Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Thursday, September 12, 2002 I was about eleven the first time I noticed the phenomenon that would be a ruling force throughout my life. It was a banal enough occasion; I was assembling a model airplane one midsummer afternoon. I’d reached the point where you glue the little decal onto the little piece of plastic that simulates the tiny little wee instrument panel. The only problem was that suddenly I couldn’t find the decal. It had just been there and now it wasn’t. It wasn’t on the instruction sheet. It wasn’t under the instruction sheet. It wasn’t under the papers on my desk. It wasn’t on the floor under the desk. It wasn’t in the chair. It wasn’t anywhere. It wasn’t in this universe. It disappeared, or worse.
I’m sorry, I’m going to stop talking like Dr. Seuss now.
It had been sucked into a tiny wormhole, broken down into its constituent subatomic particles, been devoured by the very aether, something. Because that little decal just plain didn’t exist any more. I gave up on ever seeing it again, painted the teeny little wee instrument panel black, jammed it into the teeny little wee cockpit, and picked up the instruction sheet to read the next step.
At which point the decal fluttered innocently onto the desk.
Some of you read that and think, “Well, obviously the decal was there the whole time. You just missed it. Eleven-year-olds are invariably idiots, after all.”
The other ninety-nine percent of you know better, though (except the part about eleven-year-olds, which I think everyone on this side of their twelfth birthdays can agree on). You know exactly what I’m talking about.
Over the next several years of repeatedly losing things and then seeing them mysteriously reappear the moment I no longer needed them, I formulated the following theorem: The fastest way to find something is to replace it.
It may be unprovable and unscientific, but it’s got a better track record than some laws I can think of. Murphy’s Law, for instance. “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong?” Okay, it’s cute, but it’s pretty hyperbolic, and therefore demonstrably false. I mean, most of us manage to get through the day without choking to death on our own snot, right? That could happen, but I feel fairly comfortable flouting Murphy and saying that it won’t. Not to jinx everyone or anything. If Murphy had his way, the planet’s entire atmosphere would have been instantly incinerated in July 1945 by the first nuclear detonation. Instead, he just has a lot of egg on his face, which is admittedly preferable to having a face like a plate of overdone fajitas. That would have taken all the fun out of being right.
And the law of gravity? Ha. Ha, I say! That law is violated so routinely that when it actually does wake up and pay attention to the occasional airplane, it’s a big damn deal. And we’re talking about one of the elemental forces in the universe here.
But M. Giant’s law is different. I think that’s because it’s not a function of just this universe, but countless others. Think about it. A portal opens to another plane of existence, and your tape measure drops through it. You search everywhere for the tape measure, realize you need a new one, and pick one up at the hardware store. The alternate dimension senses this event, and burps your old tape measure right back on to your workbench. This kind of efficiency would not be possible if the various universes were not working smoothly in concert with one another.
Interestingly, the value or importance of the temporarily missing item is directly proportional to the time it stays missing after its replacement is in place. I bought a new pack of guitar picks this weekend and the missing ones turned up that very day. On the other hand, my W-2 forms from last year are still AWOL, months after I got new copies at some inconvenience. I don’t know what’s behind that. Maybe it’s something to do with conservation of matter. Or maybe it’s the cosmos’s way of not making you feel too stupid about having two BMW Z3’s because you “forgot where you parked” the first one.
Trash didn’t buy into this theory for a while, because she’s smart and organized and has this mutant ability to know exactly where she put everything she’s ever picked up in her life. Sadly, she didn’t have to buy into it; she married into it. I explained it to her several times, but she didn’t believe me until she lost her glasses one April, squinted throughout the summer, gave in and bought new glasses in September, and found her old glasses in the pocket of a jacket she only wore in April and September. She’s been a believer ever since.
It is possible to use M. Giant’s law to your advantage. It works best when the missing item is something non-perishable. For instance, it may seem easier to buy a new box of eggs than go in after the one that just rolled into the tesseract behind the refrigerator, but trust me when I say that the retrieval is worth the effort. And you can’t give up looking for something right away, like a babysitter playing Hide & Seek. M. Giant’s law doesn’t come into effect unless the item has entered a state I call “good and lost.” Good and lost only happens when you’ve looked every reasonable place that something could possibly be, and then some more places. When you’re utterly flummoxed, when you honestly can’t understand where your objective has gotten to, when you’ve gotten to the point where you’re sifting through the catbox for the remote control or looking in the freezer for the tent stakes, then and only then will the universes decide that you’ve had enough. And they’ll still make you get a new one.
But listen, just because figuring this out has made my life easier, that doesn’t mean it’s a foolproof way of finding, say, that extra sock or that one pen that writes really nicely. Don’t just run out and buy copies of everything you’ve lost track of, expecting to keep the receipts and return them when the original turns up. M. Giant’s law will not be taunted in such a way. What do you think is going to happen to the receipts, smart guy? posted by M. Giant 3:18 PM 0 comments