September 29, 2003

The Plight of the Orange Juice Container

I couldn’t find my orange juice container. I had made a so-called spritzer (orange juice and seltzer) to drink with dinner, and now it was past dinner and I was thirsty again so I went to the refrigerator to get more orange juice.

Finding an empty refrigerator shelf, I remembered the thing for which I will one day become famous. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before. It’s my method for finding lost things, and it can expressed in a single sentence:

When something is lost, it’s usually in one of the three most likely places for it to be, but in an expected way.

The trick is to get yourself to look in the same places you already looked but this time in a new way. This is surprisingly difficult. Once people have checked a particular place, they draw a line through that place in their minds and scribble a note in the margin that says, “Don’t look there. It’s definitely not there. You already checked.” Then, just to be sure they don’t miss the note in the future, they draw an arrow from the note to the image of the place. The arrow they draw looks something like this:


You should see how quiet people get when you make them re-check the places they’ve already checked and you ask them to check these places in a new way, and they look at you like you’re a dick for making them do this, and then, ho-ho, the thing is there. People get very quiet.

As to my orange juice, it wasn’t on the refrigerator shelf so I looked to see if I had left it on the counter, which I hadn’t, so I looked to see if I had brought it over to my computer, which is something I do sometimes but in this case had not.

One, two, three places.

I opened the refrigerator again and stepped back. No orange juice. I stood a good ten feet from the counter and scanned it slowly. Nothing. I turned and looked at my desk again. Nada. Then I walked over to my bed and took in the entire apartment. It was an apartment, I saw, bereft of orange juice.

Could I have finished the container and thrown it out? That would count as possibility number four, and I was certain it hadn’t happened and yet I still made myself check the trash can, which as expected was orange-juice-less.

Remembering my rule, I forced myself to repeat the entire operation, minus the trash can, but in a new way. I would characterize this new way as pissed. I looked in all the places I had already looked, but this time as a person who was really pissed. It didn’t help.

When I was kid and something was lost, my mother was fond of saying that the lost thing didn’t just get up walk and away. I imagined that the container of orange juice did in fact just get up and walk away, that it had grown little arms and legs, forced open the refrigerator from inside, climbed down the shelves, and scrambled off into the bathroom where it was now cowering in the bathtub, poor thing, having realized that its dream of escape was just that, a dream. (Below is an artist’s rendering of the plight of the orange juice container.)

container of orange juice with stick figure arms and legs, in a bathtub

My own plight was beginning to annoy the shit out of me. Until very recently there was definitely an orange juice container in the apartment. I had combined some of the orange juice with seltzer and had had the combination, a so-called spritzer, with dinner. In fact the glass was still sitting on my desk. If I went over and looked inside it (which I was not about to do, FYI), I would find little specks of orange juice pulp at the bottom.

A certain unease began to roll in. Could I possibly be remembering these things wrongly? Had my mind gone off its wheels and moved last night’s spritzer to tonight? It didn’t seem possible and yet where was the motherfucking orange juice container?

I walked to the kitchen and opened all the cabinets. The orange juice container was on the same shelf as the plates and bowls and glasses. I had placed it in front of a row of glasses, I suppose because it more closely relates to glasses than plates or bowls.

I may not end up becoming so famous.