Sunday, July 26, 2015

Searching for Lanyards

There are times when we are grateful beyond measure for life online. The twins are having a meltdown, we need to shop for something and our spouse has the car. And it’s raining. And even if we had the car, there’s no way we’re going to strap in those screaming banshees and publicly humiliate ourselves by displaying our poor parenting skills at Nordstroms. So it’s off to Amazon we go. Or our babysitter fell through and we haven’t ridden our bike in five days. Online workout in the living room, baby! We need information for our term paper due yesterday and the library (“Huh? Library?” say the under 20 yr.-olds) is closed. Hail Google!

But when everything transfers to the convenience of online, both personally and collectively, there is some loss, some small quality missing that starts to add up and life is just a little bit less pleasurable than it should or could be.

In two weeks, I will officiate the Memorial Service for my mother-in-law. My wife wisely thought that Billy Collin’s exquisite poem “The Lanyard” could be just right for the occasion. But her brother had doubts. “Who the heck knows what a lanyard is? I  don’t know what a lanyard is!” So we thought it would help to have one at hand to hold up. Simple, yes?

But just where does one get a lanyard? Or the fixings to make one? I bought a kit once a while back, but can’t find it anywhere in my house and so started the search again. Turns out that what some stores (like the one on Haight St. I went to) are calling sunglass straps lanyards. But I want those multi-colored plastic strips that have no practical purpose whatsoever.

And so this morning, I set off for some errands on my bike (no living room exercise video necessary!) and remembered a toy store in the West Portal District. There was a young woman at the counter and me of little faith thought, “No way she’s ever heard of a lanyard.”
And so our conversation began.

“Good morning. I have a challenge for you. Did you ever go to summer camp? Do you know what a lanyard is?”

Her eyes lit up. “Absolutely! I’ve made tons of them!”

“Really? That’s fantastic. Might you have some material or a kit of sorts here?”

“Hmm. I don’t think so. But I got my material at Michaels. Down in San Mateo. Lots of choices. I researched it extensively and it was the only place I found.”

“Michaels it is, then! Thanks so much. Now, one more question. Have you ever read a poem by someone named Billy Collins titled ‘The Lanyard’?”


“Well, you gave me Michaels, so that’s my gift back to you. Check it out!”

“Thanks! I certainly will!”

Now this little exchange is not going to solve the epidemic of random shootings in our country nor soften the hard edge of greed that has us by the throat. But this kind of simple exchange, with exercise, fresh air and the adventure of the unknown thrown in the mix, is just the kind of thing that brings the quality of life up a notch or two, creates a good feeling of community, exchanging conversation along with the goods. You don’t get that at Amazon.

Off to Michaels. 

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