Lock Out

November 5, 2010

You’ve probably heard the classic story of someone who’s just gotten out of the shower and, wearing only a towel, decides to go out and get the mail and ends up locked out of their apartment or house, usually with the towel caught in the door. What’s always baffled me about this story is I’ve never known anyone boneheaded enough to go out and get their mail wearing only a towel, although I do remember the first dirty joke I was ever told, which was about a woman who had just gotten undressed to take a shower when her dog, which had the unusual name of “Freeshow”, got loose, so she ran down the street calling him, but that’s another story. I wouldn’t laugh at anyone locking themselves out of their house, though, even though I used to think I’d never be boneheaded enough to do that myself. Let me emphasize that I used to think that, because recently while my wife was gone I went out to rake leaves. I was really just planning to rake them off the driveway into the yard. I’m not obsessed with how the yard looks, unlike my neighbor across the street who picks up every leaf that falls so that his yard is immaculate even in the middle of winter when all the grass is dead. I’m not sure what my neighbor does with all those leaves. I know some people bag them up and put them in the trash so they’ll eventually go to the city landfill where, unless anaerobic bacteria get into them, the leaves will remain perfectly preserved for thousands of years. Future archaeologists will probably think we worshipped leaves because we saved so many of them. Personally I just shove them all into the yard and then run the lawnmower over them, mulching them up. Someone pointed out to me that that’ll make the grass grow vigorously in the spring, meaning I’ll have to mow even more, so after mulching the leaves I sprinkle salt over the entire yard, but that’s another story.

About thirty seconds after pulling the door shut it occurred to me that I’d probably forgotten to unlock it on my way out, and I was exactly right. So I walked all around the house and found that I’d thoughtfully locked all the doors, so there was no way in. I spent a few minutes at one of the windows, staring at the reflection of the biggest bonehead I know, and wondering if it would be more expensive to replace a broken window than it would be to call a locksmith. And then I started wondering how I was going to call a locksmith since my cell phone was locked inside the house, along with my keys, my wallet, and the radio, which I’d helpfully left on so that I could hear the muffled sounds of a quiz show punctuated by the laughter of people who, I’m pretty sure, were listening to a story about someone locking themselves out of their house. At least it was a nice, crisp fall day. As I was wandering around my house contemplating my options I noticed a vulture flying overhead, and took some comfort in the fact that he didn’t stop to circle over me. Then my neighbor came out walking her dogs, and nicely lent me her cell phone, so I was able to call a locksmith. While waiting for the locksmith to show up I wondered why we’d never bothered to hide a key somewhere outside the house, but I knew the answer. For one thing my wife would never lock herself out of the house. For another, where would we hide a key? When I told a friend about this he said, “I know what I’m getting you for Christmas: one of those fake rocks!” But if you’ve ever seen one of those fake rocks that people hide their keys in you know that you might as well put up a big neon sign that says, “Hey burglars, the key is right here!”

I suppose we could have hidden a spare key under the doormat, since it would take a criminal mastermind to find it there, but it’s one of those things that never seemed necessary, and still doesn’t seem like a good idea. Not even after the locksmith gave me his bill. In fact the bill was so huge that I knew the shame of having to pay it would, for the rest of my life, remind me never to lock myself out of the house ever again. So naturally the next morning, taking one of the dogs out, the first thing I did was lock myself out of the house again, this time wearing only a towel.

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