Editor’s note: Jeff Kaley is taking a break from his weekly column. This is the first part of a three-part column series first published in 2005.
It began as a Thursday like so many other Thursdays. I spent the morning doing newspaper stuff, and about 12:20, it was time to head home for some lunch.
I needed to make a trip to Ryan later in the day, so on the way to the house I pulled in at a local convenience store to pump some precious, $2.54-a-gallon fossil fuel into the trusty T-Bird.
It was just a routine stop, something we’ve all done a bazillion times.
I pulled up to a gas pump, popped the blues cassette out of the tape player, put the car in “P” and shut off the engine.
I got out and went around to the tank, opened the fuel door, unscrewed the cap, punched “Unleaded” on the gas pump, pulled up the lever, inserted the nozzle and started giving the thirsty T-Bird a long drink.
Normal procedure, right?
Well, that’s when I realized I’d left the checkbook lying on the passenger’s seat in the car. At that fateful moment, routine turned into another voyage into the Twilight Zone. Normal became another episode in the continuing saga of ... “The Biggest Dork on the Planet!”
Thinking it was vital to have the checkbook in my possession, I walked to the driver’s side door, opened it, reached in and snatched the book.
Then, as I closed the door, my hands took on a life of their own. My right hand reached over and pushed down the door lock, and as I took a step backward, my left hand pushed the door closed.
There are split-seconds in life, when you realize you’ve just screwed up and there’s nothing you can do about it. Even as the door was snapping shut, an inner voice started screaming: Ooohhh, nooo! YOU JUST LOCKED THE KEYS IN THE CAR!! YOU JUST COMMITTED ANOTHER DORK ATROCITY!!!
Because I’m a male, three things happened next:
First, there was denial. I quickly looked back in the car to see if, maybe, this wasn’t really happening.
Of course, it was. The keys were hanging in the ignition, taunting me like the Golden Fleece tempted Jason and the Argonauts. Just to make it worse, the door hadn’t shut tight; there was a gap that let me get my fingers inside the door frame and give it a tug, but all that did was confirm the lock had caught.
Second, being a guy, I got mad. “You big dope! You incredible idiot!! (My actual words have been edited, ’cause this is a family newspaper.)
Third, I called on another male instinct that arises in times of distress — I started looking for ways I could get out of the mess I was in ... without seeking help.
I glanced at the passenger door, but it was locked — of course.
I looked at the sun roof, because I sometimes leave it cracked open a little. If that was the case, I was going to rip the danged thing off! But the sun roof was closed, which spared it and me a moment of lunacy.
At that point, it dawned on me the gas had stopped pumping. So, while finishing that task, I had this conversation with my inner self:
OK. There’s a pica pole in your computer bag. It has a flanged end and would be perfect to slip into the door panel and trip the lock.
“Yeah, but the computer bag’s INSIDE THE CAR!”
What about the coat hanger you stashed away for situations like this?”
“Great idea, you schmuck! IT’S IN THE TRUNK!”
Just go ask another customer if they have a coat hanger or a small sledge hammer.
“Oh, puh-leez! Real men don’t DO THAT!”
Well then, smash your arm through the driver’s side window!
“Sure. And I could BLEED TO DEATH while being rushed to Duncan Regional Hospital!”
Alas, I was out of options. The blood drained from my face and I was resigned to the worst of all possible fates — I was going to have to call my wife.
Not only that, Karen was at a Lions Club meeting at Duncan Country Club, and I didn’t know the phone number. I was going to have to go in the convenience store and ask to use their phone and phone book.
I considered walking onto U.S. 81 and standing in front of a passing semi, but as good as that sounded, I decided my life might be worth more than a set of car keys.
So, feeling like Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking, I headed toward the store.
Little did I realize ... the horror was only beginning.
(In the next episode, new depths of indignity await.)
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