Thanks skampo. I've 'solved' the problem.
To restate, I had a problem with Nautilus's quick find <Ctrl+F>: When I would search for things like 'bin', 'fstab', and parts of file names, the search would consistently return '0 items'.
Here's how I solved the problem. I accidentally deleted my top panel, then restored it and added the menu bar. On a whim, I tried the Nautilus search again (from any window "Search" button or <Ctrl+F> and viola!--it worked.
Now, when I search for 'etc', I get 283 items, including the folders I was actually looking for.
So, there's my weird solution. Anyone want to try and explain it?