We have boxes at work to put personal belongings in. They each have a key with a number on them. You select a box, put your stuff in, and take the key. When you leave, you insert the key, open the door, get your stuff, and go home. Simple.
Over time, I – just like many others – have developed a box preference. My personal, no-one-else-better-take-it box. It took awhile to get to this point. I started out with box #4. But box #4 was on the bottom left and I guess was pretty popular because I couldn’t reliably get it. I moved to #16 but its locking mechanism tended to catch. Sometimes I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get the door open.
Eventually, I settled on #8. Yes, I greatly prefer the multiples of 4 because they are on the bottom, just below my eye level. I can see in easily. So for the last several weeks, maybe a couple of months, I’ve used box #8. It didn’t seem to matter what time I got to work, it was always waiting for me. Even if there were only 1 or 2 boxes with keys still in them.
It’s like the universe and all my co-workers understood it was my box.
And then one morning… the key was missing. I was irritated, to say the least. I resigned myself to using #16, forgetting that the locking mechanism catches. I grumbled any time I got into the box that day.
When I left fairly late that evening, the key was still missing. I began to suspect that not only had my box been co-opted by someone else, it had been taken over by someone who takes the key home with them. They aren’t supposed to do this, but some people feel so strongly about their box selection that they do anyway. Had someone been waiting for the opportunity to steal my key all these weeks?
I got to work early the next morning – no key. Went home that evening – no key. Next morning – no key. All week long, I never saw box #8’s key. I started using #28 but being that far to the right disturbed me. I wanted my #8 back. I contemplated putting a sign on it begging for its return.
Then, that Saturday, as I pulled the clothes out of the washing machine to transfer to the dryer, I saw the tell-tale bright yellow plastic tag of a box key. Surely not, I thought to myself. Is it really?
Sure enough, I had apparently slipped the key in my pocket that last day I had it instead of putting it back in the lock before I left. In short, I had stolen the key from myself. Friday, I had begun to complain to co-workers about the stolen box. And then Saturday, I looked the thief in the mirror.
That week the key was missing, someone else had put signs on some nearby boxes reminding people that the boxes and keys were company property and you were not to take the keys home. I had cheered the signs. On Monday, I slunk past them and quickly used the #8 key to open the box before anyone could see me.
The next day, the key was gone again. And then I entered a twilight zone. Had someone coincidentally taken #8 the day after I returned the key? Had someone that knew the story deliberately taken #8 just to mess with me? Had I accidentally taken it home again? How would I ever know?
I returned to #28. The next day, #8 was missing again. I began to think #28 would have to be my new box. I suspected the new guy had taken a shining to #8. Especially as his supervisor, I couldn’t exactly say, “Hey! Are you using box #8?! That’s mine! Hands off!”
But at the end of the second day, I saw the key hanging from the open box door. And I smiled. It was waiting for me the next day and I grabbed it. Get there before him enough and he’ll probably get the hint. I hope.