He stopped and looked up at the little shop’s sign that extended out over the sidewalk. ‘Missing Things’ it read. His day ahead was full of things he had to do, places to be, people to see, but for some reason he reached for the doorknob and entered the little shop. He was missing something in his life. The problem was that he didn’t really know what it was. Maybe the answer was inside.
Which made his conversation with the proprietor a bit awkward. “Yes, may I be of some help today?” said the proprietor, looking up from his paperwork.
“Well, I’m not really sure,” he replied. “But you probably get that a lot from people like me who walk in off the street.”
“You mean people who feel they’re missing something, but don’t know what it is?” the proprietor declared. “Sort of a nagging, persistent, undifferentiated feeling that comes and goes? That sort of thing?”
He nodded, removed his gloves, brushed the snow off his overcoat, and unbuttoned it a bit. The little shop was warm and inviting and he decided that for some reason it was important for him to stay a while and find out if this proprietor could help him in his search. Moving towards the counter, he admitted ,“Yes, that sort of thing. It’s Christmas time, and I’ve been running around getting presents for everyone, and it just dawned on me that maybe I should get myself something. Not a watch or anything like that, but instead something I really need, something whose absence causes a deep longing. But I just can’t put my finger on what that might be.”
The proprietor put away whatever he was working on and replied, “Well, is it something you had along the way, but lost and are trying to get it back? Or, instead, is it something you never possessed? See the difference? Try to narrow it down for me, and let’s see where that takes us.”
He told the proprietor that it was the latter, probably. He explained that sometimes he felt like he was swimming against the flow, not in sync with things. Floundering when he should be floating, that sort of thing. And people around him sensed it. What he was missing, he guessed, was a skill. That was it! A life skill that would put him in harmony with instead of at odds with the world around him.
“Is that something you might be able to provide?” he asked the proprietor.
He watched as the proprietor thought for a moment, then turned, reached up for a large volume on the shelf behind the counter and then pulled it down and opened it and started flipping through its pages. From time to time, the proprietor mumbled something as he perused the large book, sometimes chuckled to himself, sometimes shook his head and said, “No, no, not that.”
Finally, after a few minutes, the proprietor stopped, thrust his finger to a point on a page, exclaimed, “That’s it!”, closed the book and replaced it on the shelf behind the counter.
“You found something?” he asked the proprietor.
“You mean about what you are missing? No, no, I was just looking for a present for my granddaughter before you came in, and something you said triggered an idea and that’s what I was doing. Following up on that idea. Found what I was looking for, though. Thanks,” the proprietor said, a broad smile on his face.
A bit perplexed, the customer reiterated his problem to the proprietor. “What about the thing that I’m missing in my life? Any ideas on how I can find that? You sounded earlier like you may be able to help me. As you might have guessed, I’m a little desperate.”
“Oh, you mean about that life skill thing you were talking about,” the proprietor replied. “No, that’s not something I can help you with. Maybe you should consult with someone who specializes in mental health. You know, a shrink or something.”
The customer was irate now and shouted, “Now wait a minute here! Just a minute ago you gave me the distinct impression that you could help me find my ‘missing thing’, what with that sign outside and you asking if you could help me and your ideas on how to narrow down the type of thing I’ve been missing. Now you’re telling me ‘never mind’ and to go see a psychiatrist! What kind of place are you running here, anyway?”
A bit sheepish, the proprietor replied, “I’m sorry if you got the wrong idea about what I do here in my little shop. But you have to realize that I opened this shop to help me with what I was missing in my life. I’m terrible at making decisions! I found that the only way for me to decide on anything, like my granddaughter’s Christmas present, for instance, is to listen to other people’s problems. And then, like magic, my decisions are made for me as I ponder their problems. I know it sounds crazy, but there it is.”
“So, you just use people under the ruse of helping them. Is that it?” the customer asked, a bit disgusted.
The proprietor just shrugged and added, “But if it works for me, it might just work for you.”
“What are you getting at?”
The proprietor leaned over the counter and whispering, said to the customer, “It’s a franchise. Here, read this brochure.”
And there it was in color. The scheme. Open your own little shop, it said, and let your customers show you the way to your ‘missing things’. There were a series of testimonials from various proprietors throughout the country. One in particular touted, “I only open my shop for two hours a week, but you wouldn’t believe how much my life has improved. A Godsend!”
“So, no inventory, no real overhead, nothing but a store front, a counter and some slick patter. Am I right?” the customer asked, suddenly forgetting about his anger, and now showing some sincere interest.
“Yes,” the proprietor continued. “And, if you’d like, I can sublet this shop to you for a few hours a week for a few months just so you can take it for a spin, so to speak. Interested?”
Just then, the bell over the front door jingled, and a woman entered tentatively. She looked over at the customer and the proprietor standing at the counter. As the proprietor was about to say something, the customer put his hand on the proprietor’s arm, shook his head, and then turned to the woman and said, “Yes, may I be of some help today?”
I’ve left something behind
I don’t know what I left or where I left it
I just know for certain that I’ve left something behind
I’ve returned to see if I can find it
Even though I have no idea what it is
I’m missing something; It’s a feeling I have