Okay my precious peeps, put some water on the kettle, tuck yourself nice and tight into your Snuggie, pop a NoDoz or 2, and make yourself comfortable BECAUSE today’s Mailbag Monday is going to take a while.
Dear Nerdy Romantic,
You can file this email under “W” for “walk of shame.” About 3 weeks ago, I had one of those unbelievable dates you see in the movies: It started early in the night at a coffee shop and ended with us sitting on the rooftop level of a parking garage sharing our thoughts on the universe till dawn. He kissed me “good day” and we made plans to have dinner and a movie at his apartment that Friday. He mentioned he was the last living soul to still own a VCR so I decided to bring over my VHS copy of “Harold & Maude.”
Crucial side note: This movie was a gift from my favorite uncle Dan on my 13th birthday. He was the one man in my life who encouraged me to pursue my love of art despite its 1-in-a-billion success rate. He died in a car accident shortly after that birthday, but every time I watch that video, I feel his big bear hug wrap around me with love and support.
My date and I barely made it past the hanging scene before finding our way to his bedroom and — well, you know the rest. The next morning, I woke up to the sound of him getting dressed. He acted distant and said he was really “swamped” at work and would try and call when his schedule opened up. I have no clue what words came out of my mouth next BUT I found myself halfway back home when it hit me: I left my copy of “Harold & Maude” in his VCR.
I’ve accepted the fact that he and I are not meant to be. But I can’t accept losing that video. Every time I try and call him, though, I get tongue-tied and hang up. What do you suggest I do?
Desperately Seeking Maude
Well Mrs. Chasen, the “Computer Dating Services” of our day may still “screen out the fat and ugly.” But they certainly drop the ball when it comes to weeding out the jacktards and dillweeds.
So, “Desperately Seeking Maude” — this is where things get personal, real personal.
It was 5 years ago. I was living in San Franciscone. One afternoon, I asked my friend Chloe if she wanted to ride bikes to the theater and catch a Sunday matinee.
“I’d love to,” she hesitated, “Except for the fact that I left my bicycle at this guy’s office and haven’t had the nerve to ask for it back.”
“What do you mean?” I inquired innocently. “It’s your bike. It’s Mr. Blue Wheels. Why doesn’t he just drop it by your apartment or you go pick it up?”
To make a shlong story short, the last time Chloe saw this guy, she was collaborating with him on a design project at his studio. After a few hours of work, they took a break at a nearby bar. 5 shots of Jimmy Beam later (4 for him, 1 for her), he proposed they play hide the salami back at his place. She politely rebuffed his offer and the guy proceeded to throw a very public tantrum about her “total bullshit teasing.” Chloe made a mad dash for the exits, hailed a cab home, and left Mr. Blue Wheels in the cold, dark hallway of the guy’s studio.
Two weeks later, and many anxiously aborted attempts to recover Blue, THE RETRIEVERS was born.
— The snack bar is now open for a 15-minute intermission —
The concept: A Repo service for those too embarrassed, hurt, ashamed, etc… to go back for that which was left behind. It started off as a practical joke. For kicks, I wrote the following advertisement:
“Did some bad break-up or awkward one-night stand wake-up have you some lover’s house in a hurry, a frantic flurry, so that you ended up leaving some cherished item behind? Well then, contact the Retrievers.
It could be as small as the left earring stud or as large as a bicycle; a book, boxer shorts, a letter declaring your love, a CD, a DVD, a pet dog? Whatever the item, now the humiliation or shame of the situation makes it impossible to go back and get it; Can’t call for fear of hearing that voice; seeing that face.
If having that object back in your possession is desperately important, leave the dirty work to us. With an address, we will go and retrieve your abandoned keepsake AND return it to an anonymous location of your choice, no questions asked, no appearances necessary.”
Chloe took the extra step of posting the ad in the Missed Connections section of Craigslist, including an email address, just to see if anyone would respond.
What happened next would revolutionize my idea of the isolated suffering of individual heartbreak.
Immediately, our inbox was flooded with these heart-rending, gut-spilling emails: All across the country, from Seattle to Connecticut, story after story of people mourning lost items from the messy aftermath of one-night stands to long-term live-ins.
But they all were experiences in a far distant past, slumbering memories roused again by our ad. The players long since moved on, but the need to retell the incident renewed, along with a bemused wish that “the RETRIEVERS had been around back then.”
Meanwhile — an art magazine reporter requested an interview with the Public Relations department of our company for a story on “Escape Businesses.”
Next — a woman in New York asked if The Retrievers was hiring for East Coast representatives.
And finally, boingboing featured our ad in its June 14, 2007 blog post: (Check it out!)
We struck a chord. The people had spoken. So, Chloe and I decided to try this RETRIEVERS gig on for realz. Chloe designed a flier out of our original ad and we went around the city taping it to lampposts and coffee shop bulletin boards.
And we waited. And we waited some more. But the emails continued to fall into the “Could’ve Used You Then” category. As if the simple telling was a kind of reclamation — redemption for a painful betrayal in the past. But nobody requested that The Retrievers actually recover a lost item in the present…
… UNTIL NOW!
To “Desperately Seeking Maude,” for you and others like you — Chloe and I have decided to relaunch The RETRIEVERS, part deux, in the spirit of sequels that don’t suck (think: Empire Strikes Back and the Godfather II.) We are bigger and badder and relocated in 2 major metropolitan areas of Atlanta and NYC.
The RETRIEVERS are striking back against abandoned objects everywhere. Our services include:
- An objective phone call
- Dorm (if in college) visit or public meeting ground
- OR — the simple cathartic telling of your story.
“Desperately Seeking Maude,” in hindsight, you might come to see that your uncle’s spirit is no dimmer without the video AND that his real gift to you was an enduring confidence to remain true to yourself AND an unconditional love that transcends space and time.
P.S. The RETRIEVERS I’s only real and successful repo mission was the recovery of Chloe’s bike, Mr. Blue, who happily resides now in Brooklyn:
Atlanta contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
NYC contact: email@example.com
(IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The RETRIEVERS is not in the business of indulging in any passive-aggressive acts of intentional-object-leaving in hopes of forcing a reunion with thwarted lovers.)