James Lileks
See more of the story

How many sunglasses will be lost forever because COVID choked our stick supply? We’ll never know.

Don’t worry, you’ll understand in a minute.

The other day my wife was out weeding — I suppose that’s redundant, because there’s not a lot of weeding that needs to be done inside — and the neighbors stopped to chat. They were pushing a stroller, which contained a small, adorable child. The boy was playing with his mom’s sunglasses, and because his parents were distracted, he dropped them down the sewer grate.

I know what you’re thinking: Those drain to our critical waterways. Next thing you know, an endangered turtle will be swimming along, and suddenly wonder why everything got dark.

The neighbor laughed and shrugged it off: “Well, that’ll teach me to turn away for a second.” If I’d been there I might have said something trenchant like, “He’s discovering gravity. Maybe he’ll be the next Isaac Newton!” And then there would have been an uncomfortable silence, because we really don’t need another Isaac Newton. Kid grows up, goes to college, tells everyone he’s going to discover gravity — at some point someone has to take him aside and explain “it’s been done.”

My wife recounted the tale and said she felt partly responsible. “If I hadn’t stopped them to talk, he wouldn’t have dropped it down the sewer.”

“If you hadn’t stopped them, they might have been hit by a car as they crossed the street,” I pointed out. “All things considered, I think they’d prefer to lose the glasses.”

“We should get the sunglasses out of the sewer,” she said, a phrase you would normally expect to encounter in a dream where someone is holding a fish and standing on one leg in a bucket of honey. “We could use a stick with some tape on the end, or a hook.”

I know some of you would spring up, run to the shed and come back with the Sew’r-XTractor, Menards, $9.99; never know when it’ll come in handy. I lack your foresight.

Then I realized I had just the tool. I knew just where it was. It had been there since last August.

I assembled it with some duct tape, affixed a bent paper clip to the end and went down to the sewer. Hooked the glasses on the second try. Huzzah!

Wife said she’d hold onto the glasses and give them to the neighbors when they returned from their walk. But they never did. (Which made me think they’d been struck by a car, after all.) She put them in their mailbox but did not ring the bell in case they were putting the baby down (not in the sense of an infirm pet).

Two points. One: I cannot wait to run into the neighbors again and feign ignorance when they ask if we brought the sunglasses back. “Don’t know what you’re talking about, pal.”

Two: Why did I have the right tool? Because of the State Fair. I used those Day-Glo hued yardsticks they give away at the utilities booth. Every visit to the fair I get one and walk around holding my Fair Stick. Not this year, and it makes me angry at this stupid germ.

How many sunglasses will be lost forever because COVID choked our stick supply? We’ll never know.

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks