I think it all started when my mom took me shopping as a child. Our trips to the mall were less about fashion and more an exercise in being pragmatic. If I found something I liked, my mother’s response would almost always be, “Let’s get two.”
Most of the time it would be multiple shirts in different colors, but on occasion we would buy two of the exact same article of clothing. She would tell me if I really liked something we should buy it in the size that fit me and one size up so I wouldn’t outgrow it as quickly. Even when I got into high school and didn’t have these concerns, she would go back to the store and buy a second one of the exact same shirt in case I spilled something on it or got it incurably dirty..
This might have been her subtle way of trying to prepare me for the real world beyond just my fashion choices. According to my mom, I was not to be trusted with pretty much anything a parent would describe as dangerous. I was told by my parents I couldn’t play soccer because I would hurt myself (why my parents decided gymnastics, the only sport with a severe injury rate on par with the NFL, was an acceptable activity for me is still a mystery). I think I was 12 before she trusted me with a steak knife at the dinner table. She didn’t keep me out of these pursuits to be cruel, nor did she do so because I was an irresponsible child. She kept me out of them because she saw just how often I inadvertently found myself in a pickle be it because of freak accidents or because I lost something important.
For example, one time while shopping for clothes, I got locked in a dressing room for a good three hours. The store, which was originally something else before it was a clothing store, had what appeared to be a large closet repurposed as a dressing room. As a result, the door stretched not only all the way to the ground, but also a good eight feet into the sky, not quite touching the ceiling, but making it impossible for me to either crawl under or climb over the door, which had a faulty lock. The employees were in the process of making the “Out of Order” sign when I went in to try things on. So, seven-year-old me had to sit patiently in the dressing room while the mall staff hunted down a tall ladder and a locksmith to climb into the room and free me.
We still don’t quite know how I contracted the human version of hoof and mouth disease in middle school, a condition that WedMD can attest typically only occurs in people who work closely with livestock. Amazingly, this was not the only time in my very suburban childhood I was diagnosed with a condition typically only found in farming populations.
I refrain from offering too many details of how this He-Man suction cup toy ended up stuck on forehead the day of freshman year Homecoming because it probably deserves its own post, but yeah, that happened. So did the massive forehead hickey.
“You’re the absent-minded professor,” my mom would tell me. "You get so caught up thinking about school and other bigger things, so you just forget about what is going on right in front of your face.“
She still says this to this day. In fact, it came up again this week when we were discussing my latest wave of misfortune, which includes two sets of lost car keys, a flat tire, three calls to AAA and, most recently, the ominous appearance of the “Maintenance Required” light on my car.
“Honestly,” she said with a sigh, “I always said you weren’t allowed to do things because something weird would always happen to you or you would lose something important.” She even confessed to me that when I was in eighth grade, she resorted to storing a copy of my writing portfolio, an elaborate project Kentucky middle schoolers were required to complete in order to graduate, in her safe deposit box, for she just knew I would find a way to misplace it and then where would we be?
While most people (especially my friends in the poker world) would cringe at the suggestion I am an inherently unlucky person, nearly everyone I know will at least agree that I am remarkably forgetful. While I can keep my work and school stuff organized and fine-tuned like a well-oiled machine, my life stuff is almost always a mess.
I lose keys, credit cards, phones, wallets, purses, IDs. If it is smaller than a candy bar, there is an almost non-existent chance I will be able to hold onto it for more than a year. I often say that, should I ever get married, I don’t want a diamond ring. Cubic zirconia is fine by me, husband to me. I just want two.
That’s right, I want a spare wedding ring so I don’t feel like the worst wife on Earth when I inevitably lose the first one.
At work today, my colleague told me she believed this attitude might be the cause of some of my woes. "If you assume you are going to lose it, you’re just asking to lose it,” she explained. "Rather than have a spare, why not just modify your behavior to try to become less forgetful?“
The thing is, I’ve tried. I take hours to pack, meticulously checking things off lists. When I leave hotel rooms, I crawl around on the floor doing a full sweep before I leave to ensure nothing gets left behind. I chant things to myself as I walk out the door in the morning like "phone, phone, wallet, keys” as a mental checklist of what I need to leave the house with.
Nonetheless though, I still lose things all the time. When I was in France for WSOPE last month, I managed to lose my keys, despite them never leaving my backpack. Knowing that I shouldn’t leave it to chance that all my receipts for my expense reports survive living in my wallet, I devised a system for long trips where I tuck them in an envelope in my hotel room at the end of every day. Then I left that envelope in the hotel room.
So where does that leave me?
I have become the everyday version of a doomsday prepper. I’m a doomsday-to-day prepper. When it comes to technology, I have two laptops, two phones, several USB cords, at least a dozen SD cards and thumb drives, and at least two batteries for everything that comes with a battery.
When it comes to keys, I have four or five spares for my house and car floating around at any given time. I give copies to neighbors and co-workers, I leave a spare set at home, and I leave a spare set in my car. In my old apartment, I even managed to acquire a second garage door opener.
People look at me and my backpack that effectively serves as a portable Best Buy and shake their head. Their eyes widen when they realize I basically have a tiny Walgreens worth of over the counter medicine whenever I travel.
“You just never know,” I try and explain.
It is that uncertainty I just can’t handle, I think. So, I develop contingency plan after contingency plan. It is a concept discussed in Julie Norem’s tome on defensive pessimism, The Positive Power of Negative Thinking. People who tend to get anxious can calm their anxieties by thinking their way through worst case scenarios. It relaxes them doing knowing they have a plan of attack should things go badly.
The more I just accept that this kind of bad shit will always happen, the better I seem to handle the situations. They used to derail me. I would often cry. Now I shrug, maybe call my mom and vent, but by and large, it is just another day. If the He-Man monster can’t take me down, a lost car key sure won’t.
I only wish the rest of life was this simple. Owning two of everything may solve a lot of life’s problems, but there are some things an endless amount of duplicates just can’t fix.