Parenting Magazine, March 2002
The surreal saga of a desperate dad.
By Bruce Kluger
my kid on eBay.
It all began as I was wrapping up an ordinary
day with my three-year-old daughter
Bridgette. We were just kicking into our
nighttime routine—face washed, teeth
brushed, p.j.’s on, stories read, music up,
lights dimmed, blanky draped....
Uh-oh. Where’s blanky?
There are a handful of things in life guaranteed make one’s heart skip a complete
beat—a telephone call at 2:00 AM, the sound of shattering glass, the horse-head
scene in The Godfather.
Now add one more to add to the list: a missing blanky.
Like most children’s favorite bedside comforters, Bridgette’s blanky was more than
just a hunk of fabric. Dubbed “Baby” (short for Baby Blanket), it was large, woolen
and pink, and had eight to ten patches sewn onto it by Mommy, all cut from old
outfits of Bridgey’s, making it part blanket, part living scrapbook. Whether crumpled
in the corner or washed and folded, Baby was divinely comfortable.
But now she was lost, right? Not exactly. Earlier in the evening Bridgette and I had
taken a fairly long taxi ride, and I had balled the blanket up for Bridgey to use as a
pillow. Unfortunately, I never retrieved Baby when we left the cab.
And now it was up to me to break this terrible news to my daughter, who at the
moment was cuddled beneath her bedding, awaiting the ceremonial drape of you-
But before I could find the words, Bridgette beat me to the punch.
“Hey, where’s Baby?” she asked tentatively.
I was silent.
“Where’s Baby?” she asked again, her voice now etched with worry.
“Honey,” I began, my heart already breaking, “I think...I left Baby...in the taxi.”
Indeed, the only good thing about the loud, dramatic crying jag that immediately
ensued from my confession—and, yes, it was very long and very dramatic—was
that Bridgette’s hysteria quickly exhausted her, and she soon she dropped off to
sleep, blankyless for the first time in her life.
My search for the errant Baby started that night. Serendipitously, I actually
remembered the cab driver’s last name: it was Mr. Machmud. (Around that time, for
reasons known only to her, Bridgette would ask me the driver’s name every time we
slid into a taxi.) So I called New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, told the
clerk my problem and inquired if someone could get on the case for me right away.
He took down all of the information and told me he’d get back to me if the blanket
was returned—but not to get my hopes up.
“Most of the time,” he said, “unless it’s something really substantial—like luggage or
a wallet—they just throw it away.”
The idea of Baby in a dumpster was abhorrent to me. Ever determined, I hung up,
picked up the white pages and began calling Machmuds all over Manhattan.
Astonishingly, I actually got through to a few who were cab drivers and, indeed,
worked on the night in question—but not in the Babymobile.
I also began what would become a three-times-a-day check-in with the lost goods
department at the midtown police precinct where all back-seat taxi retrievables are
supposed to end up. By day two, the cops there knew me by name, and they were
wonderfully sympathetic to me, especially those with small children.
“My daughter would kill me if I lost her blanket,” one officer said to me. “I would do
anything to get it back.”
That’s when it hit me.
I began calling the local TV stations and asking to speak with their news desks.
“Hello,” I began. “I left my daughter’s blanky in the back seat of a cab, and I’m
hoping if you run a story on it, someone will find it and contact us.”
This is the point at which I expected to hear a dial tone. Amazingly, though, each
time I opened with that pitch, the person on the other end immediately got it—
intrigued by the universality of the crisis, charmed by the concept of a father
desperately going to the airwaves to see his kid smile again.
On my third try, I hit paydirt.
“Can you be at home by five to meet a camera crew?” a field producer from a local
station asked me enthusiastically.
“In a heartbeat,” I said—then hung up, rushed home and got Bridgey ready for her
“Now when the camera points at you, start talking about how we lost Baby,” I said.
“Then you can say that the taxi driver’s name was Mr. Machmud, and that you hope
he can get it back to you.”
Too much information. When Bridgette practiced her spiel for me, it came out less
as a plea for the return of her precious property, than as an indictment of this poor
fellow Machmud, who Bridgette was now implying took her blanky. A few coaching
sessions later, however, Bridgette got the message down, and before we knew it,
the news crew had arrived, spoken to the two of us on camera, then vanished as
quickly as they’d come in.
Which brings me to the saddest part of my stab at daddy heroism: It didn’t work.
When the item appeared on the news that evening, our little saga got just twenty
seconds--a few adorable shots of Bridgette, with a voice-over that alerted the
Machmuds of the world to be on the lookout for a patchwork backseat stowaway.
Not surprisingly, no one responded to the story, and we never saw Baby again
(though we bought a fresh facsimile that Bridgette still has to this day).
This is not to say that the whole ordeal was a complete bust. As it turns out, the
process we went through to resolve the Baby dilemma—everything from breaking
the news to watching the story on TV to buying the replacement—was therapeutic
in the sense that it helped walk Bridgette through the loss, giving her time to adjust
to a reality that, only days before, had devastated her.
In other words, she got over it. Now if only I could.