MAY 31, 2008 — After stepping off a plane from Los Angeles to New York and boarding a train toward Ronkonkoma, Long Island, I placed my tuxedo bag in the overhead luggage compartment and sat down. I was traveling to see my high school best friend marry his high school sweetheart near their home on Long Island. Trying to relax on the train, I started thinking deep thoughts: “Ronkonkoma is a weird name. I wonder what’s there. Weird people, probably.”
My revelations were interrupted by the ringing of my cell phone. A travel agent was calling to confirm details of an upcoming trip. After we hung up, I closed my eyes and began enumerating in my head every wedding I had ever attended. I counted ten weddings in my adult life, seven of which were for friends close enough that I was in their wedding parties. As I reached Westbury, my destination, the phone rang again, distracting me. I stepped out onto the platform, and as I talked to the unrelenting travel agent, I watched the train leave the station with my bag still in the overhead compartment. I had visions of a weird hobo in Ronkonkoma finding my tuxedo and deciding to wear it to a fancy day at the beach.
In a panic and without a car or the ability to convince a stranger to drive aimlessly at high speeds trying to intercept a Long Island Rail Road train, I could only think to call the lost-and-found office. The man on the phone said the trains were cleaned only at the end of the day, and because of the Memorial Day weekend, the bag would not arrive in lost-and-found until the next week. Yet he seemed very confident that the bag would be recovered.
Exasperated, I called a Men’s Wearhouse store in Long Island and told the woman who answered that I had just lost my bag on the Long Island Rail Road and in twelve hours, I needed another groomsman’s tuxedo matching the first I had rented.
“Oh no,” she said. “Please hold.” After a few minutes, she returned to the phone. “Okay, I think we can do it,” she said. “Thank God you’re mannequin-sized.”
“Mannequin-sized?” I asked. “What do you mean?”
“Did you know that you’re exactly mannequin-sized?” she asked. “Fortunately, your measurements are the exact size of our mannequins, and we can pull the tuxedo pieces we need off of them. Your new tuxedo will fit just as well as the first, and don’t worry about your lost bag. I’m sure it will turn up.”
And so, I arrived at the Swan Club on Roslyn Harbor in Long Island, wearing a tuxedo previously worn by a plastic man standing in the window of a Men’s Wearhouse in a Long Island mall. No one knew the difference, of course.
It was a beautiful wedding. The bride and groom together looked like a cover of Modern Bride, attractive fountain-filled canals and lush, colorful flowers and trees backed the venue, and the manicotti and burgundy chicken were excellent (especially for wedding food). The couple articulated their own wedding vows, the officiant barely spoke (perfect!), and the reception was a ruckus. Most importantly, they seemed like a couple that should have gotten married. It’s always uncomfortable to attend a wedding where the match doesn’t feel right.
Yet with all of the happy excitement came a sadness that I had lost my last unmarried guy-friend. Attending ten weddings can make you feel old, but having my best friend from high school get married made me feel ancient. The wedding was a loud reminder that high school was long gone, and he and I had become adults. Or, at least, he had. As I looked around the reception, I realized I was the only unattached member of the wedding party and a single among the three couples at my dinner table.
Fortunately, this wedding was full of interesting guests, and I unintentionally started a dispute at the huge dessert buffet when I complained aloud about the stress of having so many dessert options, many of which I had not had a chance to examine. Women behind me in line all yelled possible solutions: “Take the first cake you like, because there’s no guarantee anything down the line will be better,” “Take everything you see until your plate is full,” and “Get a second plate if you need one.” I mostly ignored their advice and held out for almost the entire length of the buffet until I discovered tasty strawberry shortcake at the end.
As I ate shortcake, I tried to entertain my table with the story of the weird hobo in Ronkonkoma wearing a mannequin-sized tuxedo to the beach. One girl asked, “Did you lose the bag on the Long Island Rail Road?” When I told her that I did, she told me about a lost purse she had recovered after riding the train, and like others before and after her, she assured me my bag was not lost. Strangely, the Long Island Rail Road’s apparent 100 percent lost-item return rate is renowned.
One member of the wedding party told me a story of his application to be a field agent at the CIA and what it was like to be interrogated attached to a polygraph for two days (I thought maybe he could track down my lost bag). Another guy at my table told me the story of an accidental date he had with Natalie Portman, and he and his girlfriend (not Natalie Portman) offered to drive me back into New York City to minimize any chance of me losing another bag, an offer which I quickly accepted. The CIA guy won my prize for best wedding guest story and the couple won my prize for most adorable and helpful couple at the wedding.
The next day, after an informal get together at the groom’s house, I said a final goodbye to my best friend and told him that I hoped I would see him again soon.
The cute couple from the wedding chauffeured me into the City, but before flying home, I spent a couple days with one of my recently-married college roommates and his wife, catching up, playing games, and gorging on Red Mango frozen yogurt. The three of us had a marvelous time together. After leaving New York, I called the Long Island Rail Road again after a long flight home. Their return rate had gone unscathed — they had located my bag. I was relieved. I hadn’t lost anything after all.