I locked myself out of the house the other day. Similar to flat tires, gassy stomachs and visiting in-laws, such an occurrence always seems to strike at the most in-opportune moments. I had just returned from a long morning run with just enough time to shower, grab some breakfast and skedaddle in for my tour.  On mornings when I’m in a hurry, I have a tendency not to stop running but bound right up the steps, open the door with a flick of my wrist and keep going until I’m in the shower. Ergo, I discovered the door was locked sometime between my last bound, and my entire body-hitting door with a “fwack” which was about as eloquent as an insect’s death by windshield.

When I picked myself up, head throbbing, and mind reeling (“Why is the door locked?”), I checked my watch: I had thirty minutes to spare. I figured since my landlord usually woke up around this time, if I just sat tight, he’d be around to let me in shortly.

I stretched out from my run, chased the remaining stars from my vision, and sat down in one of the porch chairs. Next to the door is a recycling bin filled with newspapers. I grabbed one to pass the time.

I seem to have lost my appreciation for news. As a kid, my father watched it religiously. Every day, at exactly six thirty, he turned the TV to channel 13 for the “CBS Evening News with Dan Rather”. If you say that in a monotone as though you just found out you have to go on a road trip with your great grandmother, then you will capture its essence.

I always thought Dan Rather looked like a human Eeyore, grey, depressed and overall rather dopey. He could make the most traumatic or exciting report sound mundane. If a hurricane was smashing the east coast, he still droned on like the automated reply you get when calling your credit card company. Even at eight years old, I was under the firm conviction that CBS should have forced Dan Rather into retirement around the turn of the century. Last century, that is. Plus he forged documents. Who does that? I mean really, who looks at the world of politics and thinks: “You know what, our politicians are simply too moral. I need to make crap up”?

All this goes to say, that despite the inconvenience of being locked out, I welcomed the chance to read the paper. The copy I found was about a week old, but I didn’t mind that. Week old news is still news. And I learned some interesting things:

For instance, did you know the Iranian “summer fashion offensive” is now extending to males? Not only are women being forced to keep their heads covered but men are now forbidden from donning “hairstyles and jewelry considered too Western.” I can’t help but wonder how much time is wasted in the Iranian government trying to figure these things out. Is there some sort of amendment to their constitution that references Afros, Timex and pierced right ears? I also wonder why no one’s ever had the idea of sending Boy George on an Iranian tour. The culture shock might have done both parties some good. At the very least, I can guarantee we would no longer have Boy George.

Atop this snippet, there was an article about a penguin in New Zealand. (Who determines the order of these things?) This penguin boosted my self-esteem. He was swimming off the coast of Antarctica and took a wrong turn….for 2,000 miles. Next thing you know, he landed on a beach in New Zealand. The best is the picture. There’s the king penguin standing on the beach, nose up in the air, looking at the camera as if to say: “What are you looking at? I meant to come here.” I’m glad to see that someone else in the animal kingdom outshines my idiocracy when it comes to directions.

I stood up and checked my watch. I had twenty minutes until work. I peeped in the house. No sign of movement. I hated to do it, but I figured if I rang the doorbell, I could apologize profusely to my landlord for five minutes, ask him why the door was locked for the next five minutes, and in the remaining ten minutes shower and bike to work. So I rang the doorbell and waited, working on my apology.


Well, it’s like I’ve always said: when life presents you with an obstacle there’s nothing better to do than sit down and wait for someone else to solve it. I returned to my paper.

Next up was the “Dear Abby” section. This always boggles my mind. Perhaps I’m too young to truly understand the origin of “Dear Abby” but every time I read it, I grow ever more depressed with the state of humanity. The inquiries always sound like the beginning of a Jerry Springer episode:

Dear Abby,

I met this guy one night at the strip club in town” (gee, what a great start) “and we fell in love. When we moved in together though, he started drinking. Now he’s abusive, cheats on me, and he also listens to Boy George. Please help me!



Of course, Abby’s responses are quite helpful:

Dear Unfortunate,

Abusive relationships are never healthy, especially when he’s cheating on you. I recommend you find someone you can trust to talk to about this. As for Boy George, I think he’s going on a tour in the Middle East, so I wouldn’t fret about that.


I’m Overpaid

Well thank you, Abby. How profound. Obviously, if the addressed had anyone even remotely trustful in their life whom they could talk to (a cat, for instance), then they wouldn’t be writing these letters in the first place. I can’t even begin to imagine how desperate someone must be in order to write a short note about their life problems, stick some postage on it, and then scan the newspaper for the next three years to see if Abby gave a diddley-squat and decided to respond.

I scanned my watch. Thirteen minutes. Something had to happen. I rang the doorbell again. No response. I remembered my landlord saying he had a hearing aid that he took out at night. While this was usually a perk on my end (my midnight Boy George cravings never woke him) it wasn’t helping me now.

I thought about climbing through the windows. But I wasn’t sure how my landlord would react if he happened to awaken and find me with half my torso sticking out of his living room window. I was uncomfortable with the idea of him mistaking me for an intruder. In our kitchen, there’s two newspapers cut outs about an unidentified man who caught an intruder in his house and held him there at gunpoint until the police arrived. The address listed in the article just happened to be mine. This was all I needed to reach the conclusion that my landlord firmly believed in the ethic of shoot-now-ask-questions- (such as: “Gee-whiz, what was my tenant doing crawling through the window?” and “Where should I put the body?”) later.

Any debate was a moot point, however, because I noticed that the screens were securely screwed from the inside. If I destroyed one of his windows I’m certain that the only question my landlord would feel compelled to ask was if I knew someone else who’d like to rent the room after he’d disposed of me.

I rang the doorbell again, and checked my watch. Nine minutes. I decided to go around the side yard. Perhaps there was a pebble or heck, I dunno an air horn, in the yard I could use to awaken him. I scanned the side of the house for divine aid. Nothing. I went around back.

There was a rear entrance to the house, which led through a storage shed and into the kitchen. I hadn’t even thought to check it. But I was sure it’d be locked. It was never used, so why would it be-

The door opened with my first attempt.

I stared at it for a few seconds with the look of a man who’d just been slapped across the face by a wooden sign reading “Good job, Detective, you’re a moron”. Upon recovery, I clamored through the storage room and into the kitchen.

I’m not sure how, but I made it to work on time.

In case you missed the moral, I’ll make this one really easy for you: When one door is locked, there’s usually another that’s open. Just remember to check it. Unless you’re like myself and a certain penguin in New Zealand, who meant to take a diversion, just so we could learn a little more about the world.

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