Monday, June 1, 2009


[This is one of my favorite incidents from last year.]

The afternoon started on a better note. I laced up my running shoes for the first time in weeks. The fog had not yet starting rolling in, and I wanted to squeeze in a trip to the beach to make up for the dog walker we had recently canceled. With Jeff away on a business trip, I was a single parent for the week, and the responsibility of ensuring Sherlock's physical and psychological well being rested on my shoulders.

I threw the beach towel, the leash, and his poop bags into the car, and drove along Portola down Sloat onto a short stretch of 35 before hitting Fort Funston as Sherlock played ambassador greeting other drivers with his tongue and wagging tail out the rear window. We parked, hopped down the ladder of sand, and hit the beach as the Pacific greeted us with its fanfare of waves and wind.

The tide was already far in, narrowing the stretch of sand, and I ran along the tide line, where the sand was not too sandy and not too muddy, with the leash in my hand, poop bag and keys in my pocket, and one eye on Sherlock to make sure he didn't stray too far. Just a few other dog walkers and couples strolled the beach.

Less than ten minutes in, I felt for my keys and thought to myself that I should move my keys to my other pocket with a zipper. Just then, I saw Sherlock pick up and drag a log the length of my leg, threatening to take down an unlucky pedestrian, and I ran back toward him, searching for a small stick to distract him. When I started running again, I reached into my pocket to feel for my keys again. And felt nothing. Nothing.

Shit. Where are the fucking keys?

Not time to panic yet. I threw my hand into my left pocket, then my right pocket, then the left and the right pockets of my fleece. I dragged my hand along the inside of the hood of my fleece, stuck my face in it, then shook it as if I were doing some crazy jig, turned it inside and out, felt all along its sleeves and body, stuck my arms in to put them on front side out, and reversed by pulling the sleeves out of themselves. I groped all around my ass, my thighs, my belly, back, and chest to see if the keys had somehow slipped out and were wedged somewhere, as if keys can spontaneously defy gravity to flip themselves upward and hoist themselves into my sports bra like some hoop game at an amusement park.

No keys.

Still not time to panic. I started walking back, retracing my steps, eyes wide open like a howler monkey. My head scanned back and forth like a hand held metal detector. I retraced my steps to where I last felt the keys, looking at every pebble, every smooth piece of seaweed.


I turned back, walked up the stretch again, telling myself to focus this time. As I walked back and forth, I thought of having to call for a cab and realized that my cell was in my car. The locked car. Shit. I'll have to borrow someone's cell. Oh, no, did Jeff leave the other set of keys at home? What if he took them with him to North Carolina? Double shit. How many parking tickets would I find when I returned with the keys at the end of the week?

Five rounds later, I was still scanning, no keys in hand. I looked down the beach, and Sherlock was busy digging his hole, having the time of his life. The irony of having a dog named Sherlock at a time like this.

I told myself to look just one more time, even though the tide was encroaching rapidly, and I pictured my keys submerged under sand and water. Caught up in my search, I almost stepped on a round shimmery thing in front of me. It took me a few seconds to realize that it was a seal, and another few seconds to realize that it was dead. The tide had come in so quickly that the seal that I had obliviously passed the last round was now blocking my path.

I looked up and suddenly realized that there were no pedestrians left on the beach. The fog was getting thicker and the sun starting to set. It was a lost cause. And time to give up.

Sherlock and I dashed up the never ending stairs, and I borrowed a cell phone from a girl playing fetch with her dog at the top of the hill. I called Yellow Cab.

- Yes, hi, I need a cab please. I'm at Fort Funston. Yes, I'm right in the parking lot. How long will it take? Oh, ok, fifteen minutes. Great. yes, I'll be right here. Excuse me? No, it's not by the Golden Gate. It's all the way on the other end of the city, near Daly City. It's off of Great Highway, right across from the Olympic Country Club. Are you looking at a map? You found it? Ok, you sure you know where it is? No, I can't call you back. I don't have a phone. This isn't mine... Ok, I'll wait. And I also have a dog with me. Ok... Thanks.

Forty minutes later, I was still waiting by my car, as a couple made out in the parking space to my right. The fog was cotton candy thick by now, and the sun no longer visible. The guys on the edge of the cliff were starting to fold up their hang gliders. I borrowed a phone from a guy sitting in his Honda with his music blasting as he was chomping down on some food.

- Hi, I called for a cab over forty minutes ago, and it's still not here. Yes, I'm at Fort Funston in the parking lot. It's off the Great Highway, across from the Olympic Country Club. No, I've been here the whole time. He couldn't have missed me. I've been watching the entrance. So he's coming again? Are you sure? How much longer do you think it'll take? Fifteen minutes? Ok... are you sure someone's coming? Ok, I'll wait.

I dragged Sherlock over to the fort entrance so that the cab wouldn't miss us. Sherlock, the perfect dog in almost every respect, was a pain on the leash and tried to drag me in every other direction. When I finally got to the entrance, I stood there and felt the minutes pass. And pass. The highway was filled with commuters going home from work, and I kept my eyes open for a taxi. I looked around to see if there was anywhere I could secure Sherlock while I jogged over to Sloat Blvd. where there would be better chance of finding a cab. But the image of Sherlock freeing himself and running into the traffic kept me glued to my spot with my fists firmly over the leash.

I'm sure more than 40 minutes passed. I felt like an orphan. There was no cab in sight. I was trying to decide whether I should drag Sherlock along the busy road to try to find a cab or drag him back to the parking lot to borrow another cell phone to call my friend Sarah - the one friend whose phone number I knew by memory - when an orange minivan pulled over.

The girl behind the wheel rolled down the window and asked, "Are you ok?"

I'm sure I didn't look ok shivering in my jogging shorts with knuckles whitened from clutching Sherlock's leash so tightly.

"I lost my car keys on the beach and I've been waiting for a cab, but it looks like he's not showing up..."

"Do you need a ride somewhere?" she asked.

I looked at her as if she had told me I won the lottery. "Well, I live in Noe Valley..."

"I live in Glen Park, and I'd be happy to drop you off."

"Oh, my god, you are a life-saver."

I bounced toward her car and pushed open the sliding door. "Come on, Sherlock, up, up. Good boy."

As soon as I sat in the passenger seat, she said, "Oh, funny, I just met a dog named Sherlock last week."

As we pulled out, a little black dog came up and sat on my lap. As I was thinking that he looked exactly like my friend Sarah's dog, I heard the driver say, "Charlie, get off that poor lady."

I looked at her and said, "Charlie? Did you just call him Charlie? Wait, is this Sarah's Charlie?"

At that moment, we did a double take.

"How do you know Charlie?" she asked.

"What are you doing with Sarah's dog?"

"Wait, is this Sherlock, Sherlock?"

It turned out that she was my friend Sarah's new roommate, whom I had heard about for the past few weeks. And Sarah had watched Sherlock the weekend before while Jeff and I were away. And Sarah was the one person I had thought about calling when I was stranded out there. And here was her roommate saving my ass from this predicament.

Ah, the funny turns in life. And the warmth of living in a world that turns out to be smaller than assumed.


  1. That is very cool. And slightly freaky. Fun reading, though!

  2. I love "small world" moments in big cities or just far from home.

    Did you find your keys? Sorry. I seem to look for imaginary loose ends.


  3. How are you picking baby names, and do you have one? Is it a secret, or do you want to share? As a parent, I think once you like a name, you just have to go with it, because not everyone is going to love what you choose.

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

  4. Hi, Neeter, never found the keys, but all worked out fine. We have a lock box on our door, so I was able to let myself in the house and grabbed the other set of car keys.

    Hi, Anon at 8:43, we have a few name possibilities but we haven't settled on one yet. We will probably be mulling it over until the little guy shows up. We're thinking of giving the kid a Korean middle name, and that part seems a little harder than the first name. For now, he's just little guy... = )