Rural Living

No Child Left Behind

Merely my life's work on a laptop


by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

I have confessed my forgetfulness here before. But recently, that addle-brained part of me committed what might have been the most egregious act so far.

I drove away from the Norfolk Waterside Marriott feeling quite satisfied with myself. I had managed to pack everything up and be driving toward home by 9 a.m. Often at that hour of the morning I am lounging around the room, considering whether I want to order room service.

But not that morning. I was anxious to get onto that hellish stretch of Interstate 64, through the scary tunnel and past the crazy maze that is Williamsburg.

As I made my way through the Hampton Roads tunnel, a thought popped into what is left of my brain: Did you put your laptop in the car? I shrugged. Of course I had! That laptop contains my entire professional life. Not only is my first “A Party of One” on there, the next three are, too. They’re just waiting to be edited and put on the page.

The little voice kept urging me to check. So I pulled over and did just that.

No laptop. My heart sank. There on the side of the road, I frenetically unpacked the entire car.

By now it was 9:45. I feared my colleagues had surely checked out and were on the road already. I called the publisher, hoping against hope she hadn’t yet departed.

Did I mention I was praying non-stop? I begged Saint Anthony to help me find that laptop. I promised — probably an empty promise — that I’d never bother him again.

The publisher answered her phone and — glory be! — was on her way to the checkout desk. I babbled my predicament and dumped my problem in her lap. She capably set the hotel staff in motion and, while I sat paralyzed in fear on the side of the road, managed to retrieve my laptop.

Thank you, Saint Anthony! Thank you, publisher Anne Adams!

Have you ever left something behind? I’ve left any number of coats and jackets. I’ve left my precious pillows on a hotel bed. I’ve left my cellphone charger and had to buy a whole new phone. In my youth, I left my retainer on a room-service tray, necessitating a mad scramble in a busy hotel kitchen, through mounds of garbage, to retrieve it.

I took a quick survey of several friends, and each had a “left behind” story. One woman and her husband always designate one hotel dresser drawer for dirty laundry. Naturally, they forgot it one busy checkout morning. A week or so later, looking for her favorite blouse, my friend got the chills: That, plus other clothing and undies, was left in a drawer hundreds of miles distant.

She called. She cajoled. No laundry had been found. Then, she got a bright idea. She asked them to check the dresser drawer in her former room and, voila! The hotel was kind enough to ship her dirty laundry across three states, free of charge.

Once, a swanky time-share hotel moved my parents’ things to another room without their knowledge. When they reached their new rooms, everything was there except for Daddy’s pajamas, which were left hanging behind the bathroom door.

He marched down and inquired. They checked. The pajamas had been thrown away.

Not one to sleep au naturel, Daddy went to the hotel shop to purchase new pajamas. The only ones were silk, and cost $275. He decided he’d doze in boxers and a t-shirt that weekend.

Now pillows, pajamas, dirty laundry and, especially, a laptop, can be considered important things. But none are so important as what a friend left behind years ago.

She was a brand new mother. She had to renew her driver’s license at the DMV. She took the baby inside for the vexing ordeal, and scooted her along the counter as she inched toward completing her task. It took more than an hour. My friend was fraught, and tired.

Overjoyed to finally receive her new license, she raced out to the car. She turned the key in the ignition and was backing out when a Maryland State Trooper tapped on her window.

“Forget something, ma’am?”

He was holding her baby.

Fearing impending arrest, she tearfully blathered about long lines, and being a new mother.

“Don’t worry, ma’am,” the trooper shrugged. “It happens all the time.” 


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