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Bad mood rising

This one is aimed at showing the importance of a mental state in horse race handicapping.

On the way to bet a horse I loved, I couldn't find my car key, which is not so much a key in the traditional sense as it is a fob, a chunky round piece of hard rubber that houses a tiny computer. This car-starter fob is too bulky to go on a key ring and is usually carried by itself.

So I called the car dealership and explained the situation.

"Oh no," the service attendant said.

Thinking that he was talking to somebody else, some poor schnook at the service counter there to see about replacing a $200 cup holder or a $750 fuse, I said nothing in response.

Then the service department man said, "This could be complicated."

"Are you talking to me?"

He was.

I drive a Saab.

Pause.

How dare you think that. True, I don't know anything about cars. But I'm not stupid.

My Saab is, was, almost a terrific car, a five-speed turbo-charged little rocket that does everything you could desire of a vehicle, except that it melts and doesn't use a conventional key. You would think somebody in Sweden could figure out rubber. They play ice hockey, don't they, with hard rubber pucks? Yet on my car, inside and out, the rubber can't always stand up against the gigantic Oklahoma sun; duck, here it comes again.

You can almost hear how the Saab people came up with the fob business.

"Okay, the emergency design meeting will come to order. Can anybody think of a way we can suck any more money out of our loyal customers?"

"We convert the glove compartment into an ice box."

"Terrible. Next."

"We put a headlight on the side of the front passenger door for nighttime scenic viewing."

"Horrible. Next."

"We make the starter a mini computer that has to be reconfigured at the cost of a thousand bucks if lost."

"Brilliant, champagne all around."

The computer fob is part of a sophisticated anti-theft system; but you can insure against theft, not a key loss.

The internet is full of lost Saab key accounts, and pleas and prayers for their return.

One headline said: Lost Saab Key Causes Heart Attack.

I lost my little computer key between my car and who knows where around the house and yard, in mid-air it seemed. My home is small, the grounds petite. Yet the foliage all around the outside is dense, the rooms overstocked. When you lose something that is extremely valuable in a space you could sail a flapjack over, the crisis becomes all the more hysterical. I hadn't used the car in 24 hours. I missed out on the horse race, looking for the fob. The horse I liked won easily for $20-something and was part of a ridiculously simple $100 exacta.

The search for the computerized fob was reminiscent of Jack Lemmon looking for whiskey in "The Days of Wine and Roses." Plants were uprooted, books flung high and wide. I searched every inch of the house ten times, the thick ivy and tall grasses outside, double that. Imagine what the neighbors must have thought, all the scratching and digging and clawing with nothing planted, nothing removed, a flashlight in my teeth at 2 a.m. When something that couldn't have been lost is lost, an almost humorous kind of madness sets in as you look for the lost item in the refrigerator, in the garbage disposal, in the tank of water behind the toilet.

When the tow truck man came to haul the car to the dealership to have the computerized starter fob system reprogrammed, the vehicle was in gear with the emergency brake on. The towing man said he doubted that dragging the car back would rip out some of its guts, but had me sign a release nonetheless.

The bill for replacing the glorified key was $1,057.

Bad moods contaminate horse race handicapping.

Since having to pay a fortune to have the fob replaced, I am zero for the last 13 horses wagers made.

And this morning in the mail there was an envelope from the IRS. You can tell a lot about an IRS mailing by its thickness. This one didn't seem to be a form. It had the consistency of an invitation to one of those tax-return meetings the government is so fond of scheduling. As the racing cards at several eastern tracks look good tonight, I put the envelope unopened on a desk. When you have a trip to the horse races scheduled, open no mail, answer no phones, place valuables in a big bucket.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.