The backpack as organizational tool

A place for my keys

backpackBack many years ago when I was working full time, through June 2019, I used my backpack a great deal. It was a blue L. L. Bean item, which I kept until it started slowly deteriorating. At that point, my wife got me a new one, discounted because of credit for buying the original one.

I used it almost every weekday, most Sundays, and occasional Saturdays. In bicycle-riding weather, it contained my bike lock. My bus pass resided there, as did my keys; the latter was because, on two occasions, my keys fell out of my pocket and I didn’t notice. I backtracked hours later and, amazingly, found them! Sometimes, my wallet’s in there for a similar reason.

Even after retiring, this system worked well. But then COVID hit. I just didn’t go anywhere. Well, except that stretch in August to October of 2020 when I was working the Census, and I was getting around via a combination of my bike and the Capital District Transportation Authority. I kept my Census valise in my backpack when traveling.

Out of the habit

The result is that I would misplace my wallet and especially my keys somewhere in the house. Heck, I lost my keys for three full months in 2021. While I had another front door key, I didn’t have one for the shed, where my bicycle is kept. My wife had one but that didn’t help when I wanted to ride during the day.

Then, finally, I found my keys, which meant I could go to the shed. Nuts; only part of my bicycle lock was in there. But I vaguely, but accurately remembered that the other section was, for some reason, by the living room stereo.

Now, where’s the backpack? I didn’t know for a bit. Carrying the bike lock in a bag around my shoulder was inadequate. I finally found the backpack, stuck in the corner of the office, put there in order to try to tidy up the room.

I cannot explain the thrill, the joy of being able to ride my bike to the store, lock it up, pull out a mask (an addition to the backpack accouterment), buy some milk and cottage cheese, then ride home. It’s so damn…NORMAL. Joy I can find in the most mundane of tasks when it feels like the old times of 2019.

Thoreau as a finder of things


ThoreauThis, or a variation of it, happens to me all of the time.

I bought a new phone. It’s an Apple 8 or whatnot, my first iPhone ever. I open it up and start trying to figure out whatever needs to be done. Invariably, I get interrupted. A couple days later, I’m back trying to set it up. But the iPhone apparently wants some settings on my old Android phone. And, of course, I can’t find it anymore.

Then my wife comes home. She’s been to the farmer’s market. She doesn’t have enough cash, and the vendor doesn’t take credit cards or checks, But he does take Venmo. She doesn’t have Venmo, but I do, on my old phone, naturally. After she tells me she needs to make this payment, I redouble my efforts. Not in the backpack or in any drawers or in some clothing in the hamper. After an hour, I give up.

The Albany Public Library had a book sale the previous weekend, which I worked at. I bought a few items, one of which was a CD called Best of Beck. This is by Jeff Beck, not the other guy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t open it, because the plastic encasement was locked. Alas, a dollar wasted.

Wait, I’m going to try to liberate the disc without destroying it. Using a couple of pairs of scissors, I succeed. I need to put the CD in a new case. Fortunately, I have a bunch of empties. I go to that drawer. Sitting right next to that dresser, in the bay window, is my damn Android phone.

It always happens

This happens a LOT to me. When I stop looking for something – total surrender – I often find it. There is a saying attributed to Henry David Thoreau that goes, “Happiness is like a butterfly, the more you chase it, the more it will evade you.” But why is it always inanimate objects for me? it’s most often keys because I have an irrational disdain for them.

But it is also true that “if you notice the other things around you, it will gently come and sit on your shoulder.” Though the woods are never the same. Or wherever.

Remembering the accouterments

Technology doesn’t always work for me the way I understand it’s supposed to.

The day after our work trip to Syracuse in April, a remarkable thing happened. I brought my keys, my wallet, my cellphone, one of my Amazon Fire tablets, and my work identification to work. That had not happened in so long I do not recall when. Then it happened again on Thursday, June 1.

Usually, I know where my keys are, unless the Daughter has borrowed them, or they’re in a pair of pants that have ended up in the laundry. Still, it’s a good thing we have a spare house key.

Generally, I bring my wallet, though occasionally it’ll be in the OTHER coat. Loose change in the backpack, or an emergency credit card in the mail drawer, can be a salvation.

I like carrying one of my tablets to check emails and play games. I remember more than half the time. In fact, I now have TWO tablets because I misplaced one for a couple weeks, and then the other, eventually discovered in the clutter we’ve been tackling.

Incidentally, one of them, the 8, as opposed to the 7, can be charged for hours, but it will only show as 1% charged. I can then use it for quite a while before it really IS at 1%, then at 0%, and it shuts down.

There was a recent report that more people are living without a landline. That won’t include me for some time, unless, like the folks in Illinois might be, I’m forced to give it up.

It seems that either my cell is MIA, or it has zero juice. The other thing I’ve noticed is that my cellphone does NOT work well in my own house. When I call the phone company to get the landline fixed, I usually have to use it on the front porch.

But I seem most resistant to the ID. That definitely DID go through the washing machine, because my badge has a bit of of a psychedelic look. Moreover, almost every time I use the thing, I sing, “Let me see your ID.”

My parents used to call me the “absent-minded professor,” so I assure you that this is not a function of age. It’s just how my mind works, or occasionally, fails to.

As noted, technology doesn’t always work for me the way I understand it’s supposed to.

A friend of mine was visiting a friend in London, when two guys on a scooter snatched her phone out of hand as she was happily gesturing and chatting with her friend. Beyond feeling sad for her, it points to my distrust of becoming dependent on any device too much.

I made a tactical error on a trip to New Paltz, my old college town, recently. We were rushing to leave Albany, but I was short on cash. The Daughter’s phone says there’s a branch of my bank within a store in town, but when I get there, the store ownership has changed. It’s essentially the same establishment, with a different name, but no longer even an ATM. Fortunately there was another option only a couple miles away, but still…

The technologically bashful Arthur recognizes that all his new technology is a product of his great good fortune. So I reckon I oughtn’t to kvetch about my techno stress too much.

The bain of my existence: keys and locks…

That missing key chain also has my home rear door house key, the car key, the fob to get me onto the third floor of my work building, and, notably, apparently the remaining key to the shed.

Sunday, December 15, while we were cleaning off/digging out the car – we have on-street parking, and the snowplows know how to pack in vehicles – I gave my set of keys to The Daughter so that she could open the shed and get her snowboard. She says she gave the keys to The Wife, who doesn’t recall that action, but that is inconclusive. Regardless, I didn’t have any keys, except my spare key to the front door, and one other.

This was particularly annoying because I don’t really need help to lose my keys; I’m actually an expert at misplacing them on my own. I had to see here to know how I could rectify that habit. The one other “key” I did have isn’t really a key at all, but rather a swiper card to get into the rear door of my work building at Corporate (frickin’) Woods, or into the front after hours, when the security desk is closed. I had only recently rediscovered it, under my bed, after three or four months of it being MIA.

I’m not quite sure why we needed badges to get into my building. They had these signs throughout the floors that say, “Stop tailgating,” which means to avoid allowing someone behind you to get into the building on your swiper pass, but that’s PRECISELY how I had been getting in when I was still riding the bicycle into November and had to park it in the garage in the rear.

That missing key chain also has my home rear door house key, the car key (useful when we’re loading a car on a trip), the fob to get me onto the third floor of my work building (embarrassing to have to either wave at someone to get them to let me in or to call my office), and, notably, apparently the remaining key to the aforementioned shed (the Wife or the Daughter having misplaced the other.)

Finally, on Christmas Eve, I asked the administrator at work for another fob to get on the third floor. This was born of necessity. It seems inevitable that when I need to go to the bathroom on my floor, it’s being cleaned, which means I have to go down to the first floor facilities, requiring me to get someone to let me in again.

About an hour later, we got an e-mail notifying us that all the building entry cards would be deactivated and that we’d be getting new ones. In fact, the deactivation took place BEFORE the cards were distributed, so if you went out for a cigarette in mid-morning, you might not be able to get in the back door.

Of course, most people were on vacation Christmas Eve, so this necessitated our office people calling or e-mailing people at home to notify them of the change. The building people, realizing their amazingly lousy timing, came up with an inventive solution; keeping the back door UNLOCKED during business hours until January 2, 2014, thus defeating the purpose of the security system altogether. As it turns out, the unlocked doors, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays is the new policy, which pleases me no end.

I hate locks, and keys, and swiper entry cards, and swiper entry fobs…

Postscript: Got a call from the Bach branch of the Albany Public Library on Monday, December 27. Someone found my keys and turned them into that library because I had my daughter’s library card on my key chain. HAPPY.

K is for Keys

Music touches on a few aspects of the word key.

I have become fascinated with the word key. It’s a short word, worth 10 points in Scrabble, but it has so many meanings. shows some four dozen definitions. And while some are interlocking, most of them address some sort of structure.

There is that metal thing that moves a bolt that I tend to hate because I tend to misplace it. I have a couple of duplicates of my house keys, one outside the structure – no, it’s not under the mat – just in case. Someone told me a long time ago that the number of keys one has related to how important they were. The most important person I ever knew, by that definition, was my elementary school janitor.

Then there’s “something that affords a means of access”, such as the key to happiness. The word shows up at least a half dozen times in the Bible in this context, including Luke 11:52 (New International Version)- “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” Lawyer bashing has a rich tradition.

“Something that affords a means of clarifying a problem,” I would contend, would include the pronunciation key in the dictionary, the answer key to an exam, and like entities.

Things that look like keys, such as the islands known as the Florida Keys, or a part of the floor in basketball. Or something that is the center of things, something that’s important, such as the key to figuring out a mystery; Pennsylvania is the Keystone State.

Music touches on a few aspects of the word key. The keys on the piano or other instruments, like the keys to a calculator or computer keyboard, are the items that are touched; singer Alicia Augello Cook changed her last name to Keys in honor of piano keys. But the key is also “the principal tonality of a composition: a symphony in the key of C# major.”

Stevie Wonder recorded the 1976 Grammy album of the year, Songs in the Key of Life. It featured the big hits I Wish and Sir Duke, but also this minor hit As.

I came across this list of songs containing the word key. Thought I’d pick a few:
Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key-Billy Bragg & Wilco, featuring Natalie Merchant; a Woody Guthrie lyric completed by Bragg.
Key To The Highway-B.B. King and Eric Clapton.
Brand New Key-Melanie (live). “Don’t go too fast, but I go pretty far.”

ABC Wednesday – Round 8

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