Most women I know have a shelf full of purses; big purses for everyday, tiny purses for dressy occasions, and everything in between. Most women change their purse to match their outfit each day. In lieu of a purse, I carry a backpack because, as a writer, I usually need to carry my laptop, a spiral bound notebook for taking interview notes, and occasionally my camera and telephoto lens as well. On the few occasions when I attend something (like the theater) where I can’t carry the backpack, I will change to one of two other purses in my closet. That’s what happened last night.
I decided to attend one of the free weekly outdoor movies that the Sarasota Film Festival presents as part of their annual spring film festival. Last night’s screening was held at Payne Park, a lovely facility located just east of downtown Sarasota that has a high grassy hill for seating. The film was “Surf’s Up,” an animated ‘mocumentary’ about the origins of surfing, with penguins as the surfers. Since I didn’t need my laptop, I decided to take a break from carrying all that weight on my back. Instead, I stuffed my camera, wallet, and cell phone into the larger of my two purses and headed out.
By the time I arrived, dozens of families were already scattered around the hillside, adults lounging on blankets or sitting on lawn chairs while the kids played. Judging by the coolers and sacks of food, many had arrived early and enjoyed a picnic dinner prior to the film. The scene was absolutely pastoral and I simply had to snap a few photos, so I pulled my camera put of my purse and clicked away, walking the length of the hilltop as I shot. Soon I found an open patch of grass, spread my sheet, and settled down to enjoy the movie. (If you haven’t seen it, treat yourself. Best line of the whole film is when the little penguin is trying out for the Big Z Memorial Surf Contest on a day when the ocean is flat and he utters the surfer’s mantra “You shoulda been here yesterday!” Cracked me up – my surfer friends will relate).
When the movie ended at 10PM I walked back to my car and dug in my purse for my keys. No keys. I checked again. Nope. I squatted on the asphalt and dumped my purse upside down. Still no keys. I checked the zippered pocket inside my purse: Kleenex, Chapstick, but no keys. Suddenly I realized the keys must have been thrown out of my purse when I pulled the camera out to take photos. The problem was that I couldn’t remember where I was standing when I took the camera out of my purse. Although there was some light from a full moon, it was fairly dark and my flashlight was locked in my car. Fortunately, the kind folks from Sarasota Film Festival lent me a lantern and I began to search. People who hadn’t yet left pulled out their flashlights and helped me search (that’s Sarasota!), but the keys were nowhere to be found.
Finally, I decided that it was more important to go home, get my spare key, and retrieve my car, since it was by now one of only two cars left in the parking lot. Should anyone find my keys, one click would easily tell them which car they belonged to, and I didn’t want to risk losing the car by leaving it overnight. Payne Park is located about two miles from home, so I could easily have walked both ways, but again the kind folks at Sarasota Film Festival came to my rescue. Their Outreach Coordinator, Colin Panetta, drove me home, waited for me to get the extra key, and drove me back to my car. Thank you Colin – you’re a doll! Once inside the car, I turned on the interior lights and again dumped my purse out and checked for keys. I even squished the purse in my fist, figuring I would feel the keys if they were hiding within. Nothing.
Grabbing my hi-beam flashlight, I trekked back up the hill for one more look. This time, kids riding their bikes around the park’s cinder track and teens perched on the top of the hill pitched in to help, but to no avail. Those keys just didn’t want to be found. Oh well, I thought, it’s not the end of the world. I can look again in the morning and even if they don’t turn up, I have a spare key for both the car and the apartment. Not worth worrying about.
Just before climbing into bed, I grabbed the purse and began transferring everything back to my backpack. Inside the main compartment: camera and lens, check; wallet, check; pen, check; cell phone, check. Now for the zipper pocket: Kleenex and Chapstick, check. Wait, what’s this? A second zipper on the other side of the purse? Where did that come from? I thought this purse only had one zipper pocket. Something tells me I really don’t have to tell you the end of the story. Yes, my keys were there all the time, in that second pocket. And that is why I hate to change purses. In my backpack, there’s a place for everything and everything is in it’s place. I am familiar with every nook and cranny in my backpack. Whenever I want something, I know precisely where to reach. But when I change purses, I have to find a place to put everything and it is not familiar.
The only thing that remains to be answered is why this all happened. My friend, Mary, once told me that, in her opinion, “Everything means something, but not everything means something.” I respectfully disagree. I believe that everything happens for a reason. It could be that this whole incident was designed to show me just how well I’ve learned not to become stressed over little things. Or maybe something more will come of it. Stay tuned; I will certainly keep you posted.