If there is anyone out there who has ever doubted the existence of the Bermuda Triangle - go shopping with my mother.

She can be at your elbow one minute carrying on a conversation, and the next she has vanished. Gone. Out of sight. Off the planet. You will not see her until she is ready to materialize. Every time I spend an hour and a half scouring every aisle, fitting room and restroom, I announce that I will never go shopping with her again.Last week I was looking at hats when she said, "I am going over to sportswear. Meet you there."

I grabbed her arm. "Mother, I am begging you, do not do this to me. I'll be finished in a minute and we'll go together."

"I know what you're thinking," she said, "and you're wrong. I know where I'm going and I promise I won't leave sportswear until you get there."

A few minutes later, it was no surprise when I went to sportswear and she was nowhere to be seen. I started cruising up and down the aisles like a mine sweeper. After what seemed like hours, I made my way to the door we had come in. There sat Mother.

"Why didn't you stay in sportswear?" I asked.

"I never found sportswear. I figured you'd have to give up and go home sometime, so I came here."

There are just some people who were born to shop alone. Mother is one of them. Her lack of direction is scary. We can come out of a hotel room, and invariably she will head toward the fire exit stairway and swear that's how we came to the room.

You don't want to ever "do Vegas" with her. Not only will she drift away from you; she will wander off to another casino down the street. You are torn between calling 911 or chaining her to a slot machine.

My mother isn't the only man or woman who shops independently. In fact, shoppers are divided into two kinds: those who have wandered off and those who are looking for them. Neither claims to be lost.

There is probably a solution for this if we would admit to the problem. People like my mother could be outfitted with beeper collars, like they do wildebeest in Africa to track their migration. People like me could wear a device that beats faster (like our hearts) when we are closing in on our quarry.

When I suggested this to my mother, she said it was demeaning. She didn't say that when she put me in a harness with a short leash when I was a toddler.