrinations. Sherlock Holmes would have given us an approving nod, so minutely did we examine the floor of the route taken earlier.
We traipsed to our seats, looked under them, zigzagged our way to the stage, bumping into people, and wished the newly-weds again, looking more demure than the bride with our downcast eyes. We asked the ushers, photographers and event management staff if they had heard about a key being found. Our host offered to arrange a car for us, but that wouldn’t solve our problem.
The people at the dining hall were more helpful. The person in charge impressed upon us the honesty of his staff. “They will hand in even a pin that’s found,” he asserted. I realised I had actually lost a hairpin but felt this wasn’t the occasion to mention it.
The servers and cleaners were told to look under, on and around tables and stools. An enthusiastic search had just begun when my husband played spoilsport by calling to say the key had been found –in the lost and found section. Somebody had handed it in.
I couldn’t believe there was such a convenience at the venue; what a sophisticated set up! But it was anticlimactic. I would much rather the key had been discovered at the bottom of the ‘pappadam’ basket.
As my husband opened the car door, he remembered something and asked, alarmed, “the house key?” “In my purse,” I replied.
A fortnightly column by the city-based writer, academic and author of the Butterfingers series. She can be contacted at email@example.com