Forgetful

My travel companion

I’m forgetful. I hope people find it endearing. Who am I kidding? It’s annoying.

I never know where my keys are. I say at least 10 times a day, “Where’s my phone?” I can be so absentminded that I miss appointments, only to discover them when the person I’ve stood up calls me. That leads me to schedule things that are either close to me in proximity or meetings I can do on the phone or online. It also makes me neurotic about putting things in iCal. If I don’t write it down right away, it’s in one ear and out the other. I’d forget my own birthday if my calendar didn’t remind me. If I didn’t get billminders, I’d go to jail for never paying a single bill.

Kristen, my saintly wife, is forgiving of my absentmindedness. I hope she finds it endearing but I fear she loathes it. Let’s just hope she finds it cute.

Yesterday was a typical mistake. I lost track of my morning and suddenly realized it was 7:50. To catch my train I need to mount my bike at 8:00 to get to the trolley in time. So I’m rushing around, packing up my stuff for the commute. And trying my best to be social by having a cup of tea.

I take a few gulps of tea and look outside. It’s cold. A glance at my iGoogle homepage, which tells me the high in San Diego was going to be 63. Too cold for the shorts and t-shirt I was wearing. But riding my bike in pants is a drag, so I put my stuff down and head to my closet. Right before I went to Haiti I bought a high-end rain jacket. That will work perfect. I zip that up, put my headphones in, select the latest episode of The Moth, start the clock on Runkeeper, push my bike to the curb, and off I go. It’s 8:01 and I’m on my way to work. One minute late is no big deal.

I get to the SDSU trolley stop, turn off Runkeeper, and take the elevator down to the platform. Just before the train comes at 8:17, The Moth ends and I switch over to This American Life. As Ira Glass narrates a beautiful story about the downfall of the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California, I flick open the New York Times app, and catch up on the news.

Fifteen minutes later, now closing in on the Gillespie Field stop in El Cajon, I stand up and wheel my bike over to the door. I press the button, tuck my iPhone back in my pocket, and wait for the train to stop. Just as the doors open I realize… I forgot to turn on Runkeeper. I get off the train and start Runkeeper. When the GPS turns on, I hit the start button, tuck my phone in my jacket pocket, and begin my ride.

I’m lost in the story on This American Life as I huff the .75 mile up the hill to the YS offices.

Nearly to the top of the hill it dawns on me.

Where’s my backpack? I said it out loud to myself, “Dude, where’s your backpack? You idiot!

My backpack is my constant companion. That thing has been with me on countless road trips. It’s been everywhere with me. Yet, in that moment, I suddenly realize that I’ve forgotten my friend somewhere between home and the hill. But where?

I made a u-turn and speed down the hill. The trolley is long gone, but it only makes one more stop in Santee before looping back towards Old Town. If I hustle I can make it in time. For some reason I had caught a glimpse of the Trolley number. I’m looking for train #72. That has my backpack. (And all my work stuff, including my Macbook Pro)

Annoyed at myself, I get to the trolley stop about 7 minutes after I got off. I look down at Runkeeper. Yeah, I’m done with that. No need to log this journey.

As  I wait for the trolley to come back, my mind wondering if the last 2 people left on the train would take my stuff, I start to think back.

Where was my backpack? When did I last see it? I’ve forgotten a lot of stuff in my life. But never something quite so valuable. This was a lot different than leaving my keys at home, or being late for lunch with a friend, or having no idea what I did with the book I was reading on the plane.

Looking down the tracks to the east I decided to give Kristen a call. Now that I thought about it I couldn’t be certain I ever had my backpack that morning. Maybe I had just left home without it? Either she was going to find it and make fun of me or I was going to ask her to look and she’d know I left it on the train. Either way, she was the right person to call.

I call home and ask Kristen to look for it. Sure enough, it was sitting on the kitchen table, packed and ready to go.

In the rush to finish my tea, find a podcast to listen to, and put something warm on… I had forgotten my stuff on the kitchen table.

Busted. I couldn’t play it off. It was another moment where I had simply forgotten something important. I hated my absentmindedness in that moment. It’s a quirk. It’s part of who I am. But it’s not something I’m proud of.

Fortunately, Kristen had the flexibility to stop what she was doing, wake up Megan, and bring daddy’s stuff to work for him.

I huffed up the hill to work for the second time. With no meaningful way to start my day, (90% of my work is done online!) I had to admit to Amy that I was… indeed… an idiot who left his stuff at home. She laughed at me and with me. Yup, I’m that guy.

Just another typical day with forgetful Adam.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.

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