Who Would Do Something Silly Like That?
By Russ Towne
This experience may have been the most embarrassing time of my life – and, considering how many such moments I’ve had, that is really saying something.
Many years ago, I volunteered to take a carload of stuff that my employer needed for the booth of a job fair to our area’s convention center. When I arrived, I noticed, with frustration, that the road leading to the dock was long and narrow, and a long queue of drivers waited to unload their vehicles, one by one, at the single unloading point.
When I saw the line, I looked at my watch and sighed. Based on how slowly the line seemed to be moving I estimated that, if I was lucky, I’d probably barely be able to unload, park my car, and get the booth set up in time for the stampede of thousands of job applicants waiting outside the front doors for the event to begin.
As my car finally reached the unloading area, I saw a fellow employee on the dock signaling that, if I carried the stuff from my car to him, he’d relay it to the place where the booth was to be set up. Good plan! It would not take long to unload the car and we were almost out of time. In consideration of those waiting in line behind me, I left my car’s engine running as I jumped out to unload.
Out of habit and in my haste, I locked the door as I got out. When I tried to open a rear door, it wouldn’t budge. Then it hit me! I’d locked my keys in my car with the engine running and a lot of people counting on me to unload and get out of their way.
I didn’t quite panic yet. Thinking quickly I began to check all the doors. Maybe I’d be lucky and one would be unlocked. Nope! My heart sank as I knew then that it was going to be THAT kind of day. I silently screamed to myself as I sized up the potential disaster I’d just created, not only for myself and my company, but for everyone around me. My adrenaline surged as I tried to figure out how I was going to get out of this mess.
I looked for a spare key in the off-chance my beloved wife had put one under the car; I might have forgotten one was there. My luck was holding. No spare key.
I was getting desperate, and the glares of the people around me went from impatience to feelings that I’d prefer not to mention or even think about in mixed company (but if looks could kill I’d have used up more lives than a herd of cats – or is that a pride of cats as in a “pride of lions?” Whatever large groups of felines are called, I was in a bad situation that was rapidly deteriorating.)
I came up with the idea to break the glass on my driver’s side window, but I couldn’t find anything to smash it with other than my fist or elbow. That glass suddenly looked thick and intimidating. I rationalized that I wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors if I slashed an artery while shattering the window with all the emergency vehicles they’d have to send, etc. That not-so-brilliant idea was quickly scratched off my very short list of options.
I ran to the drivers of several cars who were queued up behind me and explained the situation. I don’t recall their exact words at this wonderful news but, between their rolling eyes and comments muttered under their breath, I had a good idea that I’d just become their least favorite person on the planet and probably the universe. If tar and feathers or a rope had been handy, I think they’d have used them on me.
Remember those scenes from the old westerns when the wagon train master yelled instructions and the information was shouted from one wagon to the next on down the line so that everyone would know what to do? That’s about what it sounded like as I turned and raced back to my still-running car–except the tone of the modern day drivers was a LOT less friendly than the ones I remember in those movies.
I silently pleaded with my car, “Please, PLEASE don’t overheat!”
People started to feverishly unload their cars and trudge the heavy equipment and boxes all along the line of vehicles as they tried to get their booths set up in time. They had to walk right by me. I apologized, but that didn’t get the job done – theirs or mine.
Okay, one option left, and it was a long shot. I raced to a phone (I don’t remember whether we had cell phones back then but I don’t think we did) and dialed my home phone number. My beloved wife had planned to run errands with our two young boys that morning, so I figured she wouldn’t be home to answer my call, but I couldn’t help myself. “Be home! BE HOME!” my brain screamed.
After several rings, My Beloved answered. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “Uh, honey, uh could you drop everything and bundle the kids into your car and rush down to the back of the convention center with the spare key to my car; then park your car, and, with the boys in tow, walk the spare keys over to me?”
Beloved: (Silence.) “Why? Did you lose your keys?”
Me: “No. I never lose my keys!” I responded with my best “Who would do something silly like that?” tone in my voice. Then, sheepishly said, “I locked my keys in the car…”
Beloved: “Can you wait for a while, the convention center is 40 minutes away and I’m right in the middle of …”
Me: “ …with the car running. At the loading dock. With a line of cars and a bunch of angry people stuck behind me.”
Beloved: “Oh …” (More silence–but this time I’m pretty sure I distinctly heard the sound of her eyes rolling.) “Okay. I’ll be right down …”
Have I mentioned lately how much I love that woman?