Commentary 27 Jun 2008 06:09 am
Here is my print column from June 26, 2008, as published in The Alliance Review:
We’ve had lots of chatter lately over lost.
Not the television show “Lost,” which ended on another cliffhanger for the season. And not lost in the religious sense, as in the parable of the lost sheep.
I’m talking field-trip lost, as in the poor little guy who was left behind at the Akron Zoo a few weeks back.
The student handled it well, finding a person in authority and explaining his situation. Happily, he was reunited with school officials and eventually his family in short order — although when you’re a kid and you’ve been misplaced, even a minute or two feels like hours. The school district handled it well, too, putting spin control measures into place tout de suite.
I imagine most people reading this have their own lost stories — either as the person who went AWOL or the person who had somebody else go AWOL on them. Regardless of which side of the separation you’re on, it’s no fun.
My lost story happened in third grade or thereabouts on a field trip to either the McKinley Monument or the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (I can’t remember which. Chalk it up to trauma.)
My interest in the 25th president or pigskin wasn’t all that keen, but an opportunity to gawk around the gift shop proved too tempting to my 8-year-old self and I lost track of time.
At some point, I looked out from my place in the checkout line and realized that all my friends — OK, both my friends — were gone. So was my teacher. So were the adult chaperones who were duty bound to serve and protect my young behind.
I must not have been too upset, because I stayed in line and paid for either my palm-sized bust of President McKinley or some forgotten gridiron great, which still occupy dusty places of honor somewhere in my attic, before beating feet out into the parking lot in time to see the bus pulling away from the curb.
The thought of being lost so far from home was traumatizing, but I handled it like a man: I started to run, scream and cry.
(Years later, I would remember my reaction while watching “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” When a young Indiana was separated from his Scout troop, he announces, “Everybody’s lost but me.” I admired his chutzpah, and wished that I had a multimillion-dollar director and a cadre of screenwriters to come up with cool lines like that for me.)
The bus driver, alerted to my miserable mewling and Mercury-like speed — in school, the only person slower than yours truly was a kid who couldn’t afford tennis shoes and had to run laps in gym class wearing snow boots — pulled over and waited. Some kindly adult escorted my bad, whimpering self onto the bus, where my sniffles were met with derision and a few stuck-out tongues from a legion of admirers.
My occasions of being lost as an adult can’t compare, even though with no sense of direction, I deal with them frequently. I’m probably the only person who can get lost driving east to the Atlantic Ocean. With a target that big, you wouldn’t imagine I could miss it, but I do. And regularly, too.
When it happens, though, I conjure the line from young Indiana Jones and remember that lost spelled backward is “tsol.”
Which for some reason isn’t all that comforting, you know?