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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What We're Reading: Shaker Heights Native and Pulitzer Prize Winner Kathryn Schulz on Loss

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 1:23 PM

[image-1]Every now and then we here at Scene like to point you to other magazines' fine, fine work. We're devotees of the longform feature, and we've got an incredible piece to pass along today.

Kathryn Schulz, Shaker Heights native and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who explored the inevitability of a cataclysmic earthquake in the Pacific Northwest (go read that too), recently wrote an incredible feature on "two seasons of loss," as she puts it.

"When Things Go Missing" in The New Yorker is easily one of the best magazine pieces of this young year. Schulz moves from a psychological and social examination of why and how we lose things, tracing a series of misplaced items during a summer in Portland, Ore., and then gets into 2016, when her father died.

It is awe-inspiring.

There's too much good stuff to choose a really emblematic excerpt, so we'll run with this paragraph that lays out of the interesting context of missing things:

Passwords, passports, umbrellas, scarves, earrings, earbuds, musical instruments, W-2s, that letter you meant to answer, the permission slip for your daughter’s field trip, the can of paint you scrupulously set aside three years ago for the touch-up job you knew you’d someday need: the range of things we lose and the readiness with which we do so are staggering. Data from one insurance-company survey suggest that the average person misplaces up to nine objects a day, which means that, by the time we turn sixty, we will have lost up to two hundred thousand things. (These figures seem preposterous until you reflect on all those times you holler up the stairs to ask your partner if she’s seen your jacket, or on how often you search the couch cushions for the pen you were just using, or on that daily almost-out-the-door flurry when you can’t find your kid’s lunchbox or your car keys.) Granted, you’ll get many of those items back, but you’ll never get back the time you wasted looking for them. In the course of your life, you’ll spend roughly six solid months looking for missing objects; here in the United States, that translates to, collectively, some fifty-four million hours spent searching a day. And there’s the associated loss of money: in the U.S. in 2011, thirty billion dollars on misplaced cell phones alone.

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