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Sunday, Oct. 1, 2000


The art of losing isn't that hard to master

Once foreigners move to Japan, they take on a new image -- that of international traveler. Friends back home start describing you as "worldly," and suddenly you are an authority on all things global.

But to be a true international traveler, I think you have to have lost your passport, money and other valuables (or had them all stolen) at least once. If you travel enough, it's bound to happen sometime.

On my last trip outside Japan, I found myself in this position when I looked down and suddenly realized my passport and all my valuables were gone. Since I had never lost anything in 20 years of international travel, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when it finally did happen. Actually, I think my stuff just got tired of me and left. My credit cards were worn. My passport was about to expire and was faced with living out its retired life in a drawer. No wonder they decided to bail.

And the cash. Cash is so used to exchanging hands several times a day, it must have been bored sitting in my wallet for over 48 hours. While other 10,000 yen bills were changing hands all over Tokyo, mine were just sitting in the dark. They bailed before they even realized they were in a different country.

If you added up all the things a person loses in a lifetime -- pens, coins, lip balm, sunglasses, hats, single gloves -- it would have to add up to a pretty sum. So I thought of some ideas the other day as I was sitting on a Japan Air Systems flight (Japan Air Systems? What a strange name. Did the passengers just come in on the latest cold front?). If someone could make the following items, no one would ever lose anything again.

* Personal vacuum. Everyone should have one of these to use immediately after getting up from chairs, train seats and sofas. A quick pass over the seat with a personal vacuum would recover all those pens, coins and keys that try to bail while you're not looking.

* The body alarm. Doesn't it surprise you that of all the things we have alarms for -- cars, houses, banks -- we don't have anything to protect our bodies? A heat-sensitive, body odor-sensitive alarm would protect us from thieves and other undesirables.

* The body magnet. It would be a lot easier to keep track of things if everyone had a magnetic strip on their bodies that matched a magnetic strip on their belongings. That way, if you left your wallet in the phone booth, as soon as you turned to walk out -- zing! your wallet would come flying back.

* Antigravity device. I once saw a climber who had duct-taped lip balm and sunscreen to a string that was tied to his belt loop. You wouldn't want to lose something out of your pocket when you're climbing up a mountain face hundreds of meters in the air. But, why are we more willing to risk losing things at 1 or 2 meters? Go ahead and duct-tape your wallet and your telephone cards to a string. Girls, duct-tape those lipsticks and mascara brushes to a string for easy, immediate use anywhere, anytime.

It does seem as if our bodies are ill-equipped for modern life. You'd think God would have given us kangaroo pockets or pelican bills so we would have a safe place to put stuff. Instead, we can't even go to the beach and go swimming without leaving our valuables behind on the beach towel. Or maybe we were never meant to have so much stuff.

If we could just be born with a special string where we could at least tie certain things to our body, that would be perfect. On second thoughts, maybe God did give us something for that. And he's probably up there saying to himself, "Why? Why do they keep cutting off that umbilical cord?"

Visit the Japan Lite home page at www.amychavez.com or e-mail comments to: amychavez@mailexcite.com

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