Editor’s note: Jeff Kaley is taking a break from his weekly column. This is the final episode of a three-part series that first ran in 2005.
For gentle readers who’ve missed the first two chapters of this sad saga, here’s a quick review: A couple weeks ago, en route to lunch, I stopped at a local convenience store to gas up the T-Bird, managed to lock the keys in the car and, with no other alternative, was forced to seek help from my Lovely Other.
Feeling like an IMBECILE, I had to go in the store and ask to use a phone to call Karen.
Once inside, I discovered I’d walked into a den of happy Harpies disguised as four female store employees. Hearing the nature of my dilemma, they spent a few minutes (or was it hours?) using me as a shuttlecock in a light-hearted game of male-bashing badminton.
Undoubtedly, men deserve this reaction from women. Since caveguy days, we’ve walked around all puffed-up in male magnificence, foolishly believing we’re the dominant of the sexes; that we can solve any problem, and that women are frail flowers, who must have our protection and guidance.
Women, on the other hand, have always known most males are complete putzes, who’d still be living like caveguys if females hadn’t saved us from ourselves. I suspect these different perspectives are why women are delighted when a man has to turn to them for deliverance.
Anyway, Karen was at a meeting and, of course, since the phone at the convenience store was at the checkout counter, the Harpies had encircled me and were gleefully listening to this conversation:
“Duncan Country Club, this is Ed.”
“Ed, this is Jeff Kaley,” I said. “My wife Karen is out there at a Lions Club meeting and I need to talk to her.”
“Got a problem?” Ed inquired.
I mournfully replied, “Yeah, Ed. I’ve locked the keys in my car and I need her to come unlock the door.”
Ed chuckled a little and said, “Well, we’ve all done that! I’ll go see if I can find her.”
A few minutes passed, then I heard Karen say, “Yes, what’s up?”
“Baby,” I blathered, “I’m at (a local convenience store) and I’ve locked the keys in the car. I’m stranded here like a TOTAL GOOBER! Can you please bring your keys BEFORE I GO INTO CATATONIC SHOCK!” (Or words to that effect.)
“Well,” she cooed, a slight snicker in her voice, “I’ll have to go home and get them, so it will take a few minutes. Be there soon.”
I hung up the phone and turned around to discover the Harpies were poking each other in the ribs and exchanging high fives.
“Wellll,” the oldest of the quartet wryly queried, “did your wife laugh?!”
As whatever testosterone I had left evaporated, I answered, “Yeah, she laughed ... a little.”
That sent them into roaring rapture, and I wanted to go outside and crawl into a trash can until Karen came. But it was 152 degrees out there, so instead, I slinked into a corner by the front door.
But that was no place to hide. See, everyone who entered the store — all 3,256 of ’em — either knew me or thought they knew me, and it was like I was wearing a sign that said: Please kick me!
During the next 20 minutes, even if I didn’t tell these folks why I was standing there like a dope, the Harpies were more than happy to proclaim, “Oh, him? He locked his keys in his car!”
And, of course, everybody had advice. I had experts tell me about the value of plastic keys and coat hangers; about automatic door unlockers and where I could buy a portable blow torch. One waggish mook suggested I go to a plastic surgeon and have a spare key and a zipper surgically implanted in my hip!
At last, I saw Karen’s car pull into the parking lot and I ran out the door, with the Harpies singing in the background, “Why doncha let your wife come in? We’d love to talk to her!”
Then, gentle readers, a miraculous thing happened.
I was braced for a final dose of ridicule and hysterical guffaws from the one person who can make me feel like a complete waste of humanity, here’s what happened:
Instead, Karen got out of her car, gave me a sad-but-loving smile and went over to the T-Bird and unlocked the door. She walked back to where I stood in abject humiliation, planted a kiss on my cheek and said, “It’ll be OK.”
Karen got back in her car and said, “I’ll see you later.” And then ... she drove away.
As the love of my life cruised off into the sunset, like Alan Ladd in the final scene of Shane, I stood there slack-jawed, thinking: What did I ever do to deserve that woman?
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