I was getting ready to interview a couple for a story I was putting together for the paper and was running a couple minutes late. I parked my car, gathered up the various items that I needed for the interview — a notepad, pen and recorder — and slammed the car door behind me, jogging over to the awning that hung over their back door to get out of the rain.
On instinct, I slapped my pockets a couple times to make sure I had my phone, wallet and chap-stick and instantly realized that I was missing something: I didn’t feel the misshapen, metallic lump that usually indicated that I had my keys in my pocket.
I returned to the car and tried the door. Locked. I peered through the window. My car keys were still sitting in the cup holder between the driver and passenger’s seat.
“Darn,” I said aloud.
I heard the door of the house open behind me and turned to see one of my interview subjects standing on the stoop.
“Hey, you’re in the right place,” she said, presumably thinking that I was returning to my car to drive away.
“Hey,” I said.
There was a tiny pause during which I mentally calculated how easy it would be to pretend nothing was wrong, covertly call AAA and tell them that I needed a mechanic to drive to this couple’s house and discretely unlock my car while I conducted an interview.
“I actually locked my keys in my car.”
I’m not the most attentive person in the world, which is probably why during the two years I spent in Asheville I locked my keys in my car twice. The second occurred in the parking lot after work, and the first occurred in the gravel driveway beside a downtown homeless shelter I was visiting for a story. About 20 people were milling outside the home and had an unimpeded view of my shame.
In every instance, people have been exceedingly nice about it. They usually laugh and ask if I need any help. I laugh, tell them that I’m good and then lean against my car for 20 minutes while I wait for assistance.
It’s easy to feel like a dumb-dumb in instances like this, but, in a simple, blunt way, it does help remind me that it’s easier to handle situations like this if you have a good sense of humor about it.
When I told the couple in Johnson City about my predicament, they were very understanding.
“I bet it’s easier to do when it’s raining outside,” the husband said sagely.
I believe that’s true, but I do think that I’ll need to rethink my life if I end up locking my keys in my car for a fourth time. That might just involve updating my AAA membership.