Archive for August, 2018

A Jog at the Zoo

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Porta-potties. They’re like a reliable friend who’s there when you need them, and yet there are few things on earth more vile. I’ll use them, but when I do so, I don’t breathe through my nose, and I certainly don’t, under any circumstances, peek into the bowl. So I was happy to see a porta-potty near my son’s camp, which was at a local zoo, because after I dropped him off, I’d wanted to go for a run, and I had to go to the bathroom before I set off.


I parked in the lot near the potty, and I was about to strap on my new iphone armband to carry my phone so I could listen to music as I ran when I noticed it had a little pocket for a key. I had planned on hiding my key fob under a rock near my car, as I sometimes do, but I opted for the little pocket in the armband. How fortuitous, I thought. I had been contemplating whether the parking lot, which was next to a playground, was a little too populated for the old hide-the-key-under-a-rock trick. I strapped the armband to my upper arm, went to the bathroom and took off.blog fob 4 porta potty


The run was like a symphony in four parts: There was the beautiful tree-lined path that appeared to go down to the river but turned out to be a path to the highway. There was the El Camino Trail, a nice gravel path that reminded me of my high school track. It started out on a tree-lined street but quickly became urban, with a skyline in the distance and buildings covered in murals and poems. Once the trees receded, I baked in the hot sun. The third part was a long flight of stairs down to a wide pedestrian bridge that crossed the Genesee River, a brown river that flowed through a green canyon. And the last part I ran as a favor to my son, who said, “Mommy, can you run by the zoo and see me?” It was a stone path that went along the perimeter fence of the zoo, but the path quickly disappeared, and I had to choose between running on the tilted muddy ground or a road for zoo vehicles. I opted for the road but as I moved along the outside of the zoo, within eyeshot of kids at the playground and the snack bar, I feared I looked like a pedophile. I turned around and ran back to the jogging path that wound through the park.


After the run, I returned to my car, unstrapped the armband that held my phone and saw the pocket in which I had placed my key fob was empty. I must have dropped the fob somewhere along my route. I retraced my steps in my head, and my mind quickly went to the beginning of the El Camino trail, where the sun was so hot, I had unstrapped the armband and taken off my long sleeve shirt. But the earphones had gotten twisted up in the neck of my shirt, and I had to pass the armband and headphone wires through the shirt opening several times, like unsewing a hem, to untangle the mess. I must have dropped the fob in the process, I thought. I walked back to the path, thinking I’d surely find it sitting there. I did not. I walked my entire route on the El Camino trail, replaying the run in my head: the spot where I saw the old Eastern European looking woman standing on the highway overpass inspecting a sneaker that I initially thought she’d found until I saw she had a matching sneaker on her other foot. The WPA looking mural that seemed so current until I saw it was dated 2013. The part where the greenery around the trail stopped looking like bucolic nature and started to look like weeds on the back end of an industrial site, and I felt it best to turn around.blog fob path


On my way back, I passed a car service station and thought, I can retrace every step I took or I can go to the mechanic and ask if they had a device to break into my car. I chose the latter.


I saw a man working on a car and asked him where I could find the owner of the shop. He said the owner had just left but that his wife was in charge. I told her what had happened, and she walked out to the front desk with me to see which of her workers could leave the garage. She helped a man and his son who were standing at the counter, and as the two turned to leave, she remembered the man was a mechanic.


“Chuck, do you know how to get into a Subaru? This lady lost her fob when she was running, and she has a problem with a key,” the woman said.


I wasn’t sure why she worded it that way, but I figured in the language between mechanics, it probably made sense.blog fob stairs


“I don’t know how to do that. Sorry. I’m a GM guy,” he said, and he and his son walked out.


As I stood at the counter hoping she could spare an employee for a couple of minutes, the man walked back in.


“Were you asking if I knew how to use a lock out set? Because I do,” he said.


My heart leapt up.


“Great,” the woman said and handed him a lock-out set, and we were off.


I hopped into their truck, and the man said, “I wasn’t sure what she was asking me, but after we walked out, my son told me what he thought she was saying. That’s why I went back in.”


There is a God, I thought.


The man and his son drove me back to my car, and I watched as they wedged a black bag that looked like a little enema into a small gap between the top of my window and the door. They then inflated the bag with a hand held pump similar to the bulb one pumps to take someone’s blood pressure. Soon the small gap was large enough to fit a long wire rod through the window, and he used it to depress the button that unlocked the door.


The man opened my car door, gathered up his tools and headed back to his truck. I grabbed my car keys, which I’d hidden in the center console under a coffee cup.


“Thanks! I feel like buying you a six pack!” I said.


“Don’t worry about it,” the son said.


After they pulled out, I stood outside my car, perplexed. I wanted to know where my fob was. I was relieved I could now get into my car, but now I wanted my fob. I figured I’d already checked one of the four paths I’d run. I headed over to the bridge over the brown river. I thought maybe as I was running down the stairs to the bridge, the fob fell out. But I walked all the way down, crossed the length of the bridge, and walked all the way back up and saw no sign of it.blog fob 2


I decided to check the path that I initially thought went over the river but in fact went to the highway. Again, I replayed some of the thoughts I’d had an hour earlier when I ran in that spot, namely, how it felt remote and how the man coming toward me might kill me like a man killed that poor girl in Iowa who was out for a jog. The fob was nowhere to be found.


There was only one stretch of my route left, the one that ran along the outside of the zoo. I was starting to get hot and tired. I’d now been running and walking for almost two-and-a-half hours but there was so little path left to retrace. Surely my fob must have fallen out on that tilted sludgy path along the road around the zoo. But when I walked back there, I saw no fob.


The more ground I covered without finding the fob, the more my mind began to consider the worst case scenario: that somehow, I had dropped the fob into the bowl in the porta potty before I’d even left. It wasn’t impossible. I’ll sometimes be holding two things in my hand. and while I’ll mean to put the milk in the refrigerator and my phone on the counter, I’ll put both the milk and the phone in the fridge. Could I have been holding toilet paper in one hand and the fob in the other and mistakenly thrown both into the bowl?


When I returned to my car and saw the porta-potty, I considered looking in the bowl but decided I just couldn’t do it. And then I thought about all I’d walked that morning and how I’d retraced every step with no success. I didn’t want to leave this last stone unturned. I approached the door to the porta-potty, took a deep breath and opened the door. I quickly scanned the spots I might have put the fob down but saw nothing. I then lifted the cover of the toilet and looked down into the depths of hell, trying to see if my fob had fallen into the vortex. I couldn’t see anything, but who knows how many people had been in there in the last two hours. If my fob was in there, I wasn’t going to retrieve it anyway.blog fob inside porta potty


I closed the lid and exited the porta-potty and walked over to my car, feeling glad I could get into my car and drive off but sad at the thought that I’d put my mind to something, tried as hard as I could, and I still failed. It’s always disheartening when you realize giving something your all isn’t always enough. At least as I retraced my steps, I’d seen some things one doesn’t see when their eyes are focused straight ahead, like a fuzzy bright yellow caterpillar that moved unusually fast, or little artifacts from people’s lives, like the red gummy bear on the sidewalk, the discarded blue whippet canister on the grass, and the set of black earphones in the parking lot. But more than that, I experienced the kindness of strangers, a reminder that in these dark times, there are still little flickers of light.

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