Sunday, August 3, 2008


We left for church at about 9:30. As soon as I shut the door, I asked Julia, "You do have your key, don't you?"

I once heard a comedian (maybe it was George Carlin) define an "idio-second" as the period of time that elapses between your hand leaving the knob and your realization that the keys are locked inside.

Julia checked her purse. No keys.

I was preoccupied with the keys on the way to church. We don't have a spare key hidden anywhere or a window left unlocked in case of such an emergency.

We talked it out. The handyman, whose phone number is stored on my Palm, has a spare key. We'd call him from church on a Sunday and beg for help. And there is a guy at church who has a locksmith service. Since I don't have enough money to buy a combo meal after six weeks without a paycheck, we'd need someone who would work in exchange for a promise. A fellow church member was our best locksmith bet.

I preferred the handyman to the church member locksmith, so I called the handyman from the lobby phone at church. I got his answering machine, but then I always do. The poor man likely has people calling 24-7, like I was doing. I left a message, but during the message, the phone started clicking like someone picked up. But nobody picked up. I finished the message, but wondered the clicking was the sound of me getting disconnected.

During church I was distracted. "If we get home and can't get in, we can sit outside, use the bathroom at gas stations, we can eat . . . no, we can't afford to eat. Oh, wait, the absentee next door neighbor has a loaded blueberry bush! We'll try all the windows in our house. We could probably force the weird back door into the basement. But then we'd have to force another two doors. All this security is good when I am worrying about someone breaking into my home. I would like something to slow an intruder down while I grab my twelve gauge shotgun loaded with number six shot. I figure number six shot (squirrel shot) is small enough that if I miss an intruder and hit a wall that two layers of sheetrock will slow down the shot enough so that it will not kill a family member."

Yes, I was distracted.

I looked for the locksmith. I did not see him. I assumed he had stayed home. So I called his number from the lobby. Another answering machine. I did not leave a message. I figured I would try him again later.

An hour or so later I called the handyman again and left the message, all apologies for leaving two messages, feeling stupid explaining the mysterious clicks.

Later, sitting with the little kids in the class that Julia and I teach, I heard the lobby phone ring down the hall. I was not close to it, but I walked out to see if I could make a connection with someone who could let me in the house. No one was talking on the phone, but the cord was swinging back and forth. Someone had answered it, hung up, and walked down the hall. Great.

I tried the handyman again. I got him! As I started talking to him the locksmith passed by, walking down the hall. So he was at church. And he was getting calls from within the church from someone who would not leave a message. It must have been confusing, but a little confusion never hurt anyone. That is probably not true. It is likely that a great many people have died as a result of becoming a little confused and doing something wrong, like stomping the accelerator instead of the brakes. But surely that was not this case . . .

No, it was not. As far as I know the locksmith is still alive and is none the wiser.

On the phone, the handyman told me he had already left the key at my home. I was so happy.

Life's tragedy, averted.

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