searching and finding
Tuesday, October 8 2013
I got up early and took Nolan the enormous white dog outside so he could piss and shit. He was actually being sweet and even a little bit needy, following me around without any need for a leash. He and I went into the field of our uphill neighbors in hopes of finding Gretchen's still-missing wallet, and we thoroughly searched the places Gretchen had described being. She'd described stepping in a puddle, stumbing through some downed branches, and then walking through bushes to a steep hillside. In searching places that harmonized with the story, I found nothing except a beautiful rabbit skull, which is not nothing. (I identified it as a rabbit because of the four incisors in the top jaw.)
I hoped the wallet hadn't fallen into the patches of blueberry (whose leaves had all changed to a dusky purple), but it seemed to be a possibility.
That rabbit skull.
Eventually Gretchen joined me in the field to look as well. She saw where I was looking and said, "Why are you over there? It wasn't that far!" But all I'd had to work with was her rather imprecise story from last night.
We searched that field in muliple sortees, joined at times by Nolan and our dogs, as well as Clarence the Cat (who meowed monotonously the whole time and started driving us crazy). By now it seemed Nolan was pretty clear on the fact that he was supposed to be staying with us for the time being, and we began worrying less about him wandering off or making tracks for the Bluegrass State.
By her third wallet-hunting mission, Gretchen had become deeply frustrated. As she pointed out, the fact that it stubbornly refused to materialize seemed to run counter to the Law of Conservation of Matter. Where could it possibly have gone? I had begun to lose my certainty that it would ever be found. Such things happen; earlier this summer she'd lost her wedding ring, which had once belonged to he maternal grandmother, and it was still missing. But I also thought we needed to improve our searching technique. We had to stop searching all the same places over and over again and instead go over the field systematically. So I strung out 100 feet of orange extension cord at the east edge of the field (at a hedge along the Farm Road). It would serve as a cursor and we could go up and down it, moving it gradually westward, confident that everything to its east had been completely searched and would never need to be searched again. I also gave her a hoe so she could dig through the canopies of the blueberry bushes.
But after an hour of searching with the extension cord cursor, Gretchen gave up. She went into the house and began doing the research necessary to replace our credit cards.
I went out for one last search, mostly of the blueberry patches and irregular places in the ground that a wallet might have bounced into. In so doing, I managed to find a safety label that had fallen off the extension cord. This suggested that this part of the field really had been thoroughly searched. So then I went into the nearby woods, even though Gretchen was certain she had never been in them. Running out of places to search, I went further west in the field than we'd been searching, to the place where I'd been looking this morning when Gretchen had expressed irritation that I would be spending time searching so far from where she'd remembered being last night. I was maybe 80 or 100 feet beyond the hillside where Gretchen had thought she'd been when I looked down and saw the wallet on the ground. It was lying on a soft bed of moss with no bushes, grass, or sticks to hide it. Had I been left to search I my own, I probably would have found it early this morning. No matter; disaster once again averted. The morals of this story are: when you've thoroughly searched an area and haven't found what you're looking for, you should try searching a wider area. And when you're under stress about something (especially in the dark), distances covered will tend to be reduced in your memories of them.
Oddly, once I'd found the wallet, there was still a part of my mind that kept nagging me to go back into that field and keep looking. It was absurd, but evidently there was a part of my personality that had become addicted to the search and remained so even though the it was now pointless. I joked to Gretchen that I should keep searching that field until I found another wallet. That reminded me of something my father had once said about the saga of John Bobbitt's penis, which his wife Lorena had sliced off and thrown into the weeds of an intersection in Virginia. (Though the penis was recovered, my father wanted to know how they could be sure it was actually John's.)
Gretchen was so appreciative of my finding her wallet that she prepared me a late lunch of Trader Joe's egg rolls with a dipping sauce. (They were great, but only because of that dipping sauce.)
I spent most of the rest of the day working on that damn lightroom plugin. I had a meeting scheduled for tomorrow, and I needed to implement a bunch of features and also stabilize some instabilities. The key to making the integration with SQLite reliable was to group as many SQL statements as possible into single semicolon-delimited blocks and send themn in bulk. But even when I made as few queries as possible, for some reason there was an intolerably-high failure rate. I'd send a select statement and get back a file of empty results even when it should have produced at least one record. I found that I had to implement some code to retry a query in cases like this, which seems absurd to me given that the data is being saved on a solid state hard drive and never has to travel across a network.
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