How to find your mum's keys after she's given up hope

Ma and I are alike in that we are forever misplacing things.

While I may dream of a life without keys, the reality is that here in Bristol, a large-ish city in the South West of England, keys are a part of life, and last night my mum lost hers, the most important ones being the keys to her car and her house. I was away yesterday and got back late, ma had already gone to bed, so I found out about the lost keys this morning.

Plan A: Listen to Mum

I did what most people do when trying to reunite someone with something they’ve lost, I asked her to tell me everything she remembered right up until she realised she didn’t know where her keys were. Mum was pretty confident that she had momentarily left her keys in the lock on the outside of the front door (wouldn’t be the first time). She reckoned that she realised within a couple minutes but when she went and checked the door they were nowhere to be seen. So naturally mum felt confident that someone had stolen them right quick and all was lost, she could anticipate her car disappearing and her house being burgled in short order.

Still I looked in the places in the house she said she might have been in the few minutes she was in the house. No luck. Ma had to go out (thankfully she has a spare car key), I had a phone call with Mizuki for a couple of hours and then resumed searching, this time with a new plan.

Plan B: Ignore Mum

Mums are daft. Not because they’re mums but because they’re human, and all of us are daft. Especially my mum. My new plan was to forget everything mum had told me. I’d already thoroughly checked the car park and everything between the car and the house, so either the keys had been stolen or they were somewhere in the house.

Searching systematically is slow, which is why most of us (myself included) don’t do it. We look only in the places we think it should be, which makes sense, but people have awful memories, and it’s easy to miss what’s right under our noses when we’re certain it ought to be somewhere else. Read up on all the many ways our brains make us unreliable witnesses, well, the same applies to every moment of our lives.

I gave each room all the focus that my understaffed brain could muster, looking behind cabinets, in drawers, under sofas, under rugs, behind cushions, etc etc. Everywhere it wasn’t supposed to be.

The upstairs front room seemed all clear, so too the upstairs bedroom, and the bathroom. I didn’t relish searching the whole of downstairs, but made a start, and almost no sooner had I did I find the little bundle of keys! They’d fallen between two cushions on the sofa, ma having said confidently during our first search that it couldn’t be downstairs because she’d only been in to the upstairs bedroom…

The moral of the story isn’t don’t listen to your mother, but that sometimes the best way to help is to doubt, and when joining a (so far) unsuccessful search then taking everything the searchers say at face value may not be the most effective contribution you can make. If what they know hasn’t produced a result, it might be what they know that is getting in the way.