I don’t know if it is still available, but when I first visited Sharjah to report at a cricket tournament, I bought one of those things that was, as youngsters say, awesome. It was a key chain. Research has shown that mankind (and womankind too) lose keys more often than they lose anything else (including their minds). So here was this ‘unlosable’ keychain.
All you had to do was whistle and it told you where it was by beeping. In my mind, it was up there with the wheel, books and spectacles as among our greatest inventions. Soon I realised I needed similar whistle-beeps (although that was not what it was called) to find my spectacles and books too.
Now older and wiser, but still not cured of my habit of misplacing things, I need the whistle-beep more than ever. The only problem is, I need it on so many of my things at home that whistling would be positively dangerous. A casual whistle would set off an orchestra of beeps, with everything from books, spectacles, couches, pens, television remotes, nail clippers, scissors, tea bags to socks, shoes, cell phones and watches beeping in unison. If I found what I was looking for and heaved a sigh of relief, that would set off a fresh round of beeps.
One solution is to have different tunes for different things.
The phone could beep the opening bars of Phantom of the Opera, for instance, the TV remotes could beep tunes from old Bollywood movies. But, something tells me, the cacophony would be too great and I would never find my earplugs in time.
Perhaps what we need (OK, I need) is a GPS. An app that reveals a whole lot of likely ‘losables’ when I open it. I thus have to press only the relevant icon, and that would be that. The premium app (in my fantasy) would not only tell me where I have placed books that I am currently reading, but where every book I own is resting. I have a little over 5,000 books, and during a recent cleaning spell noticed quite a few doubles. The app would have warned me at the bookstore.
But that’s a small price to pay. I am happy to have doubles and triples so long as my gizmo can pinpoint the location of the book I am looking for. The technique I now use is cumbersome. Say, I am looking for Graham Farmelo’s The Universe Speaks in Numbers. I have to pretend I am searching for Alberto Manguel’s Packing My Library and trick the former into revealing itself. To be honest, that’s hardly worth the whistle.