I raced over to the nearest Big 5 location, the Brentwood area, cursing every red light along the way. The clock was ticking louder and louder, because I knew that once the children went back outside to play, it was only a matter of time before some kid found my ring and there'd be no telling if they'd be telling.
I arrived at Big 5 and as I passed the cashier saying "can I help you?" I asked "where's the metal detectors". She pointed toward the back and I made a beeline to the goods. For some reason they were situated next to the guns. And nobody was behind the register where the guns and metal detectors were kept, so I briefly considered opening the gate to get to the other side of the counter and grab the metal detector.
It was a good thing I didn't because an employee arrived and opened the gate and it made a loud buzzing noise. I suppose to keep random people like myself from grabbing things like metal detectors or guns. I might as well have been jumping up and down pointing and saying " that one! that one", and the guy handed me the metal detector that happened to be on sale that week for 100 bucks. I practically ran to the front register to buy the thing, but as I made my way, I read on the box that the metal detector needed a 9V battery. Good thing I checked.
My memory of what a 9V battery was or looked like escaped me, but the Big 5 salesperson was on the case. He found the nearest battery display and found a 9V. Those are the batteries that have both the + and - on one end and gives a shock when you press it on your tongue. I brought the metal detector and the batteries to the register, handed over my credit card. I scanned the return policy sign to see if they didn't take metal detectors.
Soon I was out the door, into my car, and racing back to the preschool. But I pulled over after having a vision of getting to school, turning the metal detector on and it not working. I parked in some residential neighborhood in the northwest part of Santa Monica. The only people around were guys with lawnmowers and the elderly. I pulled the metal detector out of the box, half-assedly assembled it and ripped the 9V batteries out of the package.
Upon inserting the 9V into the designated slot in the metal detector, it wouldn't fit. I tried to cram it in more. Nope. I found some random plastic toy in my car to attempt to pry it in more. At that point I knew I'd break the damn thing, so I figured I'd just try to hold the battery in place with my vice-grip of a hand and see if it worked.
Out of the car flew me and my new metal detector. I stumbled over to the nearest lawn and threw my keys on the ground and turned on the metal detector. I didn't know what setting to choose, but I kept pushing buttons until it looked right. I passed the metal detector over the keys. "Beep!" said the detector, and that's all I needed to get back into the car and hurry to the preschool.
When I arrived at the school, I saw that the staff had arranged a bunch of orange safety cones at the perimeter of the sand area around the swings. Most, if not all of the kids were outside playing, but they were respecting the cone area and not playing by the swings. I carried the metal detector in through the gates and children immediately took notice. I mean, as a 3 to 5 year old, how could you not notice a strange contraption like that? So of course the kids started gathering around me, walking with me toward the swings.
And immediately the questions began: "Where did you get that?", "What is that thing?" "What are you gonna do with that?" "Why did you lose your ring?" I explained that it was a metal detector that I bought at the store, and I would use it to find in the sand the hunk of metal buried that was my wedding ring. As soon as I started waving the contraption around over the sand and it beeped a few times, even more children came by to find out what was going on.
A few of the kids started ignoring the safety cone perimeter for a closer look. It beeped so I put the detector down and dug around with my hands a bit only to find a penny. I waved the metal detector around some more and found more change. One of the teachers told the kids to keep their bodies away from the sand so I could search without interference. The children generally listened, but kids can only be expected to keep away from something as exciting as a metal detector for so long. And they started to dig around in the other corners of the sand area.
One kid grabbed a pint-sized plastic shovel and started digging, sending sand everywhere. The thought crossed my mind that sand flinging could potentially be flinging my ring in a direction that I'd already scanned with the detector. So I gently told the kid to scram.
After holding the 9V battery in place for a while, my hand started to feel the burn. I switched the hold of the detector to my other hand and arm. I must have passed over the same area at least 30 times. Things started looking bleak. It was approaching lunch time, and today was "hot lunch" day for the kids. So several of the parents were there to help out. And to witness the sand sweeper action. I received countless more questions from the parents like "What did you lose?" "How did it fall off your finger?" "Are you sure it didn't go over there?" I tried my best to be polite as I showed my re-enactment of the ring flying off my finger, and where the ring would have logically fallen off. The sun beating down on me in the sand area didn't help with the politeness part.
One parent named Basil, the father of a good friend of Judah, came by wearing a suit. He didn't ask questions. Maybe one of the other parents already filled him in. Or maybe he had been in the same situation. Whatever the case, he got down to the business of digging through sand without saying a word. Finally he asked if I had already scanned this area or that, and we narrowed the search down to only the area where the ring always fell off in my re-enactment. I found a metal spike like a nail in the sand, and I was glad that no kid had found it first.
A short while later his wife Jennifer came by and started digging as well. Luckily it wasn't a big week for the local cats to be pooping in the sand area. Jennifer asked if I had dug around by the poles at all. I told her that the metal detector would always beep around the poles, because they're metal, but I had dug around them anyway and didn't find anything. Basil grabbed a large plastic milk crate type container and started sifting sand. We did a few large crates full, and I was about ready to give up. I turned around and Jennifer had a huge smile on her face and she was holding my wedding ring .
I exclaimed "where was it?" and she said "Right here next to the pole". Of course. Exactly where the metal detector was beeping the most. I said a million thank you's, and informed the entire school that my ring was found by Jennifer. I showed them the ring to prove it.
The next day I went back to Big 5 and returned the metal detector without as much interrogation as I expected. I can only imagine that people who buy those things have a specific purpose, and once that purpose is completed, back goes the metal detector.
After that little exercise in sand digging, I decided to keep my wedding ring where it could always be found: Inside the confines of my home. In the ring's place on my finger, I'm considering a ring-sized tatoo that says "Lily". For sure that would never fly off.