By Hannah Berman

The list of errors I make on a regular basis continues to grow.

It was not long ago, after leaving the supermarket while talking on the phone with my daughter, that I realized I couldn’t find my cellphone. Immediately, I began to search for it. I looked on the seat of the car and in all of my packages and then checked every inch of my recently emptied shopping cart. The phone was nowhere to be found, so, heart pounding, I raced back into the store, thinking perhaps I had left it on the counter at the register or that I had dropped it on the floor.

All this time, I was still connected to my daughter, who was chuckling softly. But when she realized that I was seriously freaking out, her chuckle evolved into full-blown, hysterical laughter. She wanted to calm me down, but it was all she could do to say “Maaa” in the hope of having me respond so she could explain the situation. When I didn’t respond, she kept saying, “Maaaa” over and over again. The constant repetition annoyed me and I finally snapped. “Helen,” I shrilled into the phone, “Stop saying ‘Ma!’ This is no joke. My phone is missing. I can’t find it anywhere.”

It was then that she snapped! “Ma, you’re on the phone!” she managed to shriek through her laughter. Startled and disbelieving, I pulled the phone away from my ear and true relief flooded over me. My phone was not lost after all. It was only after the adrenaline rush subsided that I was able to see the humor in the situation and join in the laughter.

In the years since that experience, there have been other instances of self-inflicted angst. The most recent one was the loss of the television remote control. A serious news junkie, before going to sleep each night I catch up on all the news of the day that I DVR-ed. Political news is my main interest, and I put the television on first thing each morning to learn if something new is happening.

One night last week, I got into bed and was unable to find the remote control. I vaguely recalled having been advised to always use the remote control and not to turn on the television any other way. Since hearing that, I have never used the power button on the television itself. I’m not sure what I thought would happen if I did, but I wasn’t taking any chances. So without my faithful companion, a k a the remote control, I was in major trouble. Since the news is the last thing I watch every night and the first thing I watch each morning, the bedroom television is my lifeline. Going into the den to watch the smaller television screen is not a great option. At night I’m too tired to do that, and in the morning I’m often still a bit sleepy and not inclined to traipse into the den for the news.

There was no inch of the bedroom I didn’t search for the remote. I looked under the covers and under the pillows. I separated the twin beds and looked underneath both. I took a broom and swept under the beds in case I had missed an area. I opened every drawer in the dresser and in both night tables, despite the fact that I use only one night table. I went into the closet and looked on the floor, and I went into the kitchen because maybe I had mistakenly brought it in there, thinking I had taken the telephone receiver with me. The remote was nowhere. It was gone. Desperate to find it, I even went through the wastebasket in my bedroom and the garbage can in the kitchen.

In desperation, I called my provider, Optimum, and asked for help. I had a new and unused remote control but I would need help setting it up to make it compatible with this television. It took a little time but, with the patience of the tech expert, I eventually got it to work. As with my humiliating cellphone experience of a few years back, once again, relief flooded over me; I had a working remote for my bedroom television and all was right with my world. Nevertheless, I couldn’t stop myself from doing a mini-search each day. That remote control just had to be somewhere. I told myself what most people tell themselves when they misplace something: It didn’t just get up and walk away.

One morning, intending to make out checks to pay some bills, I stuck my hand into my handbag to reach for my checkbook and I felt something odd. I had used that same handbag every day for the past week, but I rarely looked inside it. When I want to extract something from it, I simply stick my hand in and reach inside for the item. I do that countless times each day. It is with me at all times. It went with me into stores and restaurants and to card games. Each day, I reached inside it several times — for my wallet, my eyeglasses, a package of tissues — and I never felt anything unusual. Today I pulled out my long-lost remote control!

How it got there is clear. Apparently, I put it in there. The mystery is why I did that. The only explanation I can offer is that I often do things automatically and without thinking. While I was both astonished and pleased, no great relief washed over me this time since, having replaced it, I was no longer in need of it. The minimal relief that I do feel stems from the fact that the mystery has been solved.

Now that I think of it, my pocketbook had been feeling a bit heavier than usual recently. But I never bothered to check it out. The television’s remote control was with me all along, right under my nose, so to speak. Apparently, the remote was not so remote after all. That’s just the way it is. 

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


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