Editor’s note: Jeff Kaley is taking a break from his weekly column. This is the second part of a three-part column series first published in 2005.
In living out the human experience, worse things can happen than locking the keys in your car. At least, that’s what I told myself, while I stood knee-deep in a quagmire of dorkishness.
An otherwise typical day had gone south, when I’d stopped during the lunch hour to gas up at a local convenience store.
In the process, I absent-mindedly locked the T-Bird with the keys still in the ignition.
Efforts to get out of this dilemma were futile, and I was left in a situation no man likes to experience: Being helpless, with only one option — my wife’s got to bail me out.
Please understand, on a scale of 10, Karen is a 9.9. She’s bright, witty, talented, easy on the eye; a great mother, a caring and disciplined person, and my best friend.
However, in the 13 (or is it 14?) years we’ve been together, Karen’s mysteriously concluded I’m capable of being a TOTAL DOOFUS. And like many members of her gender, when Karen deems I’ve committed a DORK ATROCITY, she goes into “Did I Really Marry This Guy?” mode.
Men know what I mean. This mode is expressed in a look, in body language or in vocal modulation that’s one part sarcasm, one part hysterical laughter and one part the tone mom used when you got caught having a mudball fight in your Sunday best.
Anyway, having exhausted hope of getting the T-Bird unlocked and salvaging self-respect, I went inside the store to call Karen to the rescue.
That’s when I discovered my wife’s reaction was the least of my worries.
See, this business apparently had a corporate rule: WE ONLY HIRE WOMEN! Behind the checkout counter were four people of the female persuasion, and I thought: Just slice your wrists now and get it over with!
Maybe I’m over-embellishing, but to the best of my recollection, here’s what happened next.
I said, “Uh, could I use your phone, please?”
Woman No. 1, the senior member of the group, replied: “Got a problem?”
In a mumble I hoped nobody within 45 inches of me could hear, I responded, “My car’s at the pumps and I’ve locked the keys in it. I need to call my wife to bring me her key.”
In a nano-second, all four women perked up and cracked smiles the Cheshire Cat would envy.
Woman No. 1: “Oooh, I thought only women did things like that!”
“No,” I murmured, “men do it, too.”
(Momentary aside: A fellow I recognized was buying something at the counter. He looked over and said, “Locked your keys in the car? Too bad, but we’ve all done it before.” Then he skedaddled.)
While I wished I’d left with that dude, Woman No. 2 mentioned she used to carry a coat hanger in her car but doesn’t anymore, then she SCREAMED toward Woman No. 3, “Do you have a coat hanger? This guy’s locked his keys in the car!”
Smiling, of course, Woman No. 3 said, “No, I don’t have one.” Then she eyeballed me and asked, “Aren’t you that guy who writes for the paper?”
I’m thinking: No, that’s my twin brother from a parallel universe.
Instead, I meekly squeaked, “Yeah.”
Woman No. 1, now chuckling openly, decided I needed some motherly advice. “You should get one of those magnetic boxes and keep an extra key under the car. Doncha have a plastic key you can carry in your wallet? I’ve got one in my purse.”
Resisting the urge to hyperventilate, I calmly retorted, “I used to have one of those boxes, but the last time this happened it was gone when I needed it.”
This prompted a hearty ho-ho-ho from all the females, and I tried to direct the conversation back to the point. “Can I use the phone?”
Grinning from earbob to earbob, Woman No. 4 pointed to a phone at the edge of the counter and cackled, “Sure. Use that one.”
Shuffling in that direction, I asked, “Do you have a phone book?”
That question pushed Woman No. 2’s mirth button and she coyly inquired, “Don’t you know the number?”
Almost in a whisper, I said, “My wife’s at a Lions Club meeting at the country club, so I’ve got to call there.”
Delighted by imagining the conversation to come, Woman No. 1 cooed, “Oooh, really? What’s she going to say?”
My ego dragging on the floor, I mumbled, “She’s probably gonna get a big laugh out of this.”
In a groundswell of female unity that would have made Helen Reddy proud, all four women roared, “Yeah! Bet she does!!”
(In the final episode, indignity becomes inspiring — sorta.)
580-255-5354, Ext. 172