How do you lose your shirt? Playing blackjack, obviously, or just being me.
My heavy brown plaid shirt, which I wear on chilly California days like a jacket over a regular shirt, is almost an acquired racial characteristic—not a card-carrying person of color, of course, more like a person of plaid. I do take it off at the gym, at bedtime, in the shower, and on those days when the California sun decides to get to working. Otherwise, it’s my epidermis.
This week I skinned myself.
It’s been a long custom with us, Elizabeth and I, each to take a more-or-less monthly overnight solo jaunt away from normal life. For me, that’s usually to some hostel in San Francisco or along the coast. Sometimes I hit a museum or just walk around, sometimes hang with my iPad at a coffee shop or the hostel commons, listen to dorm mates snoring in German or French, and drink a bit too much wine. For me, a needed retreat into loneliness.
This time to Santa Cruz, where I hadn’t been since the earthquake flattened it in 1989. Pleasant, uneventful, and there I lost my shirt.
I looked under, around, behind and between my bunk. I checked at the diner where I’d had yesterday’s lunch. I searched the car and the commons room at the hostel—couldn’t ask at the desk, as it was shut at check-out. It was not to be found.
Until I got home. Elizabeth called the hostel, and yes, it was there. I must have shed it while writing, and it fell to the floor. Much longer to work out how to ship it back, being a three-hour drive each way. Simple: pay UPS for a label they can stick on a box for the driver who stops regularly. Not so simple: UPS Customer Service had never heard of such a thing, though we’d used it in the past.
But Elizabeth is persistent with corporate dullards on the phone, and at last she took a page from our first novel REALISTS: “It’s a corporation. Call the same number, you’ll get someone else.” So on Tuesday my brown plaid shirt will be wending its way northward and onto my chilly torso.
So what’s it all mean?
In youth, losing things is a mark of Insouciant irresponsibility, a plus on an upscale resume. In age, it’s a sign of incipient incompetence if not incontinence. It’s hard to brush off, or even pluck off like the long gray hairs I pluck from my brown plaid shirt. I can only wait for the mail to restore me my warm epidermis, perhaps the same day as three boxes of our new novel AKEDAH are delivered. Not sure which I’ll open first.