Sunday, July 8, 2007

Confessions of the Absent-Minded

It bothers me that I am always late, that I am forever sweeping breathless into meeting of coolly composed co-workers, showing up at the wrong airport at the wrong day, harried and unkempt, and realizing with a start that I am ten miles past my freeway exit and never even noticed. I know, far too well, the optimal elixir of contrition, pleading, urgency, and self-deprecating gratitude to coerce an unwitting ticket agent into getting me to the series of holidays, weddings, and business functions I am in constant mortal danger of missing.

Unable to account for these worrisome tendencies, I despair of ever conquering them. I am, in other repsects, a conscientious, responsible adult. I pay my bills on time. I remember to feed the cat and water my plants, I brush my teeth and stock the bathroom closet preemptorily with toilet paper and Kleenex. I return rented movies (though never library books). Why is it, then, that I never know the location of my wallet, my keys, or my glasses, that I sleep daily though four separate alarms, that I woke up yesterday morning one hour after my scheduled departure for Jacksonville?

It cannot be that I do not care enough. My overwhelming anxiety on each and every occasion is sufficient evidence to the contrary. Perhaps it is a congenital disorder, and the brain synapses necessary to recall such basic details have sworn their cellular allegiance towards other, higher functions. There is undeniable appeal in the narcissistic notion that my absent-mindedness is a fault of genius, a charming artistic waywardness. I have a hazy recollection that Einstein hard a time recognizing his own front door. But I cannot really believe I am a similar case. Nuclear physics makes me want to cry.

My mother is wont to say to me incredulously, "But you're so smart about some things . . ." Even in her perplexity, she is too generous to add the obvious succeeding clause: "but you're as perceptive as a stump about others!" Why I should sometimes have the mental presence of a mollusk, why my faculties should periodically abdicate their rightful place to go blow on dandelions, is not less baffling or irritating to me than to anyone else in my life that is inconvenienced by it. Seeing the obvious virtue and benefit in such things, I aspire to be always punctual (perhaps even early!), alert, organized, with sharp seams and crisp collars, but no sooner do I make iron-clad resolutions than I end up like I did yesterday morning.

I set three separate alarms well in advance of when I would need to leave, but after a splendidly bizarre dream that climaxed in someone shouting "Rumplestiltskin!" (that alone do I remember) I bolted upright in bed to squint at the clock hands with disbelief. My flight had taken off an hour before, with total disregard for my absence (abominable gaucherie). I spent several minutes on the phone with an agent who explained that if I arrived at the airport by 10:35 am, I could take advantage of the two-hour rule, and I would be put on the next Florida-bound flight in time for Charlotte's wedding. All I had to do what get myself bedecked in wedding finery, brush my teeth, and hail a cab. And all that I needed to get started were my glasses, wherever they might be - and here I met the morning's second obstacle. Not at the head of my bed, not on my desk, not in the bathroom closet. I investigated these usual suspects more by touch than by sight. From there, it was more or less a game of fumbling around on the floor. Alas, it is one of life's great ironies that, beyond a certain threshold of visual impairment, you cannot find your glasses without your glasses. Losing time and passing quickly to despair, I finally found them underneath the bed. They must have landed there right about the time that my traitorous synapses were orchestrating that Technicolor fairy tale variety show.

At 10:18 the cab arrived, and we squealed off to the airport. I came huffing and puffing up to the ticket agents at 10:34 am. 60 seconds to spare. I arrived in Jacksonville just in time to help make the centerpieces at the reception hall.

If you've known me for any length of time, you've heard a dozen of these stories, and they all tend to have equally felicitous endings. And while I still deplore the mental aberrations that land me there, I've grown to tolerate them, and feel a measured optimism that all will be well. It seems to be God's pet method of reminding me that I need grace, and that I ought to laugh loud and long in this pleasant chaos called life.

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