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OPINION | LET'S TALK: Search for self — literal or figurative

by Helaine Williams | October 17, 2021 at 2:12 a.m.

Yes, we all laughed at that "strange news" story that came out recently: A supposedly inebriated fellow spent hours helping a search party that happened to be hunting for ... him.

"A Turkish man who was reported missing unknowingly joined search parties looking for himself," Samuel Osborne wrote in a Sept. 29 story for Sky News, just one of the outlets that carried this tale. "Local media reported that Beyhan Mutlu, who lives in the Inegol district of northwest Turkey's Bursa province, was believed to be missing on [Sept. 28]."

Mutlu had, according to a website quoted in Osborne's story, wandered off from his friends while drunk. (Wandering off from one's pals. In a forest. Drunk. OK, that's a horror-tale setup right there.) Several hours after he wandered off, his wife and friends, who'd been unable to find him, reported him missing.

"Mr. Mutlu, 50, later joined a group in the area who were helping the authorities search for him," Osborne's story continues. "When members of the search party began calling out his name, he replied: 'I am here.'"

This story went viral on social media, with some news outlets reporting that Mutlu had spent "hours" with the search party before realizing he was their subject.

Then the folks at Snopes.com, that online debunker of urban legends and misinformation, got involved, saying the story was sensationalized somewhat.

According to Snopes, Mutlu told an online Turkish newspaper that he was with a friend at a villa in the forest, having drinks, then he fell asleep around 1 in the morning. "Mutlu stated that his friend had not properly understood him when he stated he was going to sleep, which was why he was reported missing. Mutlu awakened at about 5 a.m. and noticed a search party in the forest. Unaware that he had been reported missing as the result of the misunderstanding with his friend, he joined in the search." It had been reported that he spent hours with the search party, but according to Snopes, it was somewhere just north of a half hour before he realized, thanks to the search and rescue authorities calling out his name, that he was the one being looked for. And the reason authorities couldn't reach him by phone beforehand was because he had a new phone, new number. And oh yeah, he wasn't drunk.

At least Mutlu had a good real-­life excuse for hunting for himself. (And if the sensationalized version of the story had been true, he'd have had the excuse of being drunk on his behind.) When we look at this scenario as a concept that we can apply to our own lives, it suddenly doesn't seem off at all.

Number One, we of a certain age have all been engaged in some peculiar hunts, just not on this scale. We've hunted for glasses that were perched atop our heads. We've hunted for cellphones we were holding ... and possibly were talking on at the time. In the age of covid, we've hunted for masks that were looped around our wrists or under our chins. Worse, we've wandered into a room to hunt for something, forgotten what we came for, and have had to go back to the room we wandered from in order to remember why we wandered into the other room in the first place.

Number Two, while this man was looking for himself literally, we've all struggled to some degree to find ourselves figuratively. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines "find oneself" as "to learn what one truly values and wants in life," while the online Free Dictionary defines it as "to discover and pursue one's true and inherent character, passion, skill, or vocation." I, for one, feel that I've spent years looking for myself — especially in terms of values, wants, and true character — without realizing I was looking. Being brutally honest here, I believe this hunt came to a discernible conclusion fairly recently ... and who knows, there may be a few post-hunt discoveries yet lurking.

Number Three, like Mutlu's friend — who also shares some befuddlement blame in this story — we've all thought things had disappeared when they were right up under our noses. In my household, that happens almost daily with the bedroom Roku-stick remote, which loves to dive deep into the folds of our rumpled bed covers or even hide in plain sight on top of them while Dre and/or I spend minutes of our lives that we can't get back hunting for the blasted thing.

And hey, I won't even mention the times we've misunderstood each other's communications.

Glad to see that all ended well here. Mutlu's friend can be credited for his concern for the comrade he thought disappeared. And Mutlu can be credited for volunteering to help search for a missing person he didn't realize was himself.

And ideally, during all those times we've hunted in one way or another for that which wasn't missing — including ourselves — we've had some good chuckles at our own expense, and maybe learned some things along the way.

Looking for this email address? hwilliams@adgnewsroom.com

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