Being a wary urban dweller, I’m aware of my surroundings when I walk: the people I pass, cars that challenge pedestrians, signs, and interesting buildings. I also tend to look down a lot when I walk – to make sure I don’t trip on the sidewalk (I do anyway) or step in dog poop or a puddle.
City streets and sidewalks contain a certain amount of grit. It varies based on the proximity of a storm sewer (and how well it drains), whether the store owner sweeps in front, and how recently the street cleaner whooshed down the block. Small pebbles from crumbling cement, shards of broken glass from bottles or tail lights, cigarette butts, and fluttery bits of trash are part of the landscape you expect. The occasional outlandish item – a hair extension blowing down the block like a tumbleweed – is memorable. But clothing always surprises me. Socks, shoes, hats, gloves, shorts, shirts.
My first reaction is to look up for the person who dropped this item. What happened? An overflowing laundry basket? Out turned pockets? Maybe Wind, confident in the windy stronghold that is Chicago, has finally won the contest with Sun and rewritten Aesop.
I don’t collect the item – there is no universal lost and found box – and usually by the next time I pass the same spot the item is gone. Reclaimed? or harvested for some mysterious use?
I hate losing things, but that doesn’t change what the object seems to want. Many of my gloves are dancing around in the backs of cabs. Scarves and umbrellas are caught in tree limbs with shopping bags, waving madly to imitate the leaves.
Sometimes I imagine I’m following a trail of breadcrumbs, a message left on purpose so I can find something. If I walk a bit faster, I may approach a stroller where a giddy toddler waves a small sock in the air, then flings it to join the single shoe dropped earlier. Her free toes wiggle in the breeze. With a triumphant expression, she is the queen of entropy.