Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
For years I have dreaded the day when my daughters would sit me down at the kitchen table and tell me, ever so gently, that it was time for me to go to The Home.
I keep a running list of mental infractions posted on the wall, to remind myself to get a grip. I don’t include the many instances of going purposefully into a room and suddenly having no idea why, but I do list things such as leaving my passport at home when I went on a cruise last fall, trying to make a phone call with the remote control for the TV and, my friends’ favorites, “Tried to light a Vicodin.”
Last Friday’s entry was, “Dogs, car, Miner’s Building,” written with the naïve assumption that, down the road, I would remember what that meant. I think I will, because it was a heavy moment.
I had returned to work at the Times after lunch and had been at the computer for almost an hour when I noticed that my dachshunds, Nicky and Freddie, had been uncharacteristically quiet. Usually they are oinking for treats, snapping at other dogs and otherwise making their presence known.
I bent over to check their dog bed under my desk, and it was empty. With a sense of mounting panic, I rushed through the building hoping to find them begging at one of their treat stations, to no avail. Had I, for godsake, LEFT them in the CAR?
I rushed down the alley behind the Times to the spot where I always park my VW Beetle and the car wasn’t there.
The car wasn’t there; my heart started pounding. I tried to mentally retrace my steps and came up with a complete blank. Had the car been stolen? Who would take a bunged-up Beetle with two unpredictable dachshunds on board? And if the car hadn’t been stolen, where the hell was it?
You get old, start to doubt yourself and, instead of rationally thinking it all through, you panic. Years ago I ran into an old lady crying in the City Market parking lot. She couldn’t remember where she’d parked her car, and she was crying because she thought she had lost her mind.
I rounded the corner of Carl’s Wine Cellar and sagged with despair when I saw that the Beetle wasn’t parked in front of the Times, either. Almost simultaneously (the entire episode, from the discovery of the empty dog bed, took only a few minutes), I spotted the Beetle across the street, parked in front of the Miner’s Building, and everything clicked into place.
The clicking into place did not keep the episode off the list, but it at least clarified what had happened.
As was my ingrained habit, I had turned off Main Street to park in my spot by the alley, but at the last second remembered that I needed to pick up an ad from the Miner’s Building. Since I had just screwed up the Thursday Miner’s Building ad by thinking it was still May (what happened to MAY, hey?), I whipped a U-turn and went directly to the Miner’s Building.
Usually I just walk across the street to the Miner’s Building so, again following old habits, when I walked out of the Miner’s Building I walked over to the Jerome stoplight, crossed the street and returned to work.
I guess the moral here is that if you make any deviation from your regular routine, you have to try to remember to make a mental note of it. “I’m putting my glasses on the back of the toilet,” “I’m parking in front of the Miner’s Building.”
Nicky and Freddie were clearly pissed off at me, but were as relieved to see me as I was to see them, and relieved as well that I had left the windows down.
Back to the Times’ alley, back to work, another day with another item on the list.
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For the past five-plus years I have sat in a big chair in a small office on Hyman Avenue watching life in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley play out in front of me.