Dude, where's my pan?
June 12, 2012 1:31 PM   Subscribe

The official AskMe murder missing saucepan mystery.

OK, I know this may seem a little silly. I just need to go buy a new pan and forget about the whole deal, right? Well, I can do the first part, but the second is eluding me. Here's how it went down:

About a week ago, I used the largest pan I have of a set of three to make dinner. Pretty sure I used it to cook some rice, can't remember if I washed it that night. Two days later I want to use it again and I realise that it's nowhere to be found - not out where I (probably) left it, in the sink, cupboards, dishwasher or anything. I searched my room in case I'd done something crazy, I even looked in the freezer and bin. Nada.

The only people in the house at the time were myself and one of my two housemates. The other was hundreds of miles away. This housemate denies all knowledge of the pan and says she doesn't have it, didn't put it anywhere and hasn't a clue how or why it's gone.

So this is really bugging me because right now my brain can only assemble two conclusions:
1. One of us left the door unlocked (not something we do frequently) and somebody came into the house without either of us noticing and took the pan. This is batshit insane right? I didn't see anything else missing, and what kind of opportunity thief steals a cheap saucepan?
2. My housemate took the pan or threw it out, then lied to me. I cannot stop myself from thinking this is the most likely scenario, but still, WTF? How the hell do I deal with this, especially given that I've no evidence other than that the alternative is absurdly unlikely?

It doesn't help that I'm terribly poor with confrontation whether I'm justified or not, and avoid it like the plague. How would MetaFilter deal with this situation? (please assume that you are Freaked Out by this and cannot simply forget a £5 pan for the sake of your sanity)
posted by fearnothing to Grab Bag (51 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Check in the oven and in the broiler.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:32 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Probably an obviously place that you already looked, but have you searched the fridge? I often forget that I put potted leftovers directly in there.
posted by Think_Long at 1:34 PM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

For the sake of your sanity, you must forget the pan. No one stole it. There is no confrontation on the horizon, there is no freaking out over said pan. It is misplaced and will turn up when things do. Listen to me, I once wrote a poem called The Lives of Lost Things.
posted by thinkpiece at 1:36 PM on June 12, 2012 [11 favorites]

I occasionally do dumb things like take a pan and stash it on top of the fridge because I ran out of counter space. Then I forget that I did such a thing, and go crazy trying to find the pan until I happen to try to pull something out of a cabinets above the fridge. Alternatively - could you have had it in your hands, then left the room and gone to another room, and put it down on a chair, then had something cover it?

Also, if you are looking and looking and looking for something, I swear your eyes can glaze over and you miss items that are right in front of you. So maybe enlist your housemate to help you look? Describe what the pan looks like and ask them to check the kitchen.
posted by lyra4 at 1:36 PM on June 12, 2012

It's probably someplace stupidly obvious, like the sink under dishes, in the oven, or in its regular spot but turned in a different direction. Please tell us when you find it!
posted by katypickle at 1:38 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you try asking your housemate again really, really gently? Assure her that you are not mad in the very least, and tell her that if she ruined it accidentally and tried to get rid of the evidence, that is something you can laugh about together because you don't care about the pan, you are just worried someone broke in.
posted by coupdefoudre at 1:41 PM on June 12, 2012

Don't accuse the housemate unless you have proof, because if it actually turns up somewhere, you'll feel like a jerk. That doesn't mean you have to forget (NEVER FORGET 11/6/12), but keep your eyes peeled--either for the pan itself or for evidence that your housemate does weird shit like this.
posted by zerbinetta at 1:41 PM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Do you store it in a lazy-Susan corner cabinet? Sometimes my pans will fall behind the spinning susan thing into the void behind it (her?).

Did you burn something and perhaps put it outside to get rid of the smoke?

Maybe you put in away in the wrong cabinet. Check under the sink.

My bet is your housemate burned something in it really badly, didn't want to deal with it, and got rid of the evidence.
posted by bondcliff at 1:44 PM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have accidentally placed things in the trash. How often is your trash picked up?
posted by francesca too at 1:47 PM on June 12, 2012

I feel like if one of the other housemates burned something in the pan so badly that the pan had to be seekritly disposed of, the OP would have noticed the lingering charred odor. It's really difficult to get that stink out of the house.
posted by elizardbits at 1:48 PM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Someone might have thrown it away completely by mistake. My husband did that recently with a drinking glass; he had the glass in one hand and some rubbish in the other, and he set the rubbish down on the counter and threw the glass into the trash can. Of course we noticed because HELLO LOUD SOUND OF BREAKING GLASS but maybe the saucepan fell relatively soundlessly.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:54 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

My guess is that it's under something. I have done exactly this more times than I can count, the and pan has always turned up, usually either in the fridge containing leftovers, in the sink full of dirty dishes and/or dishwasher (that yes, I looked in 2,000 times) or in some unlikely place like the oven or countertop behind something.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 1:56 PM on June 12, 2012

Have you looked outside of the kitchen. I have on multiple occasions been cleaning a dish, paced around my apartment, seen something that was interesting, and put the dish down. Hours later, I wonder why in gods name I would have left my dish on a bookshelf in my office.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 1:59 PM on June 12, 2012

Response by poster: My place is very small, there are vanishingly few places something can be hidden. It's definitively not in the kitchen. I cleaned the whole room yesterday top to bottom. It's not in that room unless it has the ability to mutate into a tupperware box.

The corner cabinet has been thoroughly checked. I didn't notice any charred odour and I do have a reasonably good nose... not going to rule this one out though.

I did check the trash in the kitchen bin before taking it out (ew), I didn't check the bags already in the collection bin, and the collection is weekly so that's gone already. I 100% definitely did not put it in the trash myself; I have never taken it outside the kitchen.

I spoke to my housemate twice and left easy openings for her to get out gracefully and without stigma.

Re: thrown away by mistake - since it wasn't in the kitchen bin, she would have had to throw it in her own wastepaper bin or go all the way outside, unlocking two doors on the way, and put it in the wheelie bin, and I fail to see how anyone could forget that.

At the minute I'm going to go with this being an official ghost story, despite being an complete paranormal skeptic. Ladies and gentlemen, I have a poltergeist. My proof? Well you can't see a saucepan can you? Q.E.D.
posted by fearnothing at 2:03 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you can't remember if you washed it, it's also possible you can't remember where you put it. Don't confront your roommate. Assume you put it somewhere really, really weird. Hope you washed it first.

I give you this advice as a person who has, on more than one occasion, found her watch in the refrigerator.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:05 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

More often that I would like to admit, I've lost things and suspected someone (a roommate or stranger) of taking it. That has literally never turned out to be the case. (I know, I need to rethink my suspicious nature, right?) The lost item has always turned up in some freaky way that I would never suspect. Having spoken to the housemate already, it's likely that speaking to her again will end badly, on the off-chance that she did burn something and can't bring herself to admit it. If I were you I would wait to see if it shows up. I bet it will!
posted by smilingtiger at 2:09 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

The downside to confronting someone about it is the hurt feelings it will generate, no matter what the answer.

The downside to forgetting about it and moving on is... um, there aren't any downsides.

If you find it later, even much later (as I did the crescent wrench that I laid on top of the dryer before lifting it up to rest permanently on top of the front-loading washer), AND you haven't accused anyone, you will laugh at yourself. If you accused someone, you will have a mighty big, aged dish of crow to eat.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:10 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Either of you could have easily thrown it out without noticing. You didn't notice it missing for two days, and in that time, someone took out some trash, right? I don't see how the fact that it wasn't in the kitchen bin when you looked makes a difference.

This is identical to you not recalling if you washed it. I don't think I've thrown out a pan, but I've definitely thrown out silverware and glasses, and put the peanut butter in the freezer, and put the orange juice in the cupboards, without realizing it until later.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:10 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You really don't want to know where it is because the scenarios are:

1) You're going bonkers
2) A pan stealing weirdo has free access to your house
3) Your housemate uses pans for something so embarrassing they can neither return the pan nor tell you about it.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:10 PM on June 12, 2012 [24 favorites]

One of my former housemates once misplaced a pan, and was convinced I'd either stolen it or was hiding it from her.

She discovered, weeks later, that she'd used it underneath fake snow, to form a hill behind her display of tiny motorized ice skaters in her lit-up christmas village and forgotten she'd done it.

So, has anybody been building dioramas or anything?
posted by mgar at 2:13 PM on June 12, 2012 [16 favorites]

Weird (for the item) places I've seen things end up:

>Pots and pans on chairs that have been pushed so as to unintentionally hide the pot/pan under a table (people eat at their desks usually in our shared house so this went unseen for days and days and days)

>A carrier bag of documents sliding behind a shelf that wasn't nearby where the bag usually goes

>_______ was put on the sofa and _____ hours later no one could find it until ______ days/weeks later someone put their hand under and behind the pillows and discovered a _______ surprise

>Something you enjoy using and fiddle with constantly ending up on a shelf/desk/table/pipe beside the garage refrigerator

>In plain sight, with identifying features obscured by the presence of a pillow/blanket/book
posted by Slackermagee at 2:14 PM on June 12, 2012

Not long ago I found some jewelry that I'd been missing for about a year and a half. It's much smaller than a pan, granted, but boy, did I hide that stuff well from myself, and for a long time, too. I hope you still come across it - and are as happy as I was.
posted by Occula at 2:16 PM on June 12, 2012

I would write it off and use the opportunity as an excuse to buy a nice new pan, perhaps an upgrade. If it turns up later, hey, extra pan. Life's too short to worry about absent cookware.
posted by xedrik at 2:28 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

a) Check the windowsill, oven and microwave. My flatmate likes to secrete leftovers in those places. (His own, I hasten to add, but the principle stands.)

b) It's possible that your flatmate did steal/lose/destroy it and lied as an unfortunate reflex, and now after all your investigations feels like it's a big enough deal that she can't come clean about it.

c) I know you're not willing to forsake a fiver for the sake of your sanity, but would you forsake it for the sake of good relations with your flatmate for the rest of your lease? Say she IS a dastardly pan thief - surely it's worth a fiver not to sour the air for the rest of your time there?

d) Keep us updated!
posted by badmoonrising at 2:36 PM on June 12, 2012

Best answer: OH ALSO the one time A Person I Know threw out a kitchen implement belonging to someone else and seekritly replaced it with a new one in the hopes that the original's absence would not be noted and commented upon, it was because A Person I Know horribly clogged the toilet and used the implement (a measuring cup) to bail out the overflow before plunging. A Person I Know knew that the original owner of the measuring cup (and indeed no right-thinking person) would never be able to stand the idea of ever again using the measuring cup for measuring food items no matter how many times it went through the dishwasher, and thus replaced it in a secretive fashion, and as far as A Person I Know knows, nothing was ever noticed.

tl;dr maybe you really don't want that pan back, and maybe a new one is will magically appear soon.
posted by elizardbits at 2:40 PM on June 12, 2012 [20 favorites]

I was once tidying the boot of my car when I noticed my shoes had been taken from it. After half an hour's worth of freaking out -- believing that a stranger had taken them with the sole reason of being cruel to me -- I remembered that the person who took the shoes was none other than myself; five minutes before I'd realised that they'd gone.

It's either in the fridge or the place where my cheese grater goes to some times.
posted by run"monty at 2:43 PM on June 12, 2012

Mm. Microwave.
Metal pot with leftover chicken too hot to put in fridge immediately, too tempting to Pusslikeso to leave out on counter. Sparkly light show next day avoided at last second.
posted by likeso at 2:49 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Try to remember - you cooked rice, then there was someone at the door, you got a text, the phone was ringing - you didn't want to leave the pan on the stove for fear your food would burn, so you took it with you. It was the UPS with a box so you handed the pan to the UPS guy to sign and then take the package from him. Shut the door and that is where the pan is. Think!
posted by travelwithcats at 2:49 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

In the oven or broiler, under the sink, in the pantry or on TOP of the fridge.
On a bookcase shelf, or inside the linen closet (don't ask.....)
Got flower boxes? Check there too, as well as with all your potting soil/plant supplies.
Under the bed/couch/a chair.
posted by easily confused at 2:50 PM on June 12, 2012

Under the sink, I bet, along with easily confused, where a housemate irritated you didn't wash it would likely put it.
posted by jamjam at 2:55 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

As to your place being too small to lose something as big as a saucepan... I lived in an 18 foot trailer for about a year and misplaced a five gallon bucket (which I used to wash clothes) for two weeks. True story. I finally found it in the most unlikely place, and no one lived with me there except my cat. I swear to this day that someone stole it while I wasn't looking and replaced it (under my bed, though I looked there several times -- SEVERAL times!!!) while I wasn't looking.

Or, you're right, you have a ghost.
posted by patheral at 3:44 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Did you check the bathroom (and under bathroom cabinets?). I went bonkers looking for a missing mug once a few years ago, and turns out it was in my roommate's bathroom, even though I asked him repeatedly about it.

I then threw it away. If one can't be bothered to tell me, then I probably don't want to know where it has been.
posted by raztaj at 3:56 PM on June 12, 2012

It's on top of something. Up on the kitchen cabinet. Behind the cookbooks (what do I know...). Some top shelf. Tall freezer-fridge...
posted by Namlit at 3:58 PM on June 12, 2012

i had a move where a few odd things disappeared - a couple of kitchen knives, a bottle opener i really liked, a pair of scissors. i kept telling myself, there is no way i packed these things separately, and there's no way i lost an entire box, so where could they be? i didn't bother asking the person who helped me pack - like she'd steal THESE FOUR THINGS and nothing else. i chocked it up to misplacement, and moved on with my life.

utensils weigh so lightly on the mind when they're with us, we should not let them drag us to such murky depths when they've departed.
posted by camdan at 4:49 PM on June 12, 2012

Found a long-missing bread pan recently under the sink faucet, where I or somebody else had placed it to catch leaks before attempting repairs. Had any plumbing issues if late? Or roof leaks?
posted by wyzewoman at 5:10 PM on June 12, 2012

The only people in the house at the time were myself and one of my two housemates. The other was hundreds of miles away.

But between the time you used the pan and the time you wanted to use it again, did the third roommate return home? And if not, have you asked them about the pan anyway? Because they may know where it is or may have taken it with them on their trip and you used the next largest pan, thinking it was the largest, because the largest was tucked safely into the overnight bag of your jet-setting roommate, just in case they needed to make a diorama.
posted by iconomy at 5:22 PM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have nothing to add, other than sympathies and a seconding of the Ghost Pan notion.

I went through the same thing a few years ago. Roommate claimed no knowledge of the pan, and after searching the entire apartment not once, twice, but three times I developed the idea that it had gone to a better place for pans, where its Teflon layer would not be so mistreated, where it might properly be washed after use, and where it would be handled with care instead of being dropped time after time.

Secretly I hoped, while moving to a new apartment a year later, that it would turn up in some emptied forgotten corner, but no such luck.
posted by ar0n at 6:14 PM on June 12, 2012

Is the saucepan in question smaller than a mysterious hole in a living room floor? If so, it's probably cattle mutilators and not ghosts at all.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:42 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

In my house, I check our suitcases (on a shelf in the closet) whenever something goes missing like this - even if we haven't looked at them, let alone used them, in months. Work ID? In a suitcase. ipod? In a suitcase. It never fails.

Also, if you or your friends are scared of ghosts, you can blame gnomes. Phase 3: Profit!
posted by youngergirl44 at 7:05 PM on June 12, 2012

This actually reminds me of when I was in college and lived in the dorms. I didn't have many clothes - like, two pairs of jeans. One day one pair of jeans disappeared. I was baffled. When my favorite sweatshirt also vanished and my very honest roommate acted a bit squirrely about it, I began to think Something Was Up and resolved to Wait And See. My favorite tennis shoes disappeared very shortly before I found out someone was dressing up as me for Halloween!

I know it's a very very slim chance, but perhaps Something Is Up.
posted by Occula at 8:09 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's something you should know. Your pan is a Special Pan. So special, in fact, that it went to live with a new family in the country. Special Pan is lovingly washed every day, then filled to the brim with fresh, cold well water for an adorable litter of puppies to drink.

At night, thousands of stars are reflected in the water held by Special Pan and all is right in the world.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 8:16 PM on June 12, 2012 [17 favorites]

You forgot about washing up and then loaned it out.

Go ask that neighbor that's always mooching.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:32 PM on June 12, 2012

Does your oven/hob have a slidy drawer on the bottom, that barely looks like a drawer? If so you may find it also has the power to erase the memory of it's own existence.

Ours does, and that's where my housemate likes to make pans disappear to.
posted by metsauce at 2:02 AM on June 13, 2012

Do you have a double sink, and one of those dish drainers that hangs over one of the sinks? Look under there. Do you store pans in drawers? Is it possible it went behind one of the backs of these?
posted by mikepop at 5:37 AM on June 13, 2012

In my family, we would shrug our shoulders, decide that the little blue men* had forgotten it, & then wait for it to reappear. It nearly always shows up within the week, usually right where we had been looking.

* Little blue men are from the Twilight Zone episode "A Matter of Minutes". They build a stage set for every minute of every day, but sometimes they forget to put something out. Go watch the episode; it will explain everything. Part 1. Part 2.
posted by belladonna at 6:05 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The pan gnomes took it to gift to someone else mysteriously just like the pillowcase gnomes gave me a mystery pillowcase and just like this lady got a visit from the underpants gnomes. I've also recently lost a dish sponge and a piece of embroidery work. I was just assuming the cats dragged it through a wormhole into their alternate dimension, but if anyone ends up mysteriously having one more of those things than they should, hit me up.
posted by MsMolly at 6:42 AM on June 13, 2012

Can you ask your roommate to help you look? You may be looking right at the pan, but not seeing it.
posted by zoetrope at 7:37 AM on June 13, 2012

Has it fallen behind the fridge? I once lost the lid to the vegetable steamer this way.
posted by janepanic at 8:09 AM on June 13, 2012

Maybe you need to enlist some fresh eyes? I once lost a hat in an 8'x15' dorm room and turned the whole place inside out trying to find it, only to discover several days later that it had been hanging on a lamp - at eye level - the entire time. I'd looked at it repeatedly but my eyes had stopped seeing it there. I'd say give it a couple of days, or get the help of someone who's not already familiar with where everything is in the house.
posted by josyphine at 10:30 AM on June 13, 2012

can't remember if I washed it that night. Two days later I want to use it again and I realise that it's nowhere to be found


posted by flabdablet at 1:43 AM on June 14, 2012

Response by poster: You only have to realise the truth - there is no pan.

I've now moved out. It did not turn up when I cleaned out all of my spaces, the pan is genuinely gone. :(
posted by fearnothing at 12:38 PM on July 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

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