Homeland security

· long story short

So the day after we arrived here in New York we decided to see a matinee of the new Lord of the Rings movie down on 86th street and 3rd. We didn’t pay cash for tickets. I called the the number listed for the theatre in the newspaper ad, which was really just the new Tell Me voice-recognition system, and purchased the tickets by credit card.
We walked down for the 1:15 showing of the film, picked up our tickets at the box office, and went down to the seventh theatre in the octoplex. We found some seats near the back, and I hung my jacket over the back of the seat. Then I thought about my wallet hanging in my left inside pocket of my jacket, so I rooted it out and stuck it in my right front pants pocket and settled in to watch the three-hour film.
The movie was a fitting continuation of the saga and when it ended we sat in our seats watching the credits and discussing the little discrepancies from the books, the use of the dwarf mainly for comic relief, the very un-JarJar digital Gollum character, and the over-the-top seige of Helm’s Deep. We stayed talking until we were just about the last people there, though B says she saw somebody going from aisle to aisle as if looking for something lost or missing.
Outside we parted ways with my brother and headed back up to my parent’s apartment on 92nd street. Later that day we were planning to take our luggage over to the apartment of a coworker of my mother’s, on 89th street, where we’ve been spending the rest of this holiday. We kept putting off the move and finally, after dinner, around 10 pm, we finally got our luggage all together and were talking about hailing a cab to take us the five blocks.
B said, “do you have money for the cab?” I said sure, reached into my jacket pocket, and felt that it was empty. My wallet! Then I remembered that I had transfered it to my trousers. But it wasn’t there either. I raced back into the bedroom to see if I had taken it out and left it on a surface, but it wasn’t there either. I began turning the place upside town, retracing everwhere I’d been in the last six hours, sitting on the floor in my father’s office using my laptop, sitting in a chair in the living room or the TV room, etc. No luck, no joy.
I started thinking that maybe the wallet had slipped out of my pants pocket in the theatre, so I decided to call the theatre to see if, hope against hope, someone had found it and turned it in. But the phone number in the newspaper was for the generic Tell Me system, so I tried to find the listing in the yellow pages. I did eventually find a number for the theatre (under Orpheum, not Loew’s) and tried calling a few times but no one ever picked up.
Meanwhile, my family members were trying to help me out by searching all kinds of likely and unlikely places around the apartment. I was angry (at myself), frustrated, sad, embarassed, humiliated, and ashamed so I mainly just kept snapping at people that I had already looked there, or that I’d never sat there,
and so on.
Finally, I decided I had to back to the movie theatre and inquire directly, so I headed out into the street, where it was now raining pretty hard. Instead of duckign back inside for my raincoat, a hat, or an umbrella, I just stormed down to Lexington into the driving rain, heedless of the water sheeting down my leather jacket, matting the hair on my head, beading on my eyeglasses.
The rain felt good, cooling off some of my fury, though I found myself barking in my head at anyone who stopped suddenly in front of me or in any may delayed my forced march. I arrived at the theatre, which looked empty but was still open, and made my way to the main counter, where I inquired about whether anyone had turned in a wallet.
The guy behind the counter wrote down my name and went into a little side office to ask. Pretty quickly he dipped his head back out and shook it, then ducked inside again. There was a wallet there, but it wasn’t mind. Different color, different name. A manager, equally young but a little more on the ball, came out to discuss it with me.
Around this time my brother Arthur arrived with an umbrella. We asked if we could check the seats ourselves. Another showing of the movie had begun around 10 and wouldn’t end until nearly 1 a.m. We promised to return at that time, and they took my name and a few pieces of descriptive information (“black leather wallet,” “credit cards”).
Walking back, we discussed the possibilities. He held out the hope that I had mistaken the situation and would still find the wallet back at home. My sureness gave me no comfort. I talked about the way thet whole thing had made me feel, angry, upset, and embarassed.
Back home I made a list of credit cards and check cards and obtained the numbers to call in from looking at the backs of other cards from my family members, or by looking on the web (this rarely worked), or by calling general 800 information, which is also served now by the Tell Me system.
Every time I was reduced to barking single-word commands to the supercilious voice-recognition phone tree (“I don’t mind if you interrupt me,” simpered the synthetic operator) whomever was in the room would look up startled, answer, or ask, “Are you talking to me?” Because answering them would likely confuse the Tell Me system, I’d either carefully cover the mouthpiece and say I was talking to a machine on the phone, or just continue with the ritual assuming they would figure out what was going on despite or because of my nonresponsiveness.
American Express was easy to deal with, as was MBNA. Capital One was efficient but, characteristically, tried to sell me some services after taking care of my cancellation. All wished me a pleasant day though by now it was after 11 pm, too late for the day to become pleasant. Brother A riffed about “My goal is to provide you exemplary service. … Am I providing you with exemplary service?” and so on.
Having cancelled the plastic (oh shit I think we put off dealing with the gas card because it’s in B’s name! Damn, I need to get on that right away…) and kissed off the cash, it was as if the matter was done with. This is not the first time I’ve lost or wallet or had one lifted. B, remembering the man lingering in the seats, became convinced that I had been pickpocketed.