Crowdsourced confessions soothe feelings of stupidity

Ronnie Polaneczky with her laptop.

I lost my Apple MacBook last Friday. It contained everything I’d written for a big project I’m working on. Nothing had been backed up.

I’d moved the laptop from the backseat of my car to the roof while I was outside a Parkside retirement house, helping an elderly acquaintance load items into the backseat.

We fumbled with his stuff. I fumbled with his seat belt. I forgot about the MacBook and off we drove. An hour later, I realized my mistake.

You know the roaring sound that panic makes in your ears while you wail “NoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNo!” and pray to dead relatives to roll back time while you frantically retrace your steps?

That was me. By Friday night I was a depressed mess. I’d filed a police report and posted a reward on Craigslist’s lost-and-found section. The only thing left to do was ask Facebook friends to share tales of their own stupidity, so my misery would have company.

The car-roof confessions began.

Tom Mahon left a tray of stuffing on the car on the way to Thanksgiving dinner. He found it later in the middle of the road, surrounded by pigeons.

Michael Patrick Owen left his iPhone up there. It wasn’t backed up and he lost every photo he’d ever taken of his children. He bought a new iPhone – and did the same thing all over again.

Art Spikol took off with a box of drinking glasses and a pearl necklace — gifts for his mother-in-law — on the roof of the car. Halfway across the Ben Franklin Bridge, the carton fell, spilling its contents. At the other end of the bridge, he learned that the glasses had caused some blowouts.

“What should I do?” Spikol asked the officer who had waved him down.

“If I were you,” he answered, “I would keep going.”

Other people admitted to losing track of their kids.

Bob Jenkins left his toddler at the church after his newborn baby’s christening. Mike and Sue Lanis each thought the other had brought their daughter home from soccer practice. Nancy Kenny walked a long way from a shop with two of her three little ones when she got a sinking feeling, like she’d forgotten her purse.

“But I had my purse,” says Kenny, who’d actually left her infant in a pram outside the store.

A few friends reminded me of famous acts of forgetfulness, which soothed my self-loathing.

In 1922, for example, Hadley Richardson, first wife of Ernest Hemingway, left a suitcase of his unpublished stories – including their carbons – on a train. The fiction was never seen again.

And in 1999, Yo-Yo Ma left his $2.5 million, 266-year-old Venetian cello in the trunk of a New York cab. Police found it in time for Ma’s evening concert.

Michael Lisicky, an oboist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, didn’t lose his precious instrument, which was made from Mozambique grenadilla wood. But he did accidentally sit on it.

“I am probably one of a very few people who knows what it feels like to break a $10,000 handmade oboe in half with your ass,” says Lisicky, who shared his tale via Facebook. “I tried to find an excuse or answer about why it wasn’t all my fault and couldn’t come up with anything good.”

A 2015 survey of 1,000 American adults says we lose an average of $5,591 in misplaced stuff over a lifetime. Twenty-eight percent of us search for less than a week before accepting the item as gone forever.

Me, I threw in the towel within 24 hours, bought a new MacBook, and told myself that things happen for unknown reasons and that one day I’d learn the reason for this.

Then on Monday, the phone rang. A worker at the retirement home where my elderly friend lived had found the laptop in the grass. I raced over there and, lo, my slightly dented MacBook flickered to life within seconds of my opening it. All files were present and accounted for.

I wrote the worker a reward check, hugged him way too hard, bought an external hard drive, and spent the day backing up files I’d thought were lost forever. That night, I also put them in the cloud.

Because I refuse to learn this lesson twice.