A wallet is more than its contents.

by Hugh Gilmore

Having done just about all the recuperating I could stand after having surgery in late December, I’d begun going back to the gym in February and was making good progress. I’d moved my cardio-machine time up to 45 minutes, four times a week, and on the other days was lifting weights to get my strength back.

Truthfully, I was feeling good, as though my bout with cancer had been only a speed bump I’d jounced over. From Thursday to Monday of Presidents Day weekend (Feb. 17-20) however, I suffered a setback of the kind one never expects.

On Friday I entered the LA Fitness gym in Roxborough and went to my favorite elliptical cross-trainer machine for a workout. I don’t use the lockers there because I’m always in a hurry, so I emptied my pockets into the holding cups of the machine. I walked over to the window and laid my hoodie, scarf and knit cap on the ledge. When I got back to the machine I climbed up and dialed in my workout. I started to open my Kindle, but saw that CNN was on the TV nearby. They were discussing Donald Trump’s “fine-tuned machine” speech from last night. My head was still spinning from that piece of brazenness so I held off on reading my Kindle and watched the captioned TV – just for a minute, I told myself. I watched the televised talking heads discuss Trump’s immigration policy for the whole time I worked out.

Fifty minutes later my workout was done, I was none the wiser, and I hadn’t read a word of my book. I turned off the machine. I held my Kindle in my left hand and put my cellphone in my shirt pocket. I put my keys in my sweatpants pocket. My wallet, I… where was my wallet? I looked in the cup holders. Not there. I walked over to the window and searched my hooded sweatshirt pockets. No. I looked in my hat and unwrapped my scarf. No. I walked back to the cardio machine and looked all over, under, around, and in it. No. I went back to the window. No. Maybe the water cooler – I’d stopped to fill my water bottle when I came in. No. Back to the machine. No. Over to the reception desk. No.

Well, my car was right outside, in lucky space No. 1. I went outside and looked all around the car. No. Inside the car, including the dashboard, the CD box, the glove compartment. No. Under the seats. No. Under the car. I walked a direct line from the car to the gym. Wait … first I had gone to the pharmacy. I had had to drop off a prescription for my wife. I went in and asked. No, nobody turned in a wallet. Did you ask up front? I went up there and asked. No. Call me if it turns up.

I went back to the car and retraced my steps, this time from the car to the pharmacy, then to the gym. No. I better go home and look for it. It’s probably right where I left it, in the gloves and keys and wallet basket. Wait. I don’t want to drive back here again, so I’d better pick up my wife’s prescription now. Wait. Can’t. No money. Money and credit cards in wallet. Not enough change in the parking meter pocket in the car. Hmmm. I went in the pharmacy and begged two pills for overnight, to be picked up and paid for tomorrow after I got home and found my “lost” wallet. Thanks. Done.

I drive home. I suddenly realize as I do so that I do not have the means to purchase anything. And I do not have my driver’s license. I ease up on the anxiety foot that wants to push the speed pedal harder. That nasty little inner voice I carry everywhere with me says, “What if you don’t find the wallet at home?”

“Hush,” I say, “Matter can neither be created or destroyed. My wallet is somewhere here on planet earth and I shall find it. Be persistent. Be logical. Don’t give in to frustration. It only makes matters worse.”

“What if you lost it in the parking lot when you first got out of the car? I told you not to carry your wallet in your sweat jacket pocket.”

“Hush,” I say again. “It’ll be right here, in the house, in the old familiar keys and gloves basket.” Which it wasn’t. So I looked everywhere else. I went back, room by room, hands and knees. Checked every pocket of every coat, shirt, and pants. Bottoms of closets. Even the mailbox outside (In case someone found it while I was out).

“Someone found it in the parking lot and they’re using your credit card right now to buy a bunch of crappy luxury items.”

“Hush,” I answer, knowing that might indeed be the case.

“Better cancel the cards,” Mr. Commonsense says. “Hush,” I say. My wife and son are both having eye exams right now and they’ll need to pay by credit card when they finish. I decided to take a chance and call the doctor’s office. I get my wife. They’ve just finished. I tell her I must put our two credit cards on 24-hour hold. Okay. I hung up and looked around the house for 20 more minutes, then called both credit card companies and put the cards on hold till tomorrow. To my surprise, they tell me that no one has tried to use the cards today.

That eased my worries of being ripped off but added another concern: I couldn’t buy anything if I wanted to and a long weekend was coming up. No restaurants, no food shopping, no pharmacy. I began another round of wallet searching. Under the dining room table. Back to the car. Search the carport. Trying to remember if a phone call had interrupted me as I was about to use something from my wallet … and I therefore put it down reflexively at that moment in order to take the call … put it on a shelf, for example. All around the house again.

By the end of the day I gave up and went to sleep, there to look for it some more in my dreams.

To be continued next week …